Friday, October 23, 2015

Vocation, Power and Duty

Sometimes I don't wonder if there hasn't be a shift in how we as Lutherans (at least in the US) end up addressing many social issues of the day.  This can come up in economic discussions concerning welfare, or domestic issues - how husband and wife interact.  It comes up a lot in discussions on roles of women in the church.  It comes up in discussing pastor-congregation relations.

We've adopted a language of power.

I remember several years ago there was a conference on pastors and congregations with the subtitle "Who is in Charge Here".  That's power language.  Or we will introduce language about rights - what are the rights of various members -- or has this person infringed my rights?  Again - that's a power sort of angle - what powers are (or ought to be) inherently mine?

It makes sense that we would adopt this sort of language: we are Americans.  This is our political language.  We talk about Democracy - power to the people.  We have a Bill of Rights in our Constitution.  Politically, I lean libertarian - I'm all about rights and the limits of power.

But ponder this with me.  We are Lutherans.  The Catechism never delineates our rights or power.  It's not a language of power... it's a language of duty.  The Catechism doesn't have a table of powers - it doesn't delinate the powers of a pastor and the powers of the hearers... what does a pastor owe his congregation and vice versa.  It's the table of duties.

Or even consider the 10 commandments.  Let's pick 9 - You shall not covet your neighbor's house.  What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor's inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right (obtain it by a show of right), but help and be of service to him in keeping it.

It's not about your rights... in fact, even if you have rights, who cares about that - your job, your duty is to help and be of service to your neighbor.

Wow... that's actually "get your legalese rights talk out of here and go love your neighbor instead."

There was a reason Paul surrendered his rights.  He understood his duty.  Maybe we would be served well to stop thinking about power, about who is in charge, and rather focus on the duties our vocations bind us to.

No comments: