On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Could Have, Would Have, Should Have - Pr. Kruse

  1. Russ Salzmann, who once upon the time wrote a monthly newsletter and still writes for First Things, once spun a delightful tale called: “Angels and BMV(latin abbreviation of Blessed Virgin Mary; english abbreviation of Bureau of Motor Vehicles).” In it, Gabriel comes to visit Zachariah and, in a bureaucrat worthy fit of officious exasperation over Zachariah questioning his proclamation, pulls a pompous apparatchik stunt on Zach that leaves him mute. By the time Gabe heads to Bethlehem, the matter has reached the highest level of the administration and Gabe has been chastised sufficiently. He still bristles at Mary’s: “but how can that be,” but, recalling his uncomfortable 20 minutes before the throne of the Ancient of Days, choses to let it be this time. He merely stutters  the famous line: “Nothing is impossible with God.”
  2. It is ever so easy to make this a preview of Christmas. The text just invites this. Yet, we are, for a few days still navigating Advent: God will bring in the kingdom, take heart. Nothing is lost. It is still all worth it. The things God has promised and spoken they will come to pass. St. John the Baptist visited us last week. In his story from John 1 and 3 we see that God says and then does. It will come to pass. There was one on whom the Spirit came to rest. (John 3) John has seen that what he has preached has come to be. We are invited to similar trust that what we speak and do on conviction of the Holy Spirit will be vouched for in heaven and done in God’s time.
  3. Mary has a similar story, though a longer and more arduous one. She, according to Luke the Evangelist, gets to witness Jesus’ entire earthly life, including his Ascension and the Pentecost miracle. She gets to begin Jesus’ life with a warning that it will not be easy to watch. (Lk 2:35) She begins the journey with this encounter that, as is customary to observe, plunges her into risk and  peril. She is betrothed and is not supposed to show up pregnant quite yet. (Num 5:11-21; Deut 22:13-21; Sir 42:9-11)  Yet, in spite of all the troubles that the scriptures suggest she could get into, none of them are reported. The closest thing is Joseph contemplating to break off the betrothal so that the real father can take possession of the child. ( Matt 1:19-20) Luke reports none of this and neither do the rest of the Gospels. That may be odd. There should have been trouble but there was not. Perhaps we do well not to dwell on all the things that could have, or might have, or even should have happened to her. As far as Luke is concerned, the Holy Spirit will empower her and the Glory of God will protect her, and, if the story of Luke is considered, that is how it was.
  4. When dealing with John last week, I noted that Arthur John Piepkorn considered Mary the archetype of the church. In this season, Advent, and in this pericope this might again be a good reminder. The Gospels do not dwell on all the could haves, should haves, would haves. The Gospels tell of Mary as one who bears the Christ to the world. In the Eastern Church she is the “God Bearer” (theotokos). After his birth she has limited roles to play. She intercedes for need in John 2. She comes to keep him safe from himself in Mark 3:22 only to be rebuffed. She has to learn that she must now let him increase and do the work for which he came and for which she bore him. She is present at the crucifixion. She is present at the Pentecost. 
  5. What is the church to learn from this? Once she, with mother Mary, has said: “I am the servant of the Most High, let it be as you say,” she is no longer in control. Something much greater has been set in motion and she needs to observe, ponder, and follow the very Christ that she is charged to bring to the world. The Holy Spirit calls through the Gospel, the Gospel that is preached aright in her, mother church — Mother Mary —, the sound of her voice makes those called by the Holy Sprit jump for joy. (Lk 1:39-45, The Visitation story) Yet, once she has done her work, in word and sacrament bearing the Christ to the world, she no longer has any control. Sure, she beseeches the Father for the sake of the world in the name of the one she has brought forth but that is it. She watches and marvels what will happen next. 
  6. Yes, that all sounds heavily Catholic — Roman that is — but maybe they have a point. As Lutheran we made the church anywhere that the Gospel and Sacraments are properly administered. (AC VII) Very minimalist and very functional. It has a downside to look at it that way. If the church herself has no “God-bearing” function then she really is a voluntary association of like minded Christians and the mission of teaching and baptizing laid upon the apostles happens more by accident than by the very nature of the church. She must learn about herself from Mary and embrace the idea that she has a secret duty as a willing servant of the Lord. Once she has realized she is the servant of the Most High there really are no more could haves, would haves, or should haves. She is safe under the protection of the Lord, as are her children.
  7. We might also look at it from the side of each of us, the little sisters and brothers of Jesus that Church has born. In the Holy Eucharist we as Christians take in the Body and Blood of the Lord of the Church, the Christ. We too bear him with us as we depart to bring him to the places we roam. Yes, this Mary is somehow all of us as well. 
  8. A great sin lies before the church at all times. It lies before the individual as well. Russ had his finger on it some years back. What if the Gospel bearers become officious bureaucrats about the work that has been set before them? I deal with the members of the local Kingdom Hall on occasion. I think that that is what it would look like on a personal level. A transaction with a script that is playing itself out on my front porch. An agenda carefully developed and coached, presented while a supervisor stands behind to observe that it was done right. Yes, what becomes of church and Gospel when dealing with us becomes an exercise in dealing with the phone company where the clerk on the other side is judged not by how the customer is affected (negatively! I tell you that for nothing. Especially after 2 hours on the phone) but by how well the official screen script was read? There is a dehumanized character about these people who answer the phone or who come with pamphlet in hand to my porch unswayed by my often brilliant interjections that should have them change tack. They do not want to hear me. If they read me rightly, they still remain antiseptic about the interaction. It is the program that counts in the end, not me. 
  9. Mary had an encounter with an angel. That angel, more importantly the God behind that angel as Gabriel is merely the voice of God, had to take Mary serious when she objected. That angel gave both Mary and Zechariah a sign for the frailty of their souls to hold to. Our faith, active in evangelizing or passive in trusting receivership of God’s grace is always personal, somewhat organic, and personable. God seems to care for those who suffer his presence and call, so should his people. Yes, God choses to “let it be to Him,” as well. The crucifixion would not have happened otherwise. 

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