A Supreme Court Ruling and a Pastoral Letter

Gavel and bookThe Supreme Court Ruling on same-sex marriage caused the Chief Justice to ask with indignation: “Who do we think we are?” The rhetorical question may need no further reply than the ruling itself. We do not need to whisper what silence shouts.

I have been asked, “Pastor, what can you say to us?” I had not planned on speaking or even writing. I figured that there would be plenty enough voices. And there are. And there are many wise voices. So I write for one reason: to answer one young man—a student and former parishioner. I write, therefore, out of a pastoral impulse, not, in this case, out of a prophetic one (though I have sought to assume a prophetic voice in times past I am led more—now that the siege of Jerusalem has begun—to  join Jeremiah in ashes for mourning). I write through this medium to reach out, pastorally, to you who read this now. If this little epistle is read by one who applauded the White House bathed in rainbow colored architectural lights at night—a surreal scene and unintendedly frightening—I will be greatly honored.

My Dear Lad:

I am sorry that your spirit is disturbed by the SCOTUS ruling today. Mine is too. As your old pastor I am honestly more upset, tonight, over the dark upheaval that such news has upon you and your sweet family. I mean that, my lad. I am sad that you are sad.  And I feel sorrowful for what such a decision portends. I want to point to a great and godly nation born of Pilgrims and nurtured in prayer, and believe that the revival strain will, once more, strengthen us to rise in faith. But I am less certain about that than I am about what I must say to you. For you need healing. And this is how I want to respond:

Though we are heartbroken for our divided and increasingly confused nation; for the cavalier dismissal of our blood-bought representative government, and the immodest codification of that which cannot but bring ultimate, inescapable pain and suffering; we are, nevertheless, serenely confident in the rule and reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the glorious and undeterred power of His Gospel that always shines brightest in the darkest places. So, let us pray—yes, my boy, prayer is what we must do—for the growth of Biblical righteousness that is always—always—the happy child of converted spirits and the ultimate victor in the ancient struggle between right and wrong.

Some of our neighbors and, yes, our friends, are, I think, less angry with our one-woman-one-man-one-flesh-covenant commitment to marriage than they are, increasingly, curious. Our Christian culture—devout Catholics with their nine children, dedicated Baptists with their annual pageants at Christmas and Easter, and faithful Anglicans lining up for Communion in their church plants in movie theaters and middle-school cafeterias, as if those inglorious places were somehow sanctuaries—are becoming odd sights to the new Western, secular-enlightened citizenry. Our beliefs, practices, and our Sacred Texts, may seem to this new-age-majority as if we are chin-bearded Amish in overalls and straw hats, horse and buggy and all. What I mean is that the tenets of our faith may become quaint curiosities to this new-moral majority. And so let us display what marriage is, what good health it produces, and what spiritual peace it brings. Of course this will require that we practice what we preach. This will necessitate repentance of adultery, lust, cruelties, pride, practical unbelief, and a cleansing of the cultural impurities we have absorbed along the way.

But I am not so sanguine or so “other-worldly” that I don’t see the darker potential consequences to the ruling on marriage—particularly the ominous threat to religious liberty. For, of course, we cannot approve what the Lord condemns. We cannot add to or take away one word of what the Spirit has said in His holy Word. So we look to the Lord. Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Love those who would persecute you. And should we suffer for righteousness’ sake let us sing hymns as we endure the rod. Let us bless the one who stokes the flames that will translate us to heaven. We are “more than conquerors” through these very things.

But for now: live that rare and precious holiness cultivated in grace so that others may see Christ in you and glorify your Father in heaven. And how shall you be able to get upright of spirit to walk in noble holiness? Look up! Look yonder! Look upon the Savior on the cross even as Israel was saved in the wilderness by gazing upon the serpent on a pole.

I am glad you wrote. The creed of social media is marked by unwise, instantaneous reaction. This is antithetical to a more thoughtful, reflective response that our Christian “slow-to-speak”  morals teach us. I’m impressed that you asked a question rather than blurted out some remark conceived in anger, disappointment, or angst. Good for you. Well done.

Finally, let us pray that famous preces of the Church:

The versicle: Lord, have mercy.

The response: Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

In the days to come stay close to the Lord in prayer. Sing the old hymns about the old, old story. Whisper Scripture to your own soul so that you are strengthened in the Lord to speak the Word of the Lord to your brother and sister. For we need the Lord. And we need each other. And we need to remember to welcome the stranger in our midst and welcome those who cursed Christ yesterday, for many will praise Him with the same voice tomorrow. If we are headed into stormy seas only remember that the Savior is at the helm. He will never leave us nor forsake us. And Jesus still commands the wind and the waves.

Commending you, with pastoral love, to Jesus Christ our Redeemer and to the Word of His amazing grace I am

Yours Faithfully,

M.A.M.

Chaplain Corps Journal: Summer 2015 Issue Published

The Chaplain Corps Journal | Summer 2015

The Summer 2015 issue of the Chaplain Corps Journal is now available at the library at Fort Leavenworth (The long URL is: http://cdm16040.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p16040coll4/id/11. The short URL for all of the Chaplain Corps Journal is: http://www.tinyurl.com/CHJournal). This issue focuses on the Chaplain in War: Past, Present, and Future.  The Authors featured include Dr. Eric Patterson, Dean […]

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Career and Vocation

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I have often asked seminarians to think carefully about the Gospel ministry. It is not something you choose. It chooses you. No, no; He—the sovereign Lord of grace—chooses His own. He chooses us generally—to hear His Word, particularly—effectually responding unto salvation, and specifically—to a particular ministry of the Gospel. David Brooks’ book, The Road to […]

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Readings and Reflection

Saul Attacking David by GUERCINO (b. 1591, Cento, d. 1666, Bologna);1646. Oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome.

The reading from 1 Samuel 17 (1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16) arrested my attention. The case of Saul’s madness raises great theological issues that are relevant in every generation. The text says that “The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did […]

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Let us Pray for Emmanuel 

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“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:1,2). Our Father, whose incomprehensible love saved our souls through faith in the crucifixion of […]

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Coming to Charlotte: the Fellows Program

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 What is the C.S. Lewis Fellows program? “Great are the deeds of the Lord! They are studied by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2). Coming to Charlotte and the Carolinas.

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Coming to Charlotte this Fall

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Montaigne, Death, and Living

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne 28 February 1533 Château de Montaigne, Guyenne, France; Died	13 September 1592 (aged 59) Château de Montaigne, Guyenne, France.

  Montaigne, that principle creator of the essayist’s art was a French philosopher and skeptic during the French Renaissance. Among the many insights that he wrote the following thought has captured my own attention this morning: “The utility of living consists not in the length of days, but in the use of time: a man […]

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His Wonders in the Deep: A Prayer for the Merchant Marine

"The Clipper Blue Jacket" by Montague Dawson
British, (1895-1973). Oil on Canvas, Circa 1950. British Merchant Navy.

“Some went down to the sea in ships and plied their trade in deep waters; They beheld the works of the LORD and His wonders in the deep” (Psalm 107:23-24). I pray this morning for the officers and men of the United States Merchant Marine and remember their good work for our nation on the […]

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Dominus Illuminatio Mea: Trinity Sunday Readings

Oxford University with a view of some of its thirty-eight colleges and four theological halls of learning.

Dominus illuminatio mea: the Lord is my light (from Psalm 27). Thus the motto of Oxford University. And as we prepare for Trinity Sunday we do celebrate the light of the Lord that has come to us through His revelation, the Bible. And it is through that revelation from heaven, in which Jesus Christ is […]

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