Marriage and Family: Devotion of the Day

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Genesis 1.28

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

–Devotion–

Being married and having children does not mean you are more faithful to God than others. I say that because I am reading a book from the 1930’s that persists in a functional view of marriage. By “functional view” I mean the thought that 1) being married is just what you do (especially as a Christian) and 2) the only point of being married is to have children. This thought, I think, makes a complete mess of marriage and children let alone the Scriptures.

For Christians marriage is the public confession of their intent to live together in life long monogamous fidelity for the glory and honor of their God and his Church. The point of marriage, then, is the agreement between two faithful single persons to live a faithfully devoted monogamous life together for the glory of God. They make their agreement public; in the middle of the congregation, because the congregation of Christians are the people who hold them accountable to their vows. This brings up the question, should we be held responsible for decisions we made when we did not know what we were doing? Most of us would answer, “No.” Well, that makes marriage impossible. Which of us knew what we were doing when we took vows to live a life long monogamous and faithful life with our spouse? Even more so, it makes having children unthinkable. We never know what to expect with children, none of us knew what we were doing with our first kids let alone our last. But the church is called to hold us accountable for the decisions we made when we did not know what we were doing–marriage and children and many others. But, like I said, being married is not a more or less holy or God-pleasing estate than singleness. Nor is a childless marriage less holy than one with children. That is not how this Genesis passage should be read.

The other hang up with this passage is the word “dominion.” Dominion has become a rather dirty word among us modern people. Mostly, as far as I can tell, because of the abuses that have taken place among humanity with this passage being waved in the air. “We are called to have dominion!” That does not mean the subjugation of indigenous peoples nor slash and burn practices upon this creation, it does not mean the oppression of women or children. This is not a passage that backs up what the King Ferdinand III did to the Africans, nor the Spanish and English to the original Americans. This is not a passage that endorses the destruction of the Amazon for the sake of cheap lemons and limes. In the case of Genesis dominion, I think, simply means the naming and care of creation. Man was created at the top. He was created to name the things of creation and care for them. As far as I can tell that is it. There is perhaps no greater act of dominion than naming things. Thus God gives creation a name by his Word and then hands over that authority to man to name things within creation. This brings us back to the point from the last devotion. Given this reality, how might we be creatures without regret in this day and age?

Pastor Beltz

Devotion of the Day

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Genesis 1.3-5

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

–Devotion–

God speaks, it happens.  Whatever IT is.  IT in this case is the light.  God creates by his Word.  This brings out two huge features to the story we Christians tell about things.  1) God is the creator, and 2) that creation comes by speaking. 

Regarding point 1:  God creates, not us.  That is a hard point for us human creatures to swallow.  We have come to think of ourselves as creators in many ways.  When that happens, the world gets turned upside-down.  Think of Babel.  We humans are not creators, we are manipulators.  All we can do is take the things of this creation and manipulate them.  Trees to 2×4’s, gold and silicon to computer chips, but nothing is created by us humans.  That is, as I said, hard for us to swallow.  If we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are creators, then a creating God has no place in our stories and we alone stand as kings and gods and creators of our own stories and beginnings. 

Regarding point 2: our God is a verbal, and nothing has changed to this day.  He speaks to create light.  He is still speaking.  How is it that faith is created?  Hearing, and hearing the Word of God.  Where is that word?  It is the Scriptures, and the preaching of the Church (so long as that preaching is truly Scriptural and does not look past Jesus), it is the Sacraments when God speaks again, and again, and again.  Our prayer is that God will never be silenced upon this earth, but especially in the Church. 

Pastor Beltz

Devotion of the Day

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Genesis 1.2

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

–Devotion–

As I mentioned, we have a story to tell.  This is the story of the Genesis, the beginning, of the Earth and the waters.  But, as I would ask any student of the Christian faith, how do we know this is THE STORY, the TRUE STORY, of the Genesis of the Earth and waters?

There are times in the Old Testament that we can reference that point out that this story of a Creating God from Genesis 1 is the True Story.  At one point this creating God revealed his might by drowning the world and making it over.  At another time He showed by mighty deeds in Egypt that He was God.  Then again He sent down fire and burned up the prophets of baal in front of Elijah.  But it is not until this same creating God, this God of the Flood, this God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, this God of mighty and terrible deeds in Egypt sends his Son named Jesus into the earth.  Up until then God had remained rather aloof, but now he was on the Earth again.  He was not in plague, or pillar of fire or smoke, or sending angels anymore.  He was present in his Son.  And his Son revealed in his authority over the earth and the waters that He was acting and speaking in the stead of this God.  But, the world responded in self defense.  They killed Jesus, but God raised him from the dead.  This is how we know this story is true.  This creating God raised Jesus from the dead.  

Pastor Beltz

Devotion of the Day

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If there is a book that influenced Luther and his “Evangelical Breakthrough” more than Galatians, I have not heard.  While Romans is usually touted as being the predominant book to fuel Martin Luther and the reformatory process of the Church, Luther himself found Galatians far more concrete and clear.  This is why he took the time to write his own commentary on the letter to the Galatian churches and did not do so for the book of Romans.  This Commentary on Galatians was so influential for the theological formation of Lutheran pastors and laity that it was given the title of “Luther’s Great Galatian Commentary” after Luther passed away on 18 February 1546.  This title describes the place this Commentary had for the life and thought and formation of the Church in its early years after Reformation. 

The reason that Luther himself, in his commentary, cites for this letter’s great influence upon him is St. Paul’s clear presentation of justification by grace through faith and the righteousness of God that comes with it.  It is in this great commentary that Luther presents a great theological development–a development which is influential to my preaching and teaching.  It is the diagram that I sometimes use from the pulpit, which I presented again in Monday morning bible class, we have a relationship (vertically) between God and us, and then also between us and our neighbors (vertically).  In our relationship with God there is nothing we can do to earn his righteousness.  We receive it by Grace through faith.  But, between our neighbors there is righteousness too.  It is a righteousness that is obtained by works.  It is a righteousness that sometimes needs the sting of the law to motivate sinners to achieve.  This type of righteousness takes many forms, or is practiced in many different arenas.

If you are a business man/woman and have workers under you; treat them well, give them a fair wage, and do not burden them with fear or your anger.  If you are a wife, submit to your husband and do not frustrate him, if you are a husband sacrifice yourself and your pride and childish ambition as Christ sacrificed all for his bride–the Church.  These are the sorts of practices, AND MANY MORE I TELL YOU, that belong to the righteousness we practice in an active way, rather than the righteousness we receive as completely passive creatures by faith. 

To prepare us for reading this jam-packed little letter let me just say that things are not good in the Galatian Churches.  St. Paul has strong language in Galatians.  Perhaps the strongest of any letter he wrote.  He is unhappy because there is a guy, or most likely a group of guys, diverting the Church from the truth that we human creatures are justified by grace through faith.  These false teachers were claiming Paul had no real authrotiy as Apostles because he came so much later than the other Apostles.  And, on this claim, these false teachers were adding to the Gospel of God from the practices of the Jewish religion–circumcision and food laws to be precise.  They were telling these Gentile Christians things like, “to be REAL Christians you need to get Circumcised, or you are not really a child of God.”  This is, of course, the law.  Which has no place in determining the status of a human creatures vertical relationship between God–only Christ determines that status. 

Now the stage is set.  I look forward to what follows.  May the YOUR God who has given you the status as Sons and Daughters by Grace continue in his love and favor for you this day.

Pastor Beltz

Do not Abandon your Tradition and Heritage

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When I think about what it looks like to abandon families there are many images that come to mind. I think about many of our children’s desire to get out of Staunton.  Perhaps they want to go to school in St. Louis or wherever.  The desire to go to school is not what disturbs me but ulterior motives.   They do not want to have anything to do with farming, a trade, being a housewife, or anything their family has done for centuries perhaps.  They are discontent with the family because it is not an image of the glamour, progression, freedom, fun, and happiness the world displays life to be; that we as individuals in a “free” country are entitled to enjoy, so they desire to leave all behind.

I think this sort of thinking may be applied to several issues we face.  This disturbs me.  Our children, and many of our lives, are ones of discontent.  We are always looking to the future, but not for judgment and restoration as is the Christian hope.  The devil so easily bewitches us, all of us-both young and old, with the glory of the world and all

it has to offer, and how that glory comes through shedding the past that holds you back.  However, do not abandon your tradition and heritage.

You have been placed into a family, your family.  You received this blessing from God without your knowledge, you were chosen, elected.  You have been given to your family and them to you to form your faith, thinking, spiritual and physical health, and how you enter into relationship with one another, there is nothing you can do to separate them from you.  Why try through distance or lifestyle to abandon what you have received from God because you desire a future the world images?

Your family has walked a faithful path through history.  It seems nowadays we are more prone to imagining some path to the future that can be completely independent of the one our family has blazed.  My future starts with me.  Am I saying we ought not to have goals or visions for our futures?  No.  But I am challenging the basis for our vision and goals of the future.  Is it Christ and the future He has accomplished and prepared which is given us by our families through baptism?  Or is it the future of the world, which is selfishness and death?

The same vein of thinkingmay be applied to church.  Do not abandon your church.  You have been born into this community also.  No doubt many of your families and the way they speak, think, and act are based on the faith they have learned in this Church.  Therefore, for many of you this Church is an inseparable part of your familial identity too.  However, just like in a family orphans may become children so too many orphans are brought together in the church and made kin.  Whether your family has been Lutheran since the Reformation or you have just been baptized today you are here in the same family, the congregation, the Church.  This is the election of the Father too.

Now, we speak a great deal about our heavenly Father’s work, but who is our Mother.  The Church is our Mother.  It is her we come to for care, protection, and love.  She is the one who God is given to us to care for us while we are here on this earth.  Shall we as the children of God in the care of our mother the Church abandon this family?  The church seems to hold onto the old, traditional ways, the ways that were given to her by God when they were first married.  The ways all of her children have been brought up in are now being called old, outdated, dusty.  Shall the children become emancipated minors?

We perhaps know what it is like to have stubborn parents.   They will not change for anyone.  They will not get cell phones, big televisions, cable.  They still want to walk instead of sit in a scooter.  They want to live in their homes rather than a nursing home or retirement community.  They will not let anyone come in to clean their home that is not family, sometimes they will not even let family.  They are stubborn, non-understanding.  At least this is the verdict of us children looking in from a perspective of our lives and needs.  The strains we have and places we need to be.  We have our futures in view.  Our stubborn parents must fit into our schema of life based on that future.  However, we children are born into families, not the other way around.

You are born into your parent’s past.  By that, you are also born into their future.  If we are truthful with ourselves, there is nothing we can do about that.  Is our real desire to abandon all our family for the sake of the future we hope to have?  Or are we content with the future that is made for us through the history of our family?   Here I am speaking of both families and sets of Mothers and Fathers.  Shall we as Children attempt to wrangle the past and future our parents have borne us into?  Or shall we be content within them?

We as Christians have a Savior, our Lord Christ, who leads us by example.  Who, even though tempted by the devil to take hold of the riches of the world and all its power and glory, was faithful to His Father and the path laid before Him based on the history of promises His Father made.  Jesus knew what lay before Him.  However, He held firmly to the past promises of His Father.  He knew His future not simply because it was His ability as God, but because He knew His Father’s promises and history.  He knew where He came from.  Because He knew His Father He knew His Future.  This is Faith.  We live this faith in the care of our Mother.

Now we are bound to fail when held up to this example.  We are sinners after-all.  We are bound to stray from families.  I am not giving license because of sin, because our Father and Mother do not.  We are bound to desire the deadly future and its present glory, rather than a deadly Baptism and its future promised glory in Christ.  However, remember your Heavenly Father and how He received His Son.  Do not forget your Father is one of forgiveness and your Mother one of love, care, and tender mercies.  No matter how stubborn they seem to you no doubt it is for your own good.  Do not abandon them.  You are theirs and they are yours, what riches more do you desire?  Do not abandon your tradition and heritage.  In Peace and Contentment Amen.