Friday, March 2, 2012

Our Father, Who Art in Heaven and Thy Church

My father confessor once advised and encouraged me to be more specific about and focused upon preaching and teaching God the Father in my sermons and Bible studies.

Now there is great risk in this. There are a *lot* of Christians in our anti-authoritarian, feminist zeitgeist, who are just all right with Jesus (a rather large majority in my estimation). But that Father figure? Not so much. After all, He is the one who visited all the punishment of hell on His one and only beloved Son in whom He was supposedly well pleased. And fathers, along with the men born in their image, are the root of every evil in our day and age.

Why couldn’t our Father who art in heaven be a little more compassionate than our fathers here on earth? Shouldn't He be tolerant of the sin we might just happen to commit as we go about trying so hard to please Him, and love us enough to just fugettaboutit already without us begging Him for forgiveness every single Sunday--or whenever we might happen to find some free time to come to church and commune with His Son?

In restrospect, we lost a few families in which women were the "spiritual" halves and heads--as well as those whose situation prompted the advice--to other more tolerant churches and pastors because of my contemporary application of this salutary counsel to preach and teach the First Person of the Holy Trinity, Who is our God and the namesake of our congregation.

Sadly, Christian enthusiasts of the world like the aforementioned are to be found in great number even amongst our Lutheran churches. Certainly they will confess with us that where two or three are gathered in His name, there Jesus is with us. But for them this is a theoretical exercise accomplished by their gathering together as a body in the spirit of their hearts and bringing Him there, rather than by them being gathered by the Holy Spirit into His bodily presence. For them, the Son is with us spiritually in our hearts, but substantially He has left the building and given us a ministry almost totally defined by the activity of the spirit--whoever he may be. By this spirit Jesus lives in our hearts and we lift Him up and glorify Him with our worship, instead of worshiping the One who is Himself glorified in being lifted up on the cross and stooping down to us in the Divine Service of Word and Sacrament.

In other words, the real presence of Jesus—which they also will gladly confess with us--is located with His Church in the hearts of believers, rather than in His means of grace. The faith of the believers, rather than the Word of God, is the power by which Baptism saves and bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.

All the while Christ is in absentia, sitting in some far-away heaven at the right hand of the Father, Who is watching this whole thing unfold before His eyes and being entertained by us as He kicks back in His great recliner in the sky--probably smoking a cigar and summoning His female angels to fetch them some beer.

So calling for these folks to repent of the evil thoughts, sinful desires, lustful immorality, and boastful self-service that proceed from the hearts of men; and pointing them to a Father whom we can only approach on bended knee, confessing our sins and pleading His forgiveness for the sake of His Son in the ministry of His Church; is like telling a liberated feminist to obey his or her father, or honor marriage as one man being the head and caretaker of his wife and household.

Therefore, though many may find it offensive and head for a more "spiritual" climate, I submit that Lutheran pastors owe it to their people (including, and even especially those who may take offense), and the God Whom they serve, to bring the Father back into their churches where He belongs--with His Son who, together with the Holy Spirit lives and reigns *now* and forever on earth in His Church even as He is in heaven.

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