About Marriage and Homosexuality

The LCMS has sent out Bible study materials and bulletin inserts and more concerning marriage and homosexuality. All this in anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling due soon, perhaps this month. Reading between the lines, it’s not going to go well for those of us who are in favor of the historic, cultural and biblical form of marriage.

Nothing will change for the Church overnight…at least I don’t think so. But it’s not hard to see bad days ahead for those of us who view sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage as sinful (whatever the combination of genders involved) . Let me re-phrase that: the Scriptures reveal that all sexual activity outside of the union of man and woman is harmful to the soul and shatters the relationship between God and man. And for us, we will soon be out of the marriage business altogether, and then worse pressures, to be sure.

Let me be brutally honest. For a lot us, being gay used to be hideous. it used to be homophobia. It used to be hate. It used to be discrimination and it was personal. That is sinful too. I went right along with everyone else in calling people names all through elementary school and high school. For this I repent. Christians need to repent of hostility and bigotry in whatever respect. It’s ugly when people are hateful to others, whatever the reason. It’s ugly and sinful.

Yet I can not affirm homosexual sex as something good. Nor can I affirm heterosexual promiscuity, living together, hooking up, or whatever it may be. This is the case not based on Old Testament passages everyone admits do not apply to us directly, but based primarily on Romans 1:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

This is the harsh reality of our condition. It hurts. But this is what the Church teaches, and this is what I must teach. This is not the whole story, of course, because we also teach that Christ came for all these– for the gossips and slanderers and ruthless and lustful, for those disobedient to parents(!) and promiscuous and everyone who does everything. He came to free us from all our aberrant sins and desires and hateful deeds and to remake and recreate us and give us a new life. None of us are born the way God wants us to be. None of us are immune from any particular sin or disease of the soul. But all of us are offered the gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

This is what Christianity teaches about homosexuality. This is what the LCMS teaches. What I teach. It is not popular, and unless God is merciful, it will become less and less popular. But this is they way of Christ and His Church. He warned us: “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:20-21 ESV). But He also says a little later, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Praying for the Dead & the Dead Appearing

Now since it is uncertain and no one knows, whether final judgment has been passed upon these souls, it is not sin if you pray for them; but in this way, that you let it rest in uncertainty and speak thus: Dear God, if the departed souls be in a state that they may yet be helped, then I pray that thou wouldst be gracious.

M. Luther, Sermon on Trinity 1.

Yes, you may pray for the dead. You may pray for your loved ones who have dead. I usually pray, “Lord have mercy on so-and-so.”

Now…in this sermon Luther makes other points, that continual and repetitive prayers for them betray a lack of trust in God’s promise about prayer, that Masses for the Dead and payment for their sins is false and futile and wrong. His interpretation of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is at once congruent with that of the Fathers, but in other places a bit more…reformed, but nevertheless salutary.

My point: it is a wrong and false belief that Lutherans do not pray for the dead. Here Luther preaches it. Elsewhere the Confessions write the same: “Regarding the adversaries’ quoting the Fathers about the offering for the dead, we know that the ancients speak of prayer for the dead, which we do not ban.” (Ap. XXI:94). Rev. William Weedon has some other helpful and biblical examples here.

Pray for them, if you are so led.

Later in this same sermon, Luther addressed how we should take it if “spooks” or ghosts of our loved ones should appear to us and speak to us. In this context, he preached,

“And if it were possible that it were indeed a departed soul or a good spirit even, then you should neither learn nor inquire anything of him, since God has forbidden you to do so; because he has sent his Son himself to teach us all that is necessary for us to know. What he has not taught us, that we should gladly not wish to know, and be satisfied with the teachings of the holy Apostles, in which he is preached to us.”

We know that there are plenty of Roman legends and stories of the saints appearing and supposedly revealing knowledge and giving commands. I know of just a few stories from the Orthodox Tradition that have the saints appear. And the few I know of would have been amenable to Luther: a saint appearing to comfort briefly, but no orders or obligations or exta-biblical revelation offered.

Take-aways:

1. It is “Lutheran” to pray that God have mercy on those who died. If you are so led, do so.
2. It is not Lutheran to make propitiation for them through Masses.
3. If those who have died appear to you, be wary, and know that if they speak contrary to the Word of God then they are most certainly false.
4. If you are Catholic and take issue, please respond.
5. If you are Orthodox and have issue or additional information, please respond.
6. If you are Lutheran and are saying “what the heck????” please respond.

 

HT: Rev. Karl Hess posted excerpts and thoughts on Luther’s sermon here.

Not for Lutherans any Longer

Pr. Peters tells us that Thrivent is no longer “for Lutherans.” They voted in overwhelming majority to ditch the Lutheran distinction (which wasn’t much to begin with, let’s be honest) and now they’re what? Just another financial services company.

If I didn’t just turn 40 I’d be ditching my life insurance policies too. As it is, I’m going shopping for better deals. No reason for loyalty any more. Oh, and good thing they have been weaning Lutheran churches off the grants and matching gifts, since those will completely vanish in months, I suspect.

Tentatio during Lent

The Church Fathers have long noted that our natures are at their worst in Lent and Holy Week. Regardless of our fast and piety and all that, it’s like the selfish pride, hatred, fear and anger all come bubbling to the surface for Christians this week…for all people this week. Here on this holiest of times a lot of us are at our unholiest.

I’m glad to report that this year is no exception to the rule. Let me speak a moment about myself: lots of unfocused apathy, much more irritation from traffic and people, much less patience for questions. I even got onto the kids for saying “Daddy” too often.

Recall Simeon’s prophesy: “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:33-35). Of course, what the Christ reveals in us, He also takes from us and binds it to Himself on the Cross. This is our focus. Always.