Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Men, lay down your lives for you wives, and ...


 
As a kid growing up in a large Lutheran church (68 in my confirmation class), besides other things that were done to help me pay attention, there was the conversational relationship between my Dad and Mom.

On the drive home from church, Dad would often identify the one main point of the sermon, and Mom would elaborate and develop what she had gotten from the sermon about that point.

When we got home, all five kids had duties before lunch (which we called dinner, and it was a multi course hot meal, about to be made from scratch). After changing clothes, everyone pitched in to making the meal, setting the table, and such.

Dad sat at one end. Mom at the other. The kids down the two sides, sandwiched between Mom and Dad. Punctually, everyone sat down. Dad or Mom had kept track of which of us five kids was next in the rotation to say grace.

Then immediately as the serving bowls and platters were being passed, Mom and Dad resumed the dissection of the sermon. Mom got a kick out of how many times Dad would say, “Pastor Nervig gave the same sermon three times again today,” and then he would identify the juncture at which the first repetition began, and the juncture at which the second repetition began.

Mom liked to say, “But Oscar, you know, that’s what they taught us in school, to tell ‘em what you are going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and then tell ‘em what you just told ‘em.” Dad would grudgingly allow that, yes, that is what they taught in school, and probably there was good reason for it. But Dad was an excellent listener. He did not need to hear something twice. He got it the first time. Mom too, every bit as much as Dad, but she had more tolerance for repetition.

Often there was a “I’m-not-too-sure” moment, when Dad would say something like, “I am not too sure about the way Pastor Nervig applied the example of Abraham, though.” And then Mom and Dad would delve into that example together. In the end, both of them reaffirmed we were lucky to have a pastor of Nervig's caliber.
 
The whole event oozed and throbbed that these things were important to Mom and Dad, and that being conversational in marriage about it was important to them. Sooooo, I listened in quite intently.
 
Many was the time that, with two brothers and a sister beside me in the back bench seat of the 53 Mercury and then the 63 Electra and then the 69 Electra, and a sister between my parents in the front seat, I leaned forward with both forearms flat on the backrest of the front seat, my chin resting on the backs of my hands, to listen in on their conversation. And at the dinner table, I wanted to be able to have something to say to be part of this event between my parents.

I recall part of my youthful fantasies about my own future marriage, of being able to converse with my wife about sermons, Bible passages, the Catechism, and such. It seemed like the next best destination to heaven.

Men, lay down your life for your wife, and converse with her about what is important.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Embarrassment of Western Christians with Leviticus

John W. Kleinig, Leviticus (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2003), pp. 25-26.

Christ and his apostles show that the ritual legislation in Leviticus is relevant for us. While the law of Moses does not prescribe what we do in the Divine Service, it helps us to understand how God interacts with us in Christ and in the Divine Service. So each section of this commentary ends with a discussion of the fulfillment of each piece of ritual legislation by Christ. In each case we will examine the function and significance of the divine service, for what God intended to achieve ritually through his law in Leviticus is accomplished fully by Christ and conveyed to the church in the Divine Service.

Leviticus was used widely in the early church and later to preach the Gospel and our participation in God’s holiness by virtue of our union with Christ. In contrast, the modern church generally ignores Leviticus. …
The present neglect of Leviticus, however, should not surprise us. It is an accurate reflection of the status of the book in the contemporary church, and index of the embarrassment of Western Christians with its contents.  It seems that this book is thought to have little to no relevance for modern people. At best, it contains outdated ancient Israelite ritual legislation that has been abolished by Christ. At worst, it is considered quite un-Christian in its promotion of ritual legalism, justification by works, the very antithesis of the Gospel. So churches that prize the Good News of free forgiveness through faith in Christ may mistakenly assume that they should no longer use Leviticus to nurture the saints, even though the entire book is concerned with forgiveness and atonement—more overtly than any other book of the Bible.

Leviticus cannot be sidelined as easily as that, for much of the NT is rightly interpreted only in its light. We depend on Leviticus for the proper understanding of Christ’s death for sinners and the doctrine of his vicarious atonement, which is the heart of the NT Gospels and epistles. Christ is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29), “the Lamb who was slain” (Rev 5:12). The letter to the Hebrews, with its profound liturgical theology of Christ as both the great High Priest and the once-for-all sacrifice, would be inscrutable without Leviticus. From a literary point of view, it is the heart of the Pentateuch—the central book of the five that comprise the Torah, which is the foundation of the OT and indeed the entire canon.