A Message From the Pastor

Farewell,

Pastors are expendable. I don’t mean they are unnecessary. God has instituted and commanded the Office of the Holy Ministry. A congregation must call a pastor or it is no congregation at all. I also don’t mean that a congregation can dispose of its pastor. Only the pastor who has disqualified himself by persistent false teaching, scandalous living, or persistent and willful dereliction of duty may rightly be removed from office. What I mean is that no individual pastor is Jesus. Though each pastor is unique, he is, at the end of the day, God’s instrument for the ministry Jesus continues to work among his people. The pastor is expendable. Another can take his place. If this were not so, then the apostolic church would have died with the apostles. But the church is apostolic—she continues to have the apostolic preaching and teaching through the ministers who succeeded them.

This is why we dress pastors the same and also why they wear vestments during the services. We adorn the office Jesus established with titles (“pastor,” “reverend,” “minister,” etc.) and garments. In so doing we hide the man and his person. Paul calls pastors “soldiers of Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3). Soldiers also dress alike. When one falls or leaves the field of battle, the next one steps in and the work continues all the same.

This is what Paul means when he wrote to the Corinthians: What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building (1 Cor. 3:5–9).

Pastors are “God’s fellow workers” but it is God who does the work. The departure of a pastor is a significant event in the life of a congregation. But whether we hate to see the man go or not (no pastor will be personally loved by every parishioner), it is important that we realize that there will be no change in the ministry Jesus works in our midst, provided that we continue to congregate around the pure preaching and the Sacrament. Neither he who plants (old pastors) nor he who waters (recent pastors) is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

My family and I will treasure our time here and remember you in our prayers. The reality is that you never needed me personally, you only need the Word and Sacraments. I will miss you all. But the greater reality is that we believe in the communion of the saints. We shall always be one body in Christ, united in one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Peace to you,

Pastor Hayes

 
Where did the Easter Egg Come From?

The following is an excerpt from Pr. Joseph Abrahamson, “Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies—Easter 2,” (2013).

Where did the Easter Egg come from? There are several traditions which converge to bring us the Easter egg. And there is some modern nonsense that really has nothing to do with the use of eggs at Easter.

First, there is a sculpture on the Persepolis of ancient Iran of a line of people bearing gifts on the New Year day celebration on the Spring equinox. One of the many different gifts carried by the people in this sculpture appears to be an egg. This was carved by the old pagan Zoroastrians from ancient Persia (modern Iran).

From this sculpture modern pagans have conjectured that Christians stole the idea of using eggs at Easter from the ancient Zoroastrians. The problem is that none of the writers in the ancient Christian church mention this tradition where they came into contact with Zoroastrians.

Still, the modern neo-pagans and wiccans assert that the egg is an ancient sign of fertility. That seems as bright a claim as saying that water is wet.

Of the traditions that actually do contribute to Christianity using eggs in the Easter celebration there are three to consider.

First: In the celebration of the Passover meal, which Christ celebrated the night before He was crucified, a roasted whole egg is placed as one of six food items on the Passover plate. The egg, called Beitzah symbolizes the Passover sacrifice that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and was then eaten as part of the meal on Seder night. The egg was introduced to the Passover meal after the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. The egg was the first dish served at Jewish funerals in the time of Christ’s ministry on earth. The egg was also used as a symbol of mourning the loss of the Temple where the Passover Lamb was sacrificed. It is usually eaten dipped in salt water which symbolizes the bitter tears of the people.

Early Christians in the first and second century continued to celebrate the Passover along with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Primarily the Passover was celebrated because of Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper.

Second: the season preceding Easter is called Lent. The season of Lent is a fast... In both the eastern and western Church this meant fasting from meat and bird flesh–including eggs. Eggs were used to break the Lenten fast on Easter Morning. In preparation for this breaking of the fast the eggs were decorated to commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Paschal Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. The breaking of the shell became a symbol of Christ’s rending of the tomb.

Indeed, the use of decorated eggs to celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter morning is so widespread across the world and so closely tied with the spread of Christianity that one cannot call it anything but a Christian tradition. But that doesn’t keep the neo-pagans and modern commentators from trying to claim that Christian’s “stole” this so-called “pagan” tradition…

Pastor Hayes

 

“When you fast.”

In the last several weeks I have received an unusual number of questions about fasting. The questions are some version of the following: “Pastor, I see fasting mentioned a lot in the Bible, but I don’t know anything about it.” Or: “Pastor, I think I might want to fast but I don’t know how. I am afraid it might be works-righteousness.” Let’s see what the Bible can teach us about fasting and what it means for us as disciples of Jesus.

In the Old Testament there was only one day of the year that God commanded a fast. This was the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29, 31; 23:27– 32; Num. 29:7). Because of its connection to fasting, it was even called “the Fast” (Acts 27:9).

Other instances of fasting in the Bible were voluntary. Some were personal fasts. Hannah fasted in prayer for her barrenness (1 Sam. 1:7). David fasted in prayer for the life of his son (2 Sam. 12:22). Anna fasted frequently in worship at the temple (Luke 2:37). Some fasts were corporate, often declared by a leader in response to some great calamity, evil, or need for repentance (Judges 20:26; Joel 1:14).

Fasting could even be done on behalf of others. Esther (4:15–17) asked people to fast for her before she risked her life by approaching the king: “Hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.” This is like asking someone to pray for you, or telling someone that you are praying for him. What a powerful statement that is to hear: “I am fasting for you.”

In the New Testament, Jesus assumes that his disciples will fast, but he leaves the times and manner free (Matt. 6:16–18; 9:14–17). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us not to pray, fast, or give for show. But Jesus still assumes that Christians will pray, fast, and give. The Lutheran reformers approve fasting and encourage it, so long as people understand that fasting, like prayer, is not done to merit God’s favor: “We believe that God’s glory and command require penitence to produce good fruits, and that good fruits like true fasting, prayer, and charity have his command” (AP XII:129).

The apostles and early Christians confirm that voluntary fasting is part of Christianity, and we have clear examples of them fasting (e.g., Acts 13:2­– 3, 14:23). Even the Small Catechism, while exhorting us that faith alone receives the benefits of the Sacrament of the Altar, reminds us that “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training.” Luther himself gives us a strong admonition: “No one should despise or ignore fasting, wakefulness, and labor just because no one is made godly through them. Even though you do not become godly through them, you should still use them, and not give free reign to the flesh and become lazy.” To say, “Fasting is only for self-righteous people,” is a very self-righteous thing to say.

But what exactly is fasting? Fasting is not dieting. Fasting is not the same as giving something up for Lent. The Biblical words for fasting mean, literally, to abstain from all nourishment, whether it lasts for a day, as the people of God generally practiced it (Num. 29:7; Judges 20:26; 2 Sam. 1:12; 3:35, etc.) or for several days, (two days, Neh. 1:4; or three, Esther 4:6; or even four, Acts 10:30). In a non-literal sense “fasting” can refer to everyday moderation, or cutting back on things. In this non-literal sense people might give things up for Lent, even non-food things such as TV or media use. Such bodily disciplines are good and fine, but they are not a literal fast in the Biblical sense of the word.

Here is a practical example: One might join the church’s Lenten fast by giving up alcohol, sweets, or even TV. He could use that extra time and money for prayer, devotion, and giving to his church or other mercy organization. That would be non-literal fasting. Then on Holy Saturday he might literally fast during daylight hours. He could rise early, have a light breakfast, and then consume no food or drink except water until an evening light meal or even Easter breakfast. The sensations of hunger will be bodily reminders to pray and to meditate on God’s Word and our great need for salvation. It is also a reminder that we live not by bread but by the Word of God, and if a day comes when we must fast involuntarily from war, poverty, hospitalization, etc., then the Lord will provide.

That is but one example. While Jesus assumes Christians will fast and the church encourages it at certain times (mostly Lent and Advent), the details and timing are entirely free. Children, the sick, pregnant or nursing mothers, and the elderly should not undertake a literal fast.

Fasting is as good and Biblical as prayer, if done in faith alone in Christ alone. If you pray or fast to earn something from God or impress Him, then you might as well forget it.

Pastor Hayes

 

The Wonderful Works of God: Justification through Faith Alone

We hear them telling in our own tongues the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11).

How do you know that you are saved? One might answer: “Because I believe in Jesus. I have faith in Him.” That is a true and good answer. John 3:16 teaches as much.

But the Devil is sneaky. He comes in with questions like: “But do you really believe? Do you believe hard enough? Is your faith sincere enough, free enough from doubt?” On and on he goes, pointing us to the quality of our faith instead of to Jesus.

When the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith apart from works (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9) it does not mean that we are saved because our faith is so great and awesome that God just has to save us because of it. Faith is not the one good thing you have to do. Nor is faith a sustained act of the will, so that it’s up to you go out there, get faith, and keep your faith going.

Instead, faith itself is a gift. Faith means trust of the heart, such as infants and little children who trust and rely entirely on mom and dad to feed, clothe, and love them. Faith is entirely passive. It only receives. Faith is the empty hands which receive the gift. The greatest prayer of faith is the man who cried: “Lord, I believe. Help Thou mine unbelief!” That is a total reliance on Jesus, even for faith itself. The Lutheran reformers put it well: For faith justifies, not for this cause and reason that it is so good a work and so fair a virtue, but because it lays hold of and accepts the merit of Christ in the promise of the holy Gospel (SD III, 13).

Sometimes I use the analogy of a worthless bucket. If you fill that bucket with trash it has no use and no value. You would have to pay people to take it from you. But if you fill that same bucket with gold bars, now its use and value are almost priceless.

So it is with our faith. Everybody has faith—that is, everyone trusts and relies on something. Every human heart has a “god-shaped” hole in it. Without the Holy Spirit, sinners are bound to fill that hole with everything but the living God.

So if faith trusts in money, medicine, family, or government above all things, then it is useless to save like a bucket filled with trash. But if faith trusts in Jesus and his grace, then it saves nor matter how weak and timid it feels. Indeed, often when our faith feels the weakest then it is the strongest because it has nothing to rely on but Jesus only: “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

Ultimately, the promises of God in Christ enable us to live by faith alone. We are saved because of God’s grace which we receive through faith alone. Our faith is great because of its object: Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. “For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Peace to you, Pastor Hayes

 

Back to Basics: Home Devotions

Like car keys, family devotions are easy to lose track of. Advent has come and gone, Christmas is nearly over, and most families have settled back into the routine of the school year. Even if your household is not bustling with the activity of children and young adults, you are still probably taking in a deep breath after the frenzy of Christmas.

Advent and Lent (which will be upon us soon) are times for in- creased attention to prayer and life rooted in God's Holy Word. If we borrow the image of the solar system, then Sunday's Di- vine Service is the sun, and all the other days of the week revolve around it and are sanctified by ongoing prayer and time in the Word throughout the week. In this way we are always either going to or coming from the Sacrament of the Altar.

So how did your home and family devotions fare in Advent and Christmas? If you didn't get around to family devotions, ask yourself why. If the dentist asked you whether you brush your teeth daily, would you ever considering answering: "No. I just don't have the time to brush my teeth."? Likewise, there is no person and family who is so busy that they cannot afford to spend even 5 minutes per day in Word and prayer—and this not for the health of their teeth but of their souls!

Some people had strong Christian parents who led the way for them. These people are blessed to have such examples they can follow and imitate. Others did not have parents who spoke openly about their faith or led devotions. They would like to have family devotions, but don't know where to begin. The good news is that family devotions don't have to be complicated. It can be as simple as a reading from the Bible and the Small Catechism and then saying the Lord's Prayer. If parents would read one snippet from the catechism to their children every day from birth (that takes about 30 seconds!) most children would have the entire thing learned by heart before they even started Midweek School! for families that have had no prayer or devotions at all, I usually recommend that they simply start with the Lord's Prayer and build from there. Keep it simple and keep it regular.

If your regular devotions are more advanced than this, awe- some! Consider how you can stay strong and grow stronger in the Word all those days in between Sundays.

And dads, this is not mom's job. This is your job (Eph. 6). Can it be awkward if you are just starting out? Yes. Man up and do it any- way. Real men pray and confess Christ in the home. I was recently reminded of this when a Lutheran layman pointed out a comparison between football and family devotions. He asked, Is it so manly to have time for football but no time for the soul of your wife and children? With football, you are a spectator. How hard is that? You are watching others hitting and being hit from a couch! Want to get in the game? Pick up your Catechism like shoulder pads and helmet, and go find the line of scrim- mage in your family's spiritual life. By God's grace, you really can do it!

Peace to you, Pastor Hayes

 

Why We Do That: Celebrate Christmas on December 25 

This is the time of year when all sorts of media outlets will spout claims regarding how Christians are making up all this stuff about Jesus and Christmas. The usual claim goes something like this: "Christians are really celebrating a pagan holiday on December 25." "That was the Roman pagan holiday for the Birth of the Unconquered Sun at the winter solstice." "The early church tried to take a pagan holiday and replace it with a church holiday." So Christmas is really a pagan holiday that originally had nothing to do with Jesus."

In responding to this (because people will say it as it if were fact) we should note, first, that it doesn’t really matter. Even if it were true (and it’s not), so what? Christians do not believe in December 25 but in the Christ who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. If the church stole a day from the pagans, good for them. We care not so much about dates on a calendar as we do about the historical facts of the Bible and the Creed. Any discussion of Christmas should focus on Jesus.

Second, however, we can debunk this notion that Christmas was originally a pagan holiday. The date for Christmas in the early church depended not on any Roman holidays but on attempts to calculate the exact date of Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection on the Jewish lunar calendar and then translate that to the Roman solar calendar. In the end, it was thought that Jesus was crucified on March 25 (a miscalculation). In addition, there was a belief, common in Judaism, that the prophets of Israel died on the same day as their conception. By applying this belief to Jesus, people added 9 months to March 25 to arrive at December 25 for Jesus’ birth (and March 25, then, is the Annunciation—when Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive). Since December 25 seemed as good a date as any, it stuck.

Of course, we do not know the exact day when Jesus was born. In fact, it was not uncommon for people in the ancient world to be ignorant of their birth date. People did not keep track of birthdays the way we do. But we do know, based on the best evidence, that Jesus was born sometime in late 3 BC or early 2 BC. So at least December 25 can’t be too far off.

As for the pagan festival “Birth of the Unconquered Sun,” this did not arise until the year 274 AD. Roman Emperor Aurelian, who was hostile to the growing number of Christians in the empire, created this new festival on December 25th to be a symbol of the hoped-for “rebirth,” or perpetual rejuvenation, of the Roman Empire, resulting from the maintenance of the worship of the gods. He blamed the problems of the empire on Christians who refused to worship the political gods of Rome. If his new holiday coopted the Christian celebration of Christmas, so much the better.

In the end, rather than Christmas having its origins in a pagan festival, this pagan festival was created, in part, to counter the Christmas celebration so popular among Christians!

Peace to you, Pastor Hayes

 

Flowers On The Altar

Christians have probably always brought flowers to adorn God’s house and, specifically, the altar. Even in the temple of the Old Testament God commanded certain holy items to be fashioned out of gold but shaped like flowers (for example, the lampstand). Even Jesus used the lilies of the field to remind us of God’s love and ongoing care for us (Matt. 6:25–34).

Flowers, of course, serve a decorative purpose, even as they do in the home. How much more should we decorate the house of God where He gathers us to receive His Word and Sacrament. Flowers express joy, hopefulness, and do not distract from the altar but enhance it if they are appropriately arranged.

Beyond their decorative purpose, flowers are also a symbol to us of the resurrection—both Christ’s and ours. Therefore the highest use of flowers comes at Easter when the lilies even seem to announce the wonderful news: “Christ is risen!” Throughout the year, every Sunday is a “little Easter,” for we worship and receive the Lord’s gifts on the day He rose from the dead because we too share in His resurrection through Holy Baptism. Thus flowers are encouraged for all Sundays, feasts, and days in the church year, but not for Lent. Even as we forgo the alleluias for a time to build anticipation for Easter, so we also make minimal use of decorations in Lent in anticipation of the restoration of all things at Easter. The use of flowers in Advent may also be re- strained in anticipation for Christmas.

Ideally flowers and all things in the Lord’s house should be genuine and not artificial. Though sometimes circumstances may warrant the use of convincing artificial plants, the use of “fake” things in the Lord’s house can detract from the truth of what is proclaimed and the genuineness of the Christian faith. In other words, to surround the true things of the Lord (His true Word, His true body and blood) with fake things is usually out of place.

Finally, many churches have the laudable custom of sending the altar flowers home with someone or send- ing them to a person who is sick, mourning, hospitalized, or home- bound. In this way the congregation shares Christian concern for those for whom it has prayed in the Divine Service.

If you wish to place flowers on the altar at any appropriate time during the church year, or for an anniversary or other special occasion, please coordinate with the altar committee: LaVonne Nitzel and Diane Kahle.

Peace to you, Pastor Hayes

 

The Wonderful Works of God: Repentance

We hear them telling in our own tongues the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11).

The countdown is on. October 2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation which we usually say began October 31, 1517 when Luther posted “95 Theses” for debate on the issue of indulgences. The very first thesis read: “When our Lord and Teacher Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’, He wanted the entire Christian life to be one of ongoing repentance.”

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:1–2)…From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17)…And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38)…[Jesus said:] “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19).

The preaching of repentance is the essential preaching of the kingdom of God. To preach something other than repentance for sins and forgiveness for those sins is to preach something other than Christ. In fact, repentance is what distinguishes the demons from the saints, believers from unbelievers. The Devil knows the Gospel. He knows all the facts. He was there when they crucified my Lord. Even unbelievers may believe that God exists, that Jesus died on the cross - maybe even that Jesus rose from the dead. But without repentance and faith in Christ this is only historical knowledge of important facts. It remains in their heads but far from their hearts.

Therefore Luther picks up on the preaching of John, Christ, and the apostles when he says that the entire Christian life is one of ongoing repentance. Such repentance has two parts: that we confess our sins and need for a Savior, and that we believe the absolution, that is, that we believe that our sins are forgiven us for Christ sake whom we receive through faith. There is never a day when I don’t need a Savior. We sin daily and much. We need forgiveness daily and much. Repentance and faith, this is the ongoing lifecycle of the Christian in this life. It is a matter of the head and the heart.

We should also remember that repentance and faith bear fruits: Bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt. 3:8). We are not saved on account of the fruit, or the response, of our faith. We are saved by faith alone. The gift is enough. Nothing needs to be added to it. But repentance and faith should bear fruits as a response. The fruits of repentance and faith include sorrow over sin, amending our sinful ways, wanting to do better, striving to do good works according the Word of God, thanksgiving, patiently suffering evil, and so forth.

Many people hear that little word “Repent!” and think it is a joke. Others think it sounds too harsh. To the Christian, however, nothing could be more joyful than to turn from sin and death to the grace and life that are in Christ Jesus. We even have a prayer in the liturgy of the Sacrament that speaks of “repentant joy.” Only in the Gospel could confessing sin become a joyful thing! To be a penitent is to be a receiver, to come before God being owed nothing and yet expecting everything for Christ’s sake. It is to know how far off the kingdom of heaven should be from us and yet believe that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, even for the likes of me.

Repent! Peace to you, Pastor Hayes

 

Synod officials say recent videos ‘lay evil bare’

Note: To follow the links suggested in this article go to http://blogs.lcms.org/2015/synodofficials-say-recent-videos-lay-evil-bare

“It had a face. … Its nose was very pronounced. It had eyelids.” In the seventh Center for Medical Progress video, Holly O’Donnell, ex-procurement technician for StemExpress, describes what she witnessed in a Planned Parenthood clinic: A baby boy, an abortion survivor, was rinsed off and dropped in a pie plate for the procurement of his organs. She continues, recounting the doctor’s words and her own thoughts: “‘I want you to see something cool, kind of neat.’ …

She has one of her instruments and she just taps the heart and it starts beating. I’m sitting here and I’m looking at this fetus, and its heart is beating. ‘You know why that’s happening?’ I knew why it was happening. It’s because an electrical current, nodes were still firing.”

Her words are heart-stopping.

A child, still alive, is then cut — through the chin and face and forehead — so that his brain can be invoiced and sold. “I can’t even, like, describe, like, what that feels like,” O’Donnell says.

But we as the Church can. It feels like — it is — evil.

The infanticide that is occurring at Planned Parenthood must end. It is not simply time to defund that organization; it is time to end abortion in the United States altogether.

As for us, we can no longer claim that we didn’t know Planned Parenthood doctors killed children so ruthlessly or that we weren’t aware human bodies were cannibalized for their organs.

We can’t just say it’s a woman’s choice or shrug our shoulders and mumble, “Who are we to judge?”

We can’t hide behind the half-truths that women have no other place to find health care or that Planned Parenthood provides millions of mammograms per year.

It doesn’t matter. None of it matters.

Children are being killed, their organs are being sold, and their mothers are left with physical scars and — greater still — haunting memories that sometimes never fade. The death of these children is barbaric, and it is evil, and we are without excuse. Silence and attempts at justification are no longer options. The only option is for each one of us to act.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Write a letter to the president and to your congressman or senator regarding this issue. Ask them if they’ve watched the videos. Tell them why you believe life — no matter how young — has innate worth. Encourage them to end abortion and to defund any organization that performs them.
  • Support LCMS Life Ministry. Its staff members are committed to teaching why human lives and bodies matter and why there is hope and healing in Christ.
  • Call your LCMS representatives who serve at local, state or federal levels of government. Remind them of their Baptism and confirmation vows, of the faithful confession they are called upon to make, even when it’s unpopular.
  • Use your social media channels to share pro-life resources or LCMS life-related social media imager (click on “Religious Freedom Toolkit”).
  • Share resources from Lutherans for Life, start a life team or kick-start a young adult life team in your congregation.
  • Pre-order a new, free resource from the LCMS — the Ultrasound Education Project — that will bring the miracle and sanctity of human life into the middle-school and high school classroom through the use of ultrasound technology.

We see in these videos how Satan thrives on darkness and chaos, how he delights in baby boys and tiny girls picked apart with sterile utensils. And while we are repulsed and horrified, we no longer have the option to turn away. In this, we have been provided with the biggest opportunity of all: to highlight a still greater need that every person — pro-abortion or pro-life — has for the mercy and forgiveness of Christ.

Without Him, we are all capable of performing equally horrifying acts, of seeing children as nothing more than line items or cadavers. But our Lord is merciful. Because of Him, we have been given consciences that cause us to act and tongues that can speak truth in the midst of evil. We have been given His forgiveness in water and Word, and so we speak it, in turn, to hurting mothers and repentant participants in the deaths of these babies. We have the truth, and we are no longer ashamed to call the deaths of 55 million children what it is: genocide.

Our heavenly Father, it turns out, knows a thing or two about hearts. He knows our own, and He knows each heart of each child, even as He knows their faces and noses and eyelids. We are the reason He allowed His own Son’s heart to stop beating for a time, so that ours may thrive for all eternity. In so doing, He shows us His own heart, full of grace, mercy and compassion.

Through each of these videos, He has seen fit to lay evil bare, and by His grace, our hearts and lips are freed to speak, to act, to pray, to repent, to call upon His name and to trust in His heart, which is ever turned toward us in Christ.

It’s all that matters, Pastor Hayes

 

A Pastoral Word on Marriage, Part 2

Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:4–6).

Last month I discussed the SCOTUS ruling on homosexual “marriage” and why such “unions” are not simply immoral but impossible. This month I want to discuss how Christians can and should respond now that we live in a land whose laws on marriage do not reflect reality.

First the negative: The church should not try to take over the state’s role, even if the state is doing a poor job. The Christian church is not out to right every wrong in the world and make everybody behave. The state’s job is to punish the wicked and protect the innocent on earth (Romans 13). The church’s job is not to police sin but to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. We know that this world has been fundamentally broken by sin. It is dying. We are under no illusions. We expect suffering and falsehood, war and disasters, persecution and disease to persist until Jesus comes back. There is no law, political candidate, or action group that will stop this world from its God-ordained end. The only way out, the only salvation is the blood of God’s Son who will raise us up on the Last Day to life everlasting.

Second the positive: We should care. We should care because we care about people in body and soul. We care about how people live their lives and about moral issues because the church must proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. Repentance requires that we call sin for what it is. forgiveness requires that we direct those who repent to Christ who truly removes the condemnation for sin that stands against us and who gives us his Spirit so that we lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

You see, it is not about being “right” or winning an argument. It’s about speaking the truth in love to help our neighbor. The most unloving thing anyone can do is affirm people in their sins, and act as if there will be no divine Judge to face at the end.

God had strong words for the false prophets in the days of Jeremiah who cried, “Peace, peace!” when there was no peace. We do not want people to continue in the lie that all is well with God when it is not. That doesn’t help our neighbor one bit. And if we began to believe our own lie, what then? Could it not lead to the loss of our own faith?

Churches who compromise the truth of God’s Word will not be in a position to help those who are broken by the destruction this will reap upon society and family life. But Churches who refuse to be “enablers” of our world’s addiction to sin will be able to help a broken society when it hits rock bottom.

On the other hand, churches who harden their hearts and say “to hell with them all” will not be in a position to help and preach repentance and forgiveness in Jesus’ name either. We too have our own sins for which we are forgiven daily and much. The plight of the homosexual is, in fact, the same as the plight of the heterosexual. Therefore we can speak the truth, remain firm and steadfast, and still be compassionate and loving.

May the Holy Spirit preserve His good work in us through the power of God’s Word that we remain steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our labor is not in vain; He will work it out. Come soon, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Peace to you, Pastor Hayes

 

A Pastoral Word on Marriage, Part 1

Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:4–6).

“If you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?” That was a joke we used to say as kids. “If you love ice cream so much, why don’t you marry it?” It meant nothing, but behind that joke lies a false assumption: marriage is about what I like.

When our culture assumed this, it was a quick slide down to so-called “gay marriage.” for many the question became, “Should gays marry if they like each other so much?” not “Can gays marry at all?” A “should” and a “can” are two different things. One might argue: “Everyone should root for the Huskers.” That is moral statement, made because people can instead root for Michigan. They have that ability. But gay “marriage” is not a should question but a can question. It is not a question of morality (gasp!) but of possibility. Homosexual lust is the moral issue—we sinners can do that, though we shouldn’t. But homosexual “marriage” is a question of possibility: Can two of the same sex be united in conjugal union? No, it is impossible. No marriage union arises. The two do not become “one flesh.”

Nothing about marriage has changed, but now the law of the land no longer reflects reality. How did
we get here? There are many factors, but consider this. Our culture has been saying for a long time now: “It’s just sex.”

Jesus and the Bible, however, teach that it is through conjugal union (intercourse) that God unites man and woman together. The church upholds and honors sex for what it is in reality: God Himself does the uniting through this marital act so that a marriage arises when mutual, public consent is given to live as husband and wife (= “leaving father and mother”). In other words, sex is not a side-benefit to marriage; it is the appointed means through which God makes male and female into one flesh. Even outside of marriage sex is marital in character, though the two are sinning (fornicating) by refusing to take each other as husband and wife, preferring instead to misuse each other for selfishness and impurity. The point is, sex is never just sex, nor is marriage about what I like or want. It is about God who joins, and I can no more be joined in this way to another man than I can to ice cream.

To the joke, “If you love ice cream so much, why don’t you marry it?” the answer is: because the only conjugal union that exists in creation is that of male and female.

It’s not a should question, nor is it about what I want or like. It’s about reality. God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet. Through it we see the universe in a more accurate way so that we do not unwittingly walk off a cliff or believe in things that don’t exist. Gay “marriage” does not exist, no matter what courts or voters may say.

Our society will now relearn the lesson we should have learned as toddlers, that saying, “I want it ”does not change our reality.

In part two I will address what the church can and should do now as we live under laws that do not reflect reality. In the meantime, I recommend two resources above all. Our synod’s website and a Lutheran radio show that you can hear live or on-demand at issuesetc.org. There you can hear outstanding interviews with our Synodical President, scholars, lawyers, journalists, and more. I encourage you to check it out.

But I don’t want to leave off here, so I will spoil the ending of part two: we preach repentance and faith. Reality has not changed. Marriage is not going anywhere, and neither is Jesus. He is the Savior of the gay, the straight, male, female, sinful preachers, and sinful hearers alike. We will repent for our own sins and point fellow sinners to the only place where there is truth, forgiveness, comfort, and hope: the cross of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.

Peace to you, Pastor Hayes