Sunday, January 10, 2016

Command or Gift?

I am reminded of Dr. Luther's response when asked how often someone *had* to come to the Supper.  Luther refused to answer.  At least not directly.  Eventually he would say that if one doesn't commune at least 4 times a year, then that person should think about whether or not that they are actually a Christian.

Even when pressed, Luther would not make a hard and fast "you must" law about receiving the Supper.  Why?  Because the Supper, even with our Lord saying "This do" was not to be viewed as a Law, but rather a gift.  The focus is never to be "what must I do" - where the Supper becomes a terror as it was in his youth, but rather always remain the "for you" as the focus.

We have a great love as sinful human beings to turn the gifts of God into commands.  I'm sure the folks who still read this blog would happily nod their heads in agreement if I were to point to the aggressive prosperity Gospel folks, where if you aren't making money that's a bad thing.  You must name it, you must claim it.  We would all recoil against that - we know that wealth and possessions are gifts from God.  Give us this day our daily bread.

Daily bread is a gift - something given to us by God.  That's something we learned from the Small Catechism:  "Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like."

So then my question is this.  Why is there again a focus on children as a command?  "Well, the Lord mandated children saying 'Be fruitful and multiply!'"  Okay - bear with me.  I'd argue that that is more a blessing (especially as right before that you have "And and God blessed them") - a blessing of fruitfulness - hey, kids will come, because I will give them too you... but even if I were to concede that it is a flat out mandate (which I don't want to do, because I don't think my single brothers and sisters in Christ need to be forcefully paired up in order to have kids... which, if it is a mandate would be the case)... why is the focus on the *mandate* rather than the blessing, than the gift?

Luther wouldn't set a hard and fast "you must commune X times" because the important truth was that the Supper is a gift.  Why the thrust on "you have to have kids"?  Doesn't that blow by the fact that kids are gift?  And that really is a big thing - society doesn't treat kids as gifts.

"I know that society doesn't treat kids as gifts - which is why we need to tell people that they are supposed to have kids!"

Really?  Let me propose a scenario.  Let us say that some fellow walks into your study and says, "Pastor, I don't want to commune."  Which do you say?

A:  You must commune, because God said "this do in remembrance of Me" (and if you like going to John 6 "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.")

B:  Why don't you want to commune?

See, I'd argue that if someone says that they don't want to commune, option B is probably the best choice.  There is something wrong, there is some disconnect that brings up some sort of fear or worry - and that needs to be diagnosed.  They either don't understand the gift, or there is some other fear that is coming into play.  If they don't understand what a gift the Supper is - a mandate to commune won't fix that.  Nor if they are fearful about some other factor will a mandate to commune address or handle that.

Likewise - when we come across those who do not intend to have children, a simple throwing down of the gauntlet isn't the best course of action.  Rather, ask why.  What fears are there that prevents you from seeing that a child is a gift?  (And a gift that God chooses to give, and in fact, may choose to give you whether or not you want one... but that's another blog post.)

You see, we are pastors, we are caretakers of souls - we are to care for each other, not simply toss out laws.  We recoil against the idea of Pastor as "CEO" - well we certainly shouldn't be acting as though its "Pastor as middle management policy enforcer" either.

Seriously - if you think that the Pastoral solution is to become Bill Lumbergh, you've got a problem.

Um, yeah, I'm going to need you to come in to communion on Saturday and then conceive a child....

Be bold... let things be a gift.

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