Sunday, August 26, 2018

They call me. . .

The world may call him Pope but that is neither his name or his title.  His name is Jorge.  He is Francis, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of God...

But, hey, you can call me Frank. . .

There are some who delight in creating an image of casual ease about things definitely not casual.  This Pope is certainly one.  He answers questions off the cuff on the airplane, whispers into the ears of children, calls up reporters and columnists in the dead of night to gab, and eschews much of the ordinary ceremony, vesture, and pomp once used to emphasize the titles and give visual form and shape to them.

There are pastors who do the same.  They like to wear ordinary clothes all the time so that nobody thinks of them as being pastors.  They prefer to be seen as regular folk and just ordinary people with ordinary jobs, except they work for the church.  They ask to be called by their first names or by some cute moniker (PJ or Pastor Dude or whatever) in the hopes that this will light up the seemingly dark side of actually being a pastor.  They do not preach but inspire, they do not act on behalf of God but for the people, and they do not get all bent out of shape over heaven or hell but simply try to help their people find happiness. They are like the parents who try to be their kids best friends or who think that discipline can be ignored if you either let your kids do what they want or think you can talk them into doing what they should without any threat or consequences. 

The problem with this is that the children do not need more friends, they need parents and the people of God and the people not yet of the Kingdom do not need a mentor or leader or life coach but a pastor.  I am not sure which came first -- people who wanted their pastors to be just like them or pastors who wanted to be just like their people.  In either case, it is a falsehood and a sham.

Frank is not your beer drinking bowling buddy who happens to work in Rome, he is, according to Roman dogma, the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of God.  If he does not want to be that, then why did he accept election?  We must deal with him not as one voice but as the voice of Roman Catholicism, for good or for ill.  It is just plain goofy to think that the best pope is someone who does not think or act or look like the pope.  It is a media savvy move, perhaps, but really kind of a lie.  Once in a while even a casual guy like Frank will have to do something or say something people will not like because he is the one who has to do or say it.  And then the people who thought he was this easy going, live and let live sort of guy, will feel betrayed... and rightly so.  So Lutherans should not be taken in by the appearance of friendship by the solemn leader of a church which has anathematized our confession and called our leaders heretics.  It would be better to have a pope who looks and acts the part and is willing to sort through the thorny issues that once and still divide us.  Honest conversation from honest positions are always better than photo ops.

If this truth is claimed by pope, it is no less true of a pastor.  I am a Lutheran pastor.  The Lord has not placed me into the office and called me to this people in order to be their friend or companion upon life's way.  He is given me His Word to preach, the authority to forgive and retain sins, the office to set apart bread to be His body and wine His blood, to welcome those who can receive this gift worthily and to warn those who cannot, to instruct in the Scriptures young and old, to admonish the erring in their ways, to bring the Church to the sick in their hospital beds and to the housebound in their homes so that they too may hear the Word and receive the blessed Sacrament, to bring the comfort of Christ and His resurrection to the faithful in their last hours, to bury them in witness to their faith and for the comfort of those who mourn them.  This is the vocation I sought and the Church conveyed.  What kind of goofiness will shy away from this calling?

No, I am not saying that we need a rule to make every pastor wear a clerical and suit (although I hardly think this would be the worst thing).  But we need to make sure that those who are called, ordained, and installed as pastors are not trying to do everything to run away from or mask or hide this identity in favor of the illusion that a pastor is just another buddy, friend, or guy.  And so Timothy heard from St. Paul that such a calling was a noble thing that had some responsibilities and obligations attached to it.  If you want to say, Hey, that is not really me, then do us all a favor and resign because God's people did not call you to be their friend or mentor or leader or life coach but their pastor.  Be that man of God, if not for your sake, at least for theirs.


Anonymous said...

Clothing does not make the man. A pastor who wears a clerical
collar seven days a week does not impress the Lord. Instead the
Lord looks for a pastor who has a humble heart and loves Him with
all of his heart, soul and mind. An effective pastor will study
and meditate on God's Word and share the Good News of Jesus Christ
in his reaching, preaching, and witnessing.

David Gray said...

Clothing doesn't make the man. But clothing does mark the office.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:18.
Exactly! and the pastor you suggest should desire, want to wear a collar. He should want people to identity him, also in public, as a servant of the Lord.

God is not impressed with you showing up in nice dress coming to church either. Like Mark 7:1-13 today. Our hearts! So why don't you show up at church in a tshirt, shorts and flip flops? Because it is beneath the dignity of the setting and would poorly represent your "office". Likewise it does tie into why pastors should wear collars and vestments.

As a pastor who wears a collar in public, you have no idea how many people have come up to me to talk, that would have never taken place, and some have also showed up at my church because they approached a man in a collar. Countless conversations with people in all kinds of situations that my polo wearing counter parts does not encounter.

Anonymous said...

Piepkorn's study of vestments in the 16th century is interesting, because they all did it differently.

In 1560, Duke Frederick of Thuringia, to "purge Papistic abominations," sold all mass vestments and bought instead for the churches the German Bible, Hauspostill, and Luther's Works.

Brenz in Wuerttemberg required the surplice and Taler (though they celebrated a Lutheran preaching service, not a mass) because he thought the people weren't responding well to a pastor in an old, rusty coat. "Levitical" and "sacerdotal" vestments were not allowed, though.

Magdeburg's leaders instructed no change be made to each church's use or non-use of mass vestments.

In Hamburg the church order kept the mass vestments, but directed that at some future date the surplice should be introduced instead.

Anonymous said...

Is he saying really simply about the collar or about the attitude that says "I am just an ordinary guy"? I think some of you get your hair on edge when the words clerical collar or vestments or chanting get mentioned and you ignore over all what the good pastor is saying. I did not read this to be a plea for a clerical collar (though why would a pastor not want to be publicly identified by his uniform) but about pastors who try to be friends when they are called to be pastors.

Anonymous said...

Apropos of Lutheran ministers wearing a clerical collar in public. Last weekend a Roman Catholic priest was beaten outside his church by a man who yelled "This is for the kids".

I suspect that we may see more incidents like this as the public rage over the RC sex scandals grows. Would it be prudent for Lutheran ministers not to wear their clerical collars in public to avoid becoming targets ?

Anonymous said...

Wearing street clothes during the divine service makes a Lutheran pastor look like an Evangelical fraud.

I am happy enough if my pastor wears vestments during functions in the sanctuary. That should be a requirement of the office. Other than that, we should not care what he wears.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be great if Pastor Peters would do a post on Bridget Heal's A Magnificent Faith: Art and Identity in Lutheran Germany. There's a ton of research that illuminates early Lutheranism: the power of nostalgia and inertia that led many churches to change very little in art, furnishings, and vestments; the general agreement that images were adiaphora but shouldn't include doctrinally objectionable subjects; the gradual removal of side altars; and the role of Electors in determining how dramatically to change church visual culture. Hesse and the Palatinate whitewashed their churches. Berlin collegiate "cathedral" was also one of these. Others (Joachim II, Elector of Brandenburg) were mostly untouched, with Latin masses and mass vestments, and religious plays (i.e. wooden Holy Ghost's that would be lowered from the ceiling during the Pentecost service, etc.). During and after the Interim, the disposessed Ernestine branch allied with Gnesio Lutherans (Flacians) in opposing mass vestments, retables, and anything that suggested the papacy or the Adiaphorists. The newly Electoral Albertines allied with Wittenberg and the Adiaphorists, favoring reestablishment of mass vestments and what we would describe as a high church visual culture.

The much publicized "riot" of Berliners in 1615 when Calvinists destroyed a crucifix in a Lutheran church is examined for what it was: the Lutherans were mad that their church had been vandalized and incited by the pastor's wife to believe that the pastor was about to be arrested. It was not some greater manifesto that all Lutherans had crucifixes that they passionately clung to against the Calvinists. To be sure, the Lutherans did not like the Calvinists. In fact, the Lutheran position was "incoherent" in that it was never uniform, but the basic approach was to avoid the idolatrous extremes of Rome and the iconoclastic radicalism of Geneva.

For Lutherans today, the claim that there is only one form of confessional Lutheran visual culture is offset by Heald's well researched portrait of a culturally engaged and multifaceted Reformation Lutheran culture.

Pastor Peters said...

I would love to review A Magnificent Faith but can not afford it . . . But if somebody wanted to donate a copy to me, I would not turn it down. . . 🤓. Just sayin...