Saturday, October 08, 2011

What place have I...

There was a Facebook conversation on homosexual marriage that left me rather bothered today...not for the homosexual pieces of the conversation, but for the heterosexual ones.  At one point, in a section discussing how marriage should be taught in the Lutheran Church, one person wrote: I think the bottom line is we have to tell people--your boys are called to be, mostly, dads and husbands and provide for their families. Your girls are called to be mothers and wives.

This part of the conversation is exactly why I am oft uncomfortable in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, despite my continuing joy at having finally found the pure doctrine after decades in the errant, despairing doctrine of works righteousness and egocentric worship that is prevalent in the evangelical church. This is because--it seems to me--many people, including pastors, have completely set aside any positive view toward singleness.  Actually, it is not unusual to come across those taking a swipe at single people, as if they are being selfish in some fashion being single.

Marriage is certainly a good gift and the way that God designed human kind to perpetuate, but not all are called to marriage.  And nowhere have I found teaching from our Savior or His chosen apostles that it is the primary call of a male child to be a husband/father or a female child to be a wife/mother. Some of mankind are single by choice, some are not.  But singleness is not a sin, nor a lesser state of being.

Consider the balanced view of 1 Corinthians 7.  Marriage is good so that people will not fall into sexual sin.  Singleness is good for the person can be more focused on the things of God rather than the things of the world.  Both marriage and singleness is held in a positive view, valuable for different reasons.  

That which I know of the Book of Concord is far, far less than that which I do not yet know.  However, I have become rather intimate with the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, and the Large Catechism.  No where in those three expositions of the Living Word does it state that we believe, teach, and confess that children should be taught their primary calling is to be a spouse and a parent.  Nor does it state that we believe, teach, and confess that adults should consider marriage and parenting the highest or main calling of their lives.

Yet from the pulpit to publication to Internet, among confessional Lutherans are stories and examples honoring marriages and families.  Churches have bible studies and gatherings geared around marriage and families. Women’s groups and bible studies oft meet during the day, while men's meet on Saturday mornings…subtlety reinforcing that women are to be available during the day; men not until the weekend.  Retreats and workshops are most often for youth or for married couples. 

Yet, single people need the sweet, sweet Gospel couched in examples and considerations that are not all about marriage and families.  Single people need encouragement and support for the crosses they bear.  [If nothing else, is it difficult, at times, to remain chaste in a body filled with desires and drives that must remain unfulfilled outside of marriage.]  Single people need fellowship that is not geared toward segregating them with other singles and/or pairing them up.  Single people need home visits and pastoral care.  Single people need to hear and see and experience Christ for them, here and now, without emphasis or speculation for a time when they may no longer be single.

That which I love about the sweet, sweet Gospel, about our Confessions, is the wholeness of the doctrine is utterly and completely outside of myself.  I have joked that the Lutheran Sunday School answer, 99% of the time, is: Jesus (or more accurately Christ crucified).  Pastor Weedon once wrote that Luther will wrap you up in Christ more ways than you ever thought possible.  My new friend and writing partner reminded me that the teaching of the Gospel should never point to yourself, but rather to Jesus.  She also, far more eloquently that I can relay here, spoke of the richness and the fullness and the variety of language God gives us to speak about the Gospel.

She pointed out that our Gospel focus is most often on the forgiveness of sins--which to be sure is the beginning and end of our reconciliation with God, our rescue from the judgment of our sinful state--yet Christ crucified is love and mercy and peace and gentleness and defending and suffering and anguish and death and new life.  And so much more than I can even speak here.  In fact, Luther tells us that in Baptism alone is so much "consolation and grace that heaven and earth cannot understand it" (BOC, LC, IV, 39-40).  Baptism is but one piece of the Gospel, but one of the good gifts God gives us through His Son and the Holy Spirit.  One piece and yet heaven and earth cannot understand it.  We can study a lifetime and never truly grasp but one piece of the sweet, sweet Gospel.

A review of the parables of Jesus would show only a few of them on marriage.  The majority are about working, wages, nature, lost things, doors, and caring for others.  Why, then, is marriage and children the beginning, middle, and end of so very many sermons, blogs, and conversations about the Christian life? 

I struggle when I read such things as I did today, when I hear them all around me.  I struggle when the majority of Lutheran sermons and bible studies and blogs about the Christian life are rooted in family, even if merely at the "application" or "instruction" phase of the teaching.  I struggle because I wonder what place have I in the Lutheran Church, then, being single and barren.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

1 comment:

ftwayne96 said...

A good, honest post, Myrtle. Thank you. In its reaction to Rome's overemphasis on celibacy as the highest calling for its religious, Lutheranism went too far the other way. If marriage has become the new norm for the Christian, then that would suggest singleness is abnormal. God's kingdom is instead broad enough to embrace both singles and married as first class sons and daughters of the kingdom. Balance is needed.