The Trouble With Equality
June 15, 2018
Verse: Mark 4:33–4:34
Christ Lutheran Church
June 17, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The Trouble With Equality
And with many such parables he would speak the Word to them, as they were able to hear it. Nor without a parable did he say a word to them. But privately, to his own disciples, he explained everything. Mark 4:33-34
As if the church is not already in enough hot water with the culture, the news just keeps getting worse.
Culture has declared war against the church already because of her moral teachings. Because she condemns the sexual sins of the day. Those so-called “preferences” which culture blindly promotes, but which draw the wrath of God every time; and there’s nothing worse than that..
Yes, the news keeps getting worse, especially the closing words of today’s gospel: “But privately, to his own disciples, he explained everything.”
With these words the church commits yet one more unforgiveable sin: the sin of inequality. The sin of making the disciples of special rank in the church and possessors of special knowledge. But it is not only the culture that objects, but more than a few Christians do, too.
It is not surprising, of course, because we reside in the world. We breathe culture’s polluted air, and drink her tainted water. But rather than become indignant let us remember the admonition of St. Paul who counsels us to “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience to Christ;” (2 Cor. 10:5)
Or said another way, rather than allowing the culture do our thinking for us, let us be, “transformed by the renewal of our minds so that we might discern what is the good, and perfect and acceptable will of God.” (Romans 12:2) So that we might come to know that “equality” is the sum of two deadly sins. The sum of Envy and Pride.
But the church is not France!
The motto of the French Republic is: Liberté, égalité, fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood). But this motto has no standing in the church for we “possess the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:16)
Make no mistake: the church has Liberty! By Christ every believer is set free from sin, death and the dominion of the devil. The “unholy trinity” has no more power over us. Life is ours. Liberty is ours. Happiness is ours. Glory is ours. Because, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3:4)
We likewise believe in “Fraternite,” Brotherhood. But for the church the term brother wears a different suit of clothes. It does not denote political association in the church. But Christians are brothers because they are begotten from above by the same Father: God; and born of the same Mother: the church.
Brotherhood is a sacramental reality in the church because we have all passed, wet and slippery, through the same birth canal of baptism; covered with the water and the blood from Christ’s pierced side.
And if we wish to properly use the term “Egalite,” Equality, the altar is the place. Because at the altar every worldly classification ceases to be. Here, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female.” (Gal. 3:28). If you think of yourself as better than any other person who kneels here then hear the Word of the Lord. “Leave your gift at the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mt. 5:24).
No, the church is not France, nor is everyone a minister. Jesus taught the crowds “as much as they were able to hear. But privately he explained everything to his disciples.” He gave them higher knowledge because he gave them a higher office; and higher responsibility, namely: to feed his sheep. (John 21:17)
There are pastors and there are sheep. There are teachers and there are students. There are those who minister and those who are ministered to. They are not the same, and we must not try to change the ordinance of God for the sake of cultural sensitivity. Indeed, we should rejoice in the way God made things, because the church is the ultimate counter-cultural movement.
Perhaps the greatest stressor in Lutheran parishes today is the fact that neither pastor nor parish knows what its respective job is. And so let us state the case plainly.
It is the job of the pastor to lead God’s people in worship; and the job of the people to worship God.
The pastor leads God’s people in worship by absolving their sins; reading the Scriptures aloud; teaching the gospel by preaching; consecrating the elements and distributing the precious body and blood of Christ to God’s hungry people.
It is the congregation’s Service to liturgize the Father in Spirit and Truth; to confess their sins; believe the absolution; hear the gospel, support the church, pray, praise, and receive the Holy Communion that is the sum and substance of our holy Christian religion with reverent, devout and grateful hearts.
It is the job of the pastor to watch over the souls entrusted to him by the Good Shepherd; to guard the church’s doctrine and practice; and to teach the things of God to God’s people. For that a great deal of study must occur. Not just for a few years in the seminary, but his whole life long. No pastor knows enough, nor can any pastor learn everything there is to learn, but he must try. The pastor who isn’t always learning is a sad pastor; and his people will always live below the spiritual poverty line.
It is the job of the congregation to learn, but not just in Divine Service, because as no pastor knows enough, nor does any Christian, and it can’t all be done in 10 minutes a week. And so it behooves Christians to seek out instruction. Not for the pastor to urge them to learn; but for them to urge the pastor to teach. So that they can, “Attain to the unity of the faith, to the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, and to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13)
Yes, God’s people must learn from their Called and Ordained teacher so that they are able to “contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3) So that they can raise their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”; (Eph. 6:4). So that they can testify to Jesus the Light of the World in the public square whenever the opportunity should arise. So they can, in the words of today’s Psalm 1:3, meditate on the Gospel of the Lord day and night. Then they will be like: trees planted by streams of water that yield their fruit in its season; and their leaves will not wither when they stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:10). Amen