Indifference is not characteristic of the liturgy
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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

This is a great mystery but I am talking about Christ and His Church

It hit me the other day that what St. Paul speaks about in Ephesians 5 with regard to the relationship between husbands and wives and that of Christ and the Church is apt also for the relationship between pastor and the people he serves. Bear with me here.

Husbands are to love their wives. Wives are to respect their husbands. Without love, wives react without respect. And without respect, husbands react without love. But the husband is to give his life, lay it down, regardless of whether he receives respect.

Now lets change the terms. Pastors are to love their congregations. Congregations are to respect their pastors. Without love, congregations react without respect. And without respect, pastors react without love. But the pastor is to give his life, lay it down, regardless of whether he receives respect.

Now before you think that I'm just repeated the sermon given at the last eleventy million call services. Wait. This is in fact what happened in the garden with Adam and Eve. Eve speaks when she shouldn’t and Adam doesn’t speak when he should. Eve wasn’t there, she wasn’t yet created when the Lord gave the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That command was given only to Adam. It was his duty in love for Eve, his wife, to tell and teach her that holy command. And so when Adam fails to speak, the consequences are monumental. He is responsible.

In terms of Ephesians 5, Eve does not respect her husband, Adam does not love his wife. For there they stood together, side-by-side, in the Garden in conversation with the serpent. Did God really say? it asks. He attacks the weaker vessel, the most vulnerable. Because she's a woman? No, she's weaker, she's more vulnerable because she was not there for the command. Only Adam was. Eve should have pointed to him for the certain answer. But she didn’t. She didn’t respect him and the authority he had been given by God.

And Adam isn't any better. For he is there with her while the serpent speaks. And he says nothing. He fails to act He fails to use his God-given authority to support and protect his wife from harm. He fails to love her, to give his life for hers. To put his neck on the line, instead of letting her dangle in the wind when he knew better.

When we, pastors, fail to use the authority God gave us to teach what God has spoken, the way a husband would teach and help his own wife, we fail to love our congregations. When we fail to love our people, they react without respect for the authority God has given. And without respect, we continue to act without love. But the pastor is to lead here. And we lead by loving them regardless of what they do, as we would our own wives, teaching them as we would our own wives, rebuking them as we would our own wives. Subordinating our need for respect to their need for love.

Perhaps this is why St. Paul says he's speaking about Christ and the Church. For the only missing element in the Ephesians version of the Table of Duties is the section on what pastors owe their hearers and what hearers owe their pastors. Perhaps they're combined with that of the husband and wife, Christ and his Church, pastor and his congregation. And maybe all those call service sermons were on to something and we dismissed them too quickly.