Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Worry Ends Where Faith Begins"

This, unfortunately, greeted me on a sign as I drove by a Baptist church on Friday. All I could think to myself is how much bunk that sign was, but it took me a while to be able to come up with a good reason as to why this was a load of bunk, mostly because it is an easy thing to convince oneself that enough faith will dispel worry. Now, to be fair, because of my anxiety disorder, I have a corner market on worry. I worry about things that most people don't even think about, but I do believe this sign has less to do with my anxiety disorder and more to do with bad theology.

If worry is a measure of faith, then I am going to hell. I worry all the time, and according to that sign, my faith never began because my worry never stopped. Even though I know that it is sinful to worry, especially the way that I do, I cannot help it. So, left to my own devices, the worry never completely goes away and my faith never begins as a result. In this scenario, especially with regards to those who have an anxiety disorder like myself, God has damned me from the get go. I can't have faith until I stop worrying and I have a disorder that causes me to worry, therefore I can never be saved. Game over. To make matters worse, God has the power to take away my anxiety disorder in a heartbeat so that my worry will go away and I can start that beautiful faith and life without worry, but since He hasn't, I would have to assume that He doesn't want to save me.

As innocent as that sign might seem, the reality is that it is of poor design and a dangerous witness. God doesn't work that way. The God we learn about in the Old and New Testaments sweeps down to save His people from their sins- worry included! Christ did not say, "Stop worrying, believe, and be baptized." Instead, we are given saving faith through the washing and rebirth of Holy Baptism without any action on our part. The faith given to us at Baptism and when we hear the Word is the Holy Spirit working faith in our hearts.

However, faith does not take away the sins we do and suffer from here on earth. The faith given to me by the Holy Spirit has not taken away my anxiety disorder. I worry. To be sure, it is a sin, but a sin that, like St. Paul, I do not want to do but that I do. Praise be to God that Christ has taken my sins away on the Cross! Whenever I worry, I can remember that I am a baptized child of God, an heir to the Kingdom, a princess in His court because of Christ's saving work for me.

I hate complaining about something without making a suggestion. I don't have another fancy slogan to catch people's attention quite like "Worry ends where faith begins". So, perhaps said congregation can put up their Sunday service times instead, or directions to the local Lutheran church. ;-)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

When You Look at Me, Who Do You See?

It amazes me how many different vocations I have in my life. My parents see me as their daughter and I will be their little girl until the day I die. To my brothers, I am that annoying little or big sister who just got into everything and thought she knew best with everything. To my husband, I am love, companionship, and probably much more than I am aware of. To my kids at the daycare, I am comfort, fun, a teacher, and love. To my birds, I am part of the flock, the food provider, and God's mask for their daily needs. To many others, I am the pastor's wife.

I would love to put a description on that. I would love to clarify it with who I am in regards to being a pastor's wife, but I am afraid that is without a description for two reasons. One, most people have an idea of who a pastor's wife is and isn't and they expect her to follow that ideal. Two, most pastor's wives who I know are their own persons with their own specific vocations and have no model that they follow. In the church, pastor's wives fulfill many jobs and vocations all on their own. Sometimes they choose to and sometimes it is expected of them.

However, it occurs to me that the pastor's wife is often held to the same standard as the pastor. They are expected to know the Bible as well, it seems, and to understand all matters of doctrine as well as their husband. While it is true that living with a pastor does seem to lend itself to having doctrine plugged into ever aspect of life and in almost all discussions, it doesn't mean that the pastor's wife is in any way the other half of the pastor's ministry. His ministry is given from God apart from his vocation as husband. Just as I have many "hats", so does he, but that doesn't mean that we share that pastor's "hat" or have it cut in half.

Pastor's wife or not, I am no different than any other layperson in the pew. I come to church to hear that my sins are forgiven, to receive Christ's body and blood, and to remember that where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. I am still learning. I don't have the Book of Concord memorized, nor do I know every piece of doctrine there is to know. I am and probably will always be a student of theology, learning, expanding, and asking questions. I know I will not always be right, but I try my best and where I falter, I know that there is forgiveness at my Saviour's hands.

My request: Yes, I may be the "pastor's wife" but the one vocation I left out in my list to purposely bring attention to it is that I am a baptized, forgiven sinner. This is the part of me that I wish everyone would focus on that in light of all other vocations. I am a child of God. My pastor recently said that I am a princess of God. It wasn't something I had ever thought about before, but it's true. In all the other vocations I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is always a remembrance that I am a sinner and in need of forgiveness, except, it seems, as a pastor's wife.

What does this mean? Well, if you read this post and don't agree with me, don't attack me! Deal with me as you would another Christian who you don't agree with. Use love, kind words, and simple explanations. I am no pastor, just a layperson who happens to be married to one. Don't attack my husband if you don't agree with me, either. Believe it or not, he is also a forgiven sinner, a prince of God, and should be treated as such as well. The old saying goes, "You get more flies with honey than with vinegar". If you want to truly correct someone, do it in the kindest way, and if you forget to, ask for forgiveness from your God, Jesus Christ, and from the person whom you have offended and life in love.

This is how all pastor's wives, all Christians regardless of vocation, should be dealt with when conflict arises.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Why I Cover. . .

After learning and understand about what submission is and isn't, I started thinking about 1 Corinthians 11. Granted, the passage does have cultural references, but if that is the only thing seen in this passage, we do not allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. Instead, it allows us to interpret Scripture and deem this passage unworthy of paying attention to, always a dangerous thing with regards to the Bible. It is neither right nor proper to ignore any passage in Scriptures, but instead, we must look at the passage through the filter of Christ Himself. To do so, we must look to other passages of Scripture and discover what is being said about head coverings.

It has already been discussed that wives are to submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ. This same theme is what is being discussed in the Corinthians passage. This is about submission and remembering the gift of being a woman.

God is a God of order. He ordered that men should be the pastors and the head of the household and that the women should be the receivers of the gifts from God from the men acting as God's masks on earth. Note that surrounding the passages on head coverings are passages about propriety in worship: how to faithfully celebrate the Lord's Supper and in the chapter before where it talks about how to conduct yourself with unbelievers so that they may be brought to Christ. There is a reason that head coverings are sandwiched in this way.

Looking at the surrounding passages, it becomes clear that Paul is admonishing believers to behave in such a way as to not give the wrong impression on who the Christian is. The passages on how to behave when invited to a meal with an unbeliever shows that there is freedom from Christ not to follow the ceremonial laws with regards to what one may consume. It is no longer important to follow such laws because those ceremonies helped the Jews look forward to the coming of the Christ, Who has come and fulfilled the Law. Since the reason for the laws do not matter, it is no longer expected. Instead, it is more important to act in such away that people learn about Christ.

In the same way, it looks as though some people in the Early Church were abusing the Lord's Supper and treating it in such a way that it put focus on the works of men and not on the saving work of God in Christ Jesus. Some were getting drunk and hoarding it while those who were less fortunate were getting little to none. The focus then needed to be brought back to Christ and the fact that it is His supper to His glory and not to the glory of men. This is then what Paul does in the verses following his admonishment to those who would abuse the Lord's Supper.

So, how does this relate to women covering their heads? Well, it looks like the women of the time were also abusing their new found freedom by acting as if all of the laws were abolished. They were no longer respectful to their position as woman in the order of creation or respectful in church. The women were taking roles not given to them and they needed to be reminded that the head of the Church is Christ and the head of the woman is the man. This is the order of creation. This is also an admonishment to the women to behave as they should and remember who they are- who God created them to be.

So why do I cover my head? It is a statement of faith. I believe as I have been taught. My husband is the head of my household. Christ is the head of my husband. I will conduct myself in a way that does not draw doubt onto who I am as a Christian. I will not dress in such a way that would make me an object of lust or put the glory onto myself. Wearing a head scarf has made me rethink my wardrobe. It reminds me to wear things that will make the right statement about me- that I am a redeemed child of God. In the world of fashion, it's popular to show your body parts off and display them almost as billboards of sinful indulgence. I will not do so. I will honor my husband and my God and make sure that I conduct myself in a way that is decent and chaste.

Does this mean every woman has to cover? Certainly not! This is not a thing of the law but a gift and a reminder. I tried the fashion route- I paraded my body in a way that I shouldn't have with clothes that revealed too much and I don't want to go there again. If I have to think about what looks good with my scarf, and it doesn't pass the scarf test, it doesn't get put on my body. It also is a great reminder that Christ is present wherever I go just as my scarf is present and I should conduct myself accordingly. When I fail, it is also a reminder that Christ covers my sins by His atoning sacrifice on the cross just as my scarf covers my head. If other women don't need that reminder, it is even better for them for they are better than I am. I need that reminder and I believe it is a good reminder to have.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

More on the "S" Word. . .

My last post pretty much dealt with the fact that submission is a fact of life- the life God created for us to live that is marked by being in service to others. I have always found it odd that popular Christian culture seems to put a great deal of emphasis on servitude but not on submission. However, I do believe that is a topic for another post.

I also mentioned a bit about the Order of Creation. This is a topic that my husband and I have discussed at great lengths. The topic itself fascinates me. It is so foundational to our existence and yet so easily dismissed in modern society. God created woman for man, not man for woman. Woman was created for man to be a helper and man is responsible for the woman. When sin entered the world and Adam and Eve disobeyed God, Adam was the one who was attributed with the fall of mankind. It was his duty to teach and educate Eve on the things that God commanded so that she would not err. He did not fulfill this and, as a result, sin entered into the world. Even before the Fall, God had order in His creation. It was corrupted after the Fall, but it is still the order.

Since this is the order of things, what does submission look like? Can my husband come home, demand a beer and a hot dinner be brought to him while he sits on his plush recliner and tells me to rub his very smelly feet while he watches football and complain that the house isn't clean enough, I don't look pretty enough, and holler at me to get more of the chores done around the house because I'm a woman and that's what I do? Is that the submission God expects from women?

Certainly not! That's not submission; that's abuse and not God's plan for a healthy marriage. Christ charges husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). How did Christ love the Church? Read the rest of the passage. Christ gave his life up for the Church. Christ sacrificed everything, including His life, for the Church so that she would be holy and blameless in God's sight. He gives the Church teachers- pastors- to train her up so that she knows the way of the Lord. Christ fulfilled the Law where Adam could not and did what Adam could not do. Christ is the giver of good gifts to the Church: Word and Sacrament. The Church receives those gifts not on her own merit, but on Christ's.

I can already hear that little voice saying, "Christ is perfect and my husband is far from it! Submitting to Christ is one thing- He can't let me down. But to submit to my husband? He can let me down. He has let me down, and he'll probably do it again. He's no more perfect that I am!" To this argument, two points are important. One, it doesn't matter how sinful the representative is that God has placed over us- God has placed the husband over the wife as His representative. This is the order that God has made and we dutifully follow it. Two, this should not be a point of fear if the man's life is one of faith in Christ.

A devout Christian man will gently correct his wife when she errs and graciously accept correction from his wife when he errs. Thus, the life of husband and wife is always covered in repentance of mistakes and forgiveness being shared. In this, as mentioned in the previous post, a man and his wife are equals. They equally forgive, reprove, and love each other. However, it is the head of household's duty to be responsible for the teaching of the faith, the well-being of the family, and the care-taking of the family affairs. This doesn't mean the woman is free to do as she pleases. She shares the work and helps him in every way possible, as is her vocation. It might be to make sure there is a hot dinner waiting for him at home or to teach and rear the children in the knowledge of the faith- whatever works for each family. However, the roles the man and his wife play to make the family work best for their situation doesn't mean that their God given vocations have changed. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and the wife should submit to her husband.

How does this relate to why I keep my head covered with a scarf? Tune in for part three. . .

Friday, June 6, 2008

Shhhh! It's the "S" Word!

Ew! Submit and subordinate are such icky words in our society today. No one wants to be in that position. Everyone wants to be the top dog and the one giving the orders. It's about power, prestige, and giving oneself a name that is recognizable by others. God made everyone equal, right?

Equal does not mean the same. If everyone was created the same, it sure would be a boring and chaotic world. Everyone would be stuck in the same profession or close to it. Everyone would have the same opinion- even if it was an incorrect one. We'd all have the same faults and strengths and variety wouldn't exactly be on the menu anywhere. It's good that we are not the same.

It's also good that men and women aren't the same. As much as my husband drives me absolutely crazy at times because I don't understand what he is trying to tell me or why he did something, the individual strengths and weaknesses we bring to our marriage make our marriage work. There is another reason why our marriage works. Call us old fashioned, but we do things the way that they were created to work. My husband is the head of the household and I submit to him.

Submit. Now there's a dirty word. People don't like that word. People don't like that word being in the Bible. "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:22) That's not the only place to find that word, either. "For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting tot heir husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening." (1 Peter 3:5-6) It's also in the Lutheran Confessions. Find Luther's Small Catechism and turn to the table of duties for wives. Those verses are exactly what you will find.

What does it mean to submit? A conversation I had recently would make it sound as if submission is a form of slavery. Submission is seen as being bound to another's wants and needs above and beyond my own. As if submission and obedience is only present in partnership with tyranny. Perhaps that is what the world would see when they hear that a wife will submit to her husband. Those of us in Christ know better. Husbands do not get to lord over their wives in a disrespectful and dishonoring way. Look to the same Table of Duties for how husbands are to treat their wives.

"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered." (1 Peter 3:7) This does not sound like a dictator ordering his subjects around. This is love. It is a reminder that the wife is a child of God and is to be treated as such, since she is a gift of God to the husband. Just as Adam was given Eve in the Garden, so each wife is given to her husband in marriage.

Why must the woman submit? Why can't it be the man? Well, that's not for me to answer. I didn't create men and women, God did. God is a God of order, and the order He created was to make man in His own image first, and then take Eve from Adam. That is the order of creation, the order that God decided to make. Just as Christ's work of redemption on the cross is not for me to question but to believe so it is with the reason that God ordered creation the way that He did.

Why is this important? Stay tuned for Part Two. . .