Sunday, June 5, 2011

Vows Taken and Forgotten

So often in life we take public vows -- with all solemnity and ceremonial precision -- only to forget them at the first opportunity.  What good is such an oath?  Why do we spend so much time and energy trying to figure out "what shall we do" when the promises make it clear "what we have pledge to do?"

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...


Anonymous said...

There are two types of LCMS pastors

Maintenance Minded: Simply keep the
parish budget balanced, cater to the
status quo, and do not rock the boat.

Mission Minded: Take a risk for the
sake of the Gospel and reach out to
the community with the Good News of
Christ. Debt might be necessary and
Christ can open new doors of fresh
air as we serve our community.

Anonymous said...

Marriage vows are a commitment to
both God and one's spouse. This
lifelong relationship lasts until
God ends it by the death of the
husband or wife.

Our culture looks at marriage as
a legal contract which can be
negated when either party wants out
and lawyers then decide financial
considerations for both sides.

For a marriage to endure both
husband and wife must be Christians
who love one another with the love
of Christ which is forgiving,
self-sacrificing and unconditional.

Pastor Peters said...

Anonymous: You are not correct here. Certainly there are lazy Pastors and industrious Pastors but the old saw about maintenance vs mission is a smokescreen. We tend to think that the Church is an impediment to the proclamation of the Gospel to those not yet in God's family but it is a foolish fallacy. The Church and Christians in the pews are not impediments but the means by which we share the hope that is within us and those of the elect who hear, believe as God has promised. Our Synod has suffered much from those who rocked the boat in the name of mission and muddied the definition of Lutheran confession and practice as a result. What good is it to reach out if we have nothing to bring the people into... it is not either or but both and.

Anonymous said...

There are 3 types of LCMS parishes:

10% are High Church Fringe who enjoy
the smells and bells of our
chanting & overvested clergy
10% are Low Church Fringe who enjoy
making an informal blended
worship service

80% are Traditional Lutherans who
use LSB at worship and see
clergy in alb and stole

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t.

Anonymous said...

I always find it interesting to listen to couples who create their own vows for their weddings. Some are great but some just say their feelings and express their love with no words or thoughts of vowing, committing or pledging anything. Without actual promises to do or be anything, it's not surprising that so many people "break" their "vows".