Sunday, January 17, 2016

These aren't the gifts you're looking for

What do you mean, you don't
know who Martin Franzmann is?
Church has a way of making us honest, and I don't mean that in a noble way. A few years ago someone asked me if I taught Sunday school. "No. Thank goodness!" I answered.

Fun while it lasted.

Teaching children is not my gift. Wait, I mean: teaching children is not something I would choose to do if the choice were inconsequential. It is not something I enjoy or feel I am particularly good at. But under the circumstances, I had to get honest about the fact that my not wanting to do something was not a good enough reason for me not to do it. So now teaching Sunday school is my gift. It is a service God has graciously given me to do. 

Remember your manners, self.

Thank You.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

But what about the girls? Thoughts on acolytes

Perhaps you have heard of some zany churches where only boys serve as acolytes. The rumors are true. I've been to such churches. I am OK with it, and I think we all could be on account of our forefolks were and maybe they weren't so dumb. Roman Catholic Rachel Lu recently put up an article on the topic, which I encourage you to read and think about.

Boys being boys.
I stole this photo from Redeemer Lutheran Church
Ft. Wayne IN
I'd add this practical point to Dr. Lu's arguments: acolyting in most Lutheran churches asks very little of those who do it, while granting the appearance of commitment and involvement. Lighting the candles is visible and impressive (robes! fire!), but requires virtually no time or effort. It's the easiest way to prove we're involved at church without really being that involved at all. The family can still walk in two minutes before the service and walk out two minutes after, and then not show up until the next time a kid is on the schedule to throw a grungy robe over his/her shorts and trip on up to the front. Naturally we want this wonderful opportunity to be offered to our daughters as well as our sons.


See, her article and my paragraph didn't help at all. Sigh.

Here are some things girls can do:

--Assist the Altar Guild

--Sing in the choir or play an instrument

--Visit or write to long-term or temporary shut-ins

--Be one of those people who does whatever those people who are always in the church kitchen do

--Volunteer for one of those jobs that always needs volunteers (church cleaning, grounds work, holiday [un]decorating, etc.)
"If only we could have been acolytes!"

--Assist in the nursery or for Sunday school and/or VBS

--Be a pew helper to someone who needs one (a person who needs help getting up/down or in/out; a family with young children; someone learning to navigate the hymnal; etc.)

--Be one of those people who understands that getting up while everyone else is still zonked so she can change the grave clothes no one know will got changed is a job worth doing.

--Am I really having to make a list of stuff people can do to help out at church?

Nothing you didn't already know. But the point is that these tasks require more of the people who do them than the task commonly referred to as acolyting in most Lutheran churches. The trouble is that they are less visible than acolyting (since the reason we do jobs at church is so people can see us doing them). Many of them also demand much more of the parents of a girl too young to drive herself places.

In a church that only ordains men (which is to say, The Church), the argument that "girls will feel left out" doesn't hold water. If adult girls can handle not being pastors, child girls can handle not being acolytes. In fact, that practice is good . . . practice. It allows us to trust our small ones with something small so that someday they will be trustworthy with what is great. I have heard proponents of women's ordination argue that telling girls they have to stop appearing in vestments in the chancel once they reach a certain age is confusing. I totally agree. I call that bluff. Even though there is no "Thou shalt not have girl acolytes," we would be wise not to.

As for those who don't want female pastors but do want female everythings but pastors: women's ordination is not a litmus test for right thinking with regard to Scripture's teaching on men and women. Opposing women's ordination but seeing no other implications in Scripture or our holy God's Creation for the lives of Christian men and women beyond that is facile; it amounts to a test not of faith, but contrived and manipulative partisan loyalty (If you love me, you'll carry this pebble in your pocket every day just because I asked you to).  Itemizing women's ordination from the man/woman thing and then opposing it as a platform issue is simply jumping through a social or intellectual hoop to gain admission to a certain segment of the Christian population.

The real matter is this: It is impossible for men to take what women have by nature. It not impossible for women to take what men have by nature. A faithful man takes up duties he is not materially required to perform, and thereby gains their honor (a faithless man abdicates and shrinks). A faithful women yields honorable duties she is not materially excluded from performing (a faithless woman extorts and arrogates). So y'all live right.

Finally: feeling left out is a real feeling. But real feelings can be wrong. "I want what he has!" is coveting, and feeding a grudge over other people having good things is a sinful sickness. Women of all ages who are afflicted with this sin need loving catechesis, repentance, and forgiveness, as do men who resist truth and wisdom because they fear God less than they fear women.

I speak bluntly, as to people of careful thought. I am more than aware, as a mother of young girls and boys, that living out these things requires the greatest of care. Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail; in Him do we trust, nor find Him to fail

even through loads of glumpy junk like this.