16 September 2015

Today's Catechesis

On Augsburg Confession, Article XXIII:

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

An old joke. Two young catholic lads see a Lutheran pastor walking down the street in his clerical collar and one cheerfully calls out: “Good morning, Father!” But his friend whispers in his ear as they pass him: “That man’s no Father; he has three kids!”

Is that okay or not? Pastors being married and having families, I mean. Obviously it was in the New Testament. We heard it today from St. Paul. “Husband of one wife” (which also implies that he’s a man, not a woman; at least it would have implied that when it was written!). “managing his household well. With all dignity keeping his children submissive.” But at the time of the Reformation this was one hot issue. 

Rome had long enforced the discipline of their clergy not being married.  By the time of the Reformation that discipline had calcified through long custom to be regarded as sacrosanct, so that a pastor marrying and having sexual relations with his wife was regarded as a sin and scandal. 

And what did the Church get for setting aside the Word of God on this and trying to come up with a better way? What the Church always gets when it presumes to know better than the divine Word. Disaster and scandal. Our confessions allude to the scandals and make it clear that the recent child abuse and such have long, sad histories. In His Word, God reveals that He made us sexual beings. He made us to be drawn to the opposite sex and to long for the gift of children. Marriage, contrary to what people think today, is not a human construct, something we dreamed up. It’s a divine gift. And to squelch the gift as though we could do it better another way always invites all kinds of heart-ache and trouble. You know the truth of that. You know that every time you’ve tossed a clear word from God and turned to your own way, it only brought sorrow. The Reformers ditched this hurtful tradition.  They restored the ancient practice of allowing any who did not have the gift of celibacy to embrace the gift of marriage. 

The Reformers could do this with a clear conscience because they were blessed to have some very clear words of God to guide them on this matter. The big cheeses in the church, the Church hierarchy, could holler and scream and stomp their feet all they wanted, insisting that married priests weren’t allowed. The Sacred Scriptures trump any tradition of the Church every single time. And the Scriptures are clear that pastors may be married, that denying marriage is actually a doctrine of demons. 

And think of this: since the Pastor in his office represents not his own person but the Person of Christ, who is the Bridegroom of His Church, the married Pastor serves as an icon in his relationship to his wife, of what Christ is to His bride, the Church. You know how Paul unpacks the Gospel itself from the relationship of husband to wife in Ephesians 5. He loves her, He gives Himself up for her, He sanctifies her by cleansing her with the washing of water through the Word so that He can present the Church to Himself as His bride, flawless, no spot, no wrinkle, no blemish. Gloriously perfect in His eyes. And that’s how husbands are to love their wives. Even and especially husbands who are called as pastors. So a man leaves his Father (think incarnation) and His mother (think at the cross) and is joined to His wife. Think new Adam where His side is pierced and out flow the blood and the water, the Eucharist and Baptism, whereby the Lord’s bride is formed. A profound mystery, says St. Paul, and it refers to Christ and the Church.

So, people loved by God, no, marriage is not something sordid and sexual relations between husband and wife is not something dirty and defiling that we need to keep the clergy away from. No. Let them lead the way in showing that marriage is holy and splendid and a gift of God. Let them serve in their love of their wives as a mirror of the love of Christ for His Church. 

"That man isn’t a father. He has three kids." Maybe he’s no Roman Catholic priest, but he’s a man under obedience to the Word of God and freed by it to receive and rejoice in all the gifts that God has for His people, including the gift of marriage. 

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Unknown said...

So good to have you back, and with such a great posting.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

Thanks, my friend, for the kind words.