Not Even a Bishop
Monday of Epiphany 7
20 February 2017
Pastor Martin Stephan, the leader of the German immigrants who ultimately founded The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, left in Germany his wife and children when he sailed from Bremen to New Orleans in 1838-39 with the Saxon immigrants. At the time, the impression was that Mrs. Stephan was disobeying her husband by remaining behind. Perhaps she was not sufficiently convicted about the Evangelical Lutheran movement led by her husband.
While we will never know the truth about this, self-styled Bishop Stephan was ultimately exiled from the immigrant commune by being rowed across the Mississippi from Perry County, Missouri to Illinois for committing what were apparently adulterous indiscretions. Perhaps he would have been better off remaining in Germany with his wife and his children until they were sufficiently convinced of the importance of the immigration to follow him to America. By turning his back on the order of family and marriage, he was setting himself up for greater grief; a grief that had a long and devastating effect on the Saxon immigrants. No one may turn his back on the created orders of marriage and family, not even a bishop.
God's world includes all the orders that make up daily life. We may not flee from the created orders as though we Christians would be above politics, government, labor, military service, marriage, and others. God calls us to live in the world, without being controlled by it. We are truly free persons bound to provide service in divinely created orders.
When Christians say that the world is God's and all its orders we are not saying that the church then controls all these things, establishing laws for them. The church does not have the mandate to "Christianize" the world's orders, for they are already from God. They all belong to Him, even if the world does not use such things properly. Improper use does not invalidate the proper use. For example, it is not the Christian church's place to create a Christian magistracy or government.
The church has been given the gospel. The church's realm is not the external orders but the life of Christ given in preaching and sacraments and which resides in the human heart. The life of Christ is not an outward order according to some legal code, but the creation of a new heart so that we can live in the established created orders peaceably and with full forgiveness. So the Christian lives in the established orders in such a way that there is an interpenetration: the Christian in the world but not of it. He does not change or improve the order already created by God, but seeks to serve fellow humans within that order. How others may be helped in that order may change from time to time, certainly. But there must be government, marriage and family, and other orders. In regard to marriage we may not dissolve the divinely given order of the union of one man and one woman. No human may overturn God's will here, not the church and certainly not the world. The creature has no right to tell the Creator what to do, not even a bishop.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augsburg Confession
"It is taught among us that all government in the world and all established rule and laws were instituted and ordained by God for the sake of good order, and that Christians may without sin occupy civil offices or serve as princes and judges, render decisions and pass sentence according to imperial and other existing laws, punish evildoers with the sword, engage in just wars, serve as soldiers, buy and sell, take required oaths, possess property, be married, etc.
"Condemned here are the Anabaptists who teach that none of the things indicated above is Christian.
"Also condemned are those who teach that Christian perfection requires the forsaking of house and home, wife and child, and the renunciation of such activities as are mentioned above. Actually, true perfection consists alone of proper fear of God and real faith in God, for the Gospel does not teach an outward and temporal but an inward and eternal mode of existence and righteousness of the heart.  The Gospel does not overthrow civil authority, the state, and marriage but requires that all these be kept as true orders of God and that everyone, each according to his own calling, manifest Christian love and genuine good works in his station of life.  Accordingly, Christians are obliged to be subject to civil authority and obey its commands and laws in all that can be done without sin.  But when commands of the civil authority cannot be obeyed without sin, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29)."

Augsburg Confession, 16
Romans 13:1-14

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (ESV)
Most gracious God, we give thanks for the joy and blessings that You grant to husbands and wives. Assist them always by Your grace that with true fidelity and steadfast love they may honor and keep their marriage vows, grow in love toward You and for each other, and come at last to the eternal joys that You have promised; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For marriage and family that Christ our Lord would guard and keep the sanctity of marriage in our families whole and undefiled as a sign of his love for his bride the Church
For President Trump, that he might be upheld in every good deed as he serves the people of the United States
For those who suffer in the clutches of temptation, that God our heavenly Father would rescue them from besetting sin
Art: MANETTI, Rutilio  Wedding Feast at Cana  (c. 1620)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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