Sunday, June 5, 2011
Vows Taken and Forgotten
Presidents pledge to defend and uphold the constitution of the United States and then forget it when it comes to governing. Some impose grand plans for the nation -- presuming that they know better than we what is in our best interests and acting parental over us. Some even justify their violation of the constitution as necessary in order for them to keep it (Nixon and even Obama -- at least with respect to the War Powers Act).
Marriage gets defined and redefined as if it were an estate created by the people who enter into it In many and various ways we decide what marriage is and who may be married. Instead the vows are quite succinct and direct: husbands and wives are to be faithful to each other in the worst of times as in the best, in poverty as in abundance, and in affliction as in good health. The vows neither expect nor pledge spouses to provide or be happy, to a fair return on their investment in this relationship, to receive as much as they give or sacrifice, or to a fairy tale ending to what are almost always fairy tale beginnings. Rather, the promises bind husbands and wives to each other in love defined by sacrifice and fidelity -- till death they do part.
Pastors, at least Lutheran ones, make certain promises or take certain vows at the time of their ordinations. They pledge to faithfully preach and teach God's Word, to faithfully administer His sacraments, to absolve the penitent and admonish the erring, to care for the sick and the dying, and such... Then, from day one, these same Pastors begin to restructure their office around different parameters. Administrative concerns, business agendas, marketing models, and consumer happiness become the goals and purposes of these Pastors (contrary to the vows made at ordination and installation). Even if they do not want to adopt them, these expectations of success are foisted upon them by well-meaning congregations, by District and Synod reports and programs, and by the church growth journals that are considered must reading for new Pastors. The Pastoral Office is remade into an entrepreneurial franchise too quickly for us to notice and soon even pious and well-intentioned Pastors find themselves more concerned about building maintenance than seelsorger (soul care).
Maybe we ought to re-read the questions pressed upon us and the answers we gave... not to "renew" our vows but to remember what shape marriage and ministry really take.... just a thought...