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Messages - Brian Stoffregen

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16
As one of my homiletic professors said, does your sermon have a text or a pretext?


A Methodist minister was honest enough to state his reason for not using a lectionary, "I want to ride my own hobby horses." He knew what he wanted to say, and went searching for a text to support that.


I view the use of the lectionary as a way of placing myself under the authority of my church body which has given us the lectionary.

17
Your Turn / Re: Church and weddings...
« on: January 20, 2021, 07:15:25 PM »
The point is that Jesus said God’s intention from the beginning didn’t include divorce …


Yup. Some have argued that God's intentions from the beginning is that humans would never die. That world doesn't exist anymore.


Repenting doesn't stop hard hearts. It will not stop divorces. It will not stop death.


Quote
There would have been little Jesus could have done about it apart from observe that such obviously hard hearts and hard heads could either repent and accept the basic verses from Genesis as normative or continue glibly and merrily down their deconstructive way into oblivion.


Why not go even further and use Jesus' words about life in the resurrection where there are no marriages (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:34-35)? The humans weren't able to live up to the ideals in Eden. We will live up to God's expectations in the coming age. The normative that is coming is no marriages.
So, glibly and merrily it is. I think I’ll pass. You go on and take it further and further. I’m comfortable with traditional, Christian marriage.


Just like a good, ancient Roman citizen.

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Your Turn / Re: Church and weddings...
« on: January 20, 2021, 07:12:34 PM »
Pr. Stoffregen - Speaking of confusion, I'm confused with your view of marriage and especially how it applies to the lives of Christians and the Church.  Where are you going with your line of reasoning?  Do you believe that the scriptures are so vague with regard to marriage that there is simply nothing here which the church should support or defend or cherish?  Do you believe that Jesus held no real clear view on marriage but simply believed as you do regarding the OT?


I am a Christian who is married. Marriage is a commitment between my wife and me to love each other and remain faithful to each other for the rest of our lives. (In August we'll have our 50th wedding anniversary.) That commitment would be the same regardless of religion or no religion.


As I recall, every member of one congregational council except me had been divorced. Most had remarried. The Christian church is made up of sinners - people with hard hearts - people who may get divorced; but we are also sinners who are forgiven and are forgiving.


Jesus' clear view on marriage is that there aren't any in the future life. He never married. Is he our example of living the Christian life? Paul recommends not marrying. Although allows it for those who cannot control their sexual desires.


If at least some of the apostles were married as Paul suggests (1 Cor 9:5), why didn't Jesus say more about their married lives? Why didn't he advise them about being faithful husbands? We read nothing about their families. What kind of husband/father are the apostles if they are traipsing around the country for one to three years with Jesus? That doesn't strike me as a good model for families.


As I read Jesus' comments about divorce; everyone who marries after a divorce is committing adultery. Divorce does not separate the one flesh that was created. Paul agrees with that, unless the first spouse has died.


As well-intentioned as brides and grooms are at their weddings and pledge themselves to each other until death, we don't always live up to our own intentions; and we certainly fail to fulfill God's intentions for our lives. If we could do better, we wouldn't need Jesus. His forgiveness of our hard-hearts doesn't always change them. Forgiving a cheating spouse doesn't always repair or restore the damage that was created.


Because of our sinful state, I do not believe that it is always God's will that a couple stays together until death. Sometimes divorce is necessary. Sometimes divorced people find new loves and I believe that God can and does bless those new marriages. (Even if divorce was not part of God's original intention.)

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Your Turn / Re: Church and weddings...
« on: January 20, 2021, 06:41:35 PM »
The point is that Jesus said God’s intention from the beginning didn’t include divorce …


Yup. Some have argued that God's intentions from the beginning is that humans would never die. That world doesn't exist anymore.


Repenting doesn't stop hard hearts. It will not stop divorces. It will not stop death.


Quote
There would have been little Jesus could have done about it apart from observe that such obviously hard hearts and hard heads could either repent and accept the basic verses from Genesis as normative or continue glibly and merrily down their deconstructive way into oblivion.


Why not go even further and use Jesus' words about life in the resurrection where there are no marriages (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:34-35)? The humans weren't able to live up to the ideals in Eden. We will live up to God's expectations in the coming age. The normative that is coming is no marriages.




20
Your Turn / Re: Inauguration Day
« on: January 20, 2021, 06:26:34 PM »
I'm not usually a fan of performance versions of the National Anthem, and I barely know who Lady Gaga is. But IMO, she indeed nailed it.


Wiki can tell you more than you probably want to know about Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.

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Your Turn / Re: Church and weddings...
« on: January 20, 2021, 06:16:43 PM »
Jesus must have been really confused when He responds to the Scribes and Pharisees about marriage by going back to God’s intent from the beginning, prior to Moses, yet also framing it with “Have you not read...?”


Methinks that you are confused. First of all, it is only the Pharisees. Mark 10:2 says that they "ask" him. Matthew 19:3 says that they "test" him.


Secondly, they do not ask about marriage, but about divorce. Is it permitted? The answer is, "Yes, it is permitted, because people have hard hearts."


It's also clear that God's intentions from the beginning is that there wouldn't be divorce. We can also say that it was God's intentions from the beginning that humans wouldn't have hard hearts; that they wouldn't disobey God; that they wouldn't have eaten from the forbidden tree; that God would take care of them in Eden for ever. We do not live up to God's intentions.


I would also say that there would never again be a connection between a man and a woman like there was between Adam and Eve. She was the only woman who was directly fashioned from some part* of the man's body. Every other human since then has come from a woman (1 Cor 11:12).


* while צֵלָע has traditionally been translated "rib," no where else does it refer to a part of the human body. It is used for the "sides" of the ark of the covenant. It is used for the "sides" of the tabernacle. "Side chambers" of the temple. Perhaps "side" of a tree = a "board" or a "plank".

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Your Turn / Re: Church and weddings...
« on: January 20, 2021, 05:40:17 PM »
Mr.Spatz writes:
I continue to reject your idiosyncratic definition of marriage which has no foundation beyond your personal scholarship.

I ponder:
Then you dispute the statement that through much of history, even into modern times, marriage was an economic arrangement between families, a "convenient" way to get someone to support an adult daughter, a structure means of procreation that assured the "right" person would inherit title or property? And that it was often assumed that the husband would seek sexual adventures outside the marital bed, provided that the wife produced the required heirs?

Sigh again.  No, I'm not disputing any of that.  I will say again, as I have every time Pr. Stoffregen hijacks the discussion take us down this path (something I wish the new moderation regime would nip in the bud), that human sinfulness that has attached to "marriage" subsequent to creation does not alter God's original intention for marriage, which existed before the Fall.


The "intentions" for the humans that I see pre-fall is that they are to be fruitful and multiply. (Although that wasn't a unique command for the humans. It is also given to birds and fish - and they don't marry.)
 
It was not good for the man to be alone, so God made the animals, but they weren't fitting helpers for him. God formed the woman from the man as a fitting "helper" (a term usually used of God, so it seems ti indicate the inadequacy of the one who needs help).


Who says, "a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh"? Adam and Eve had no father nor mother. It wasn't about them. That would seem to be a statement about life after the Fall when there were fathers and mothers.


So, original intentions as I see it for the first humans:
1. to procreate
2. to relieve loneliness
3. to be fitting helpers
4. they were originally one so they desire unity of flesh.

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Your Turn / Re: Church and weddings...
« on: January 20, 2021, 05:26:25 PM »
The question was about the origin of "marriage." They existed before scriptures were written. They exist in cultures that have no contact with Jews or Christians. One could argue that marriage is part of the nature that God built into humans, but that would also be before scriptures talked about marriages.

Sigh.  There absolute exists a biblical answer that says otherwise, if you were only willing to listen to what others tell you.  It's an odd thing to suggest that the creator of all things could not have acted before "scripture were written", when the first book of the Bible begins with the creation story.  I continue to reject your idiosyncratic definition of marriage which has no foundation beyond your personal scholarship.


Please share your biblical scholarship that supports your understanding.


Yes, the first book of the Bible begins with creation; but that's not when it was written. Writing didn't begin until about 1000 BC. The first 11 chapters of Genesis are usually called "prehistory." They are stories about life before written history began.

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It seems to me that Jonah is more about God's messenger (Jonah) being judged by God for his judgmental attitude towards the sinful Ninevites than it was about God's judgment of those sinners. God cared for them. They repented of their sins. God did not destroy them as they deserved. Did Jonah repent?

This proves my point. Jonah preached the Law--God was going to destroy the city. (Law) In response to his preaching, the people repented.  Since they repented, the Lord did not destroy the city. (Gospel)


Jonah spoke five words in Hebrew. He didn't tell the people to repent. We know that he didn't want the people to repent. He resented God's grace towards those people. The book is more about the sins of Jonah than those of Ninevah. It is our tendency to point to other people's sins, rather than see our own prejudices.

Key to the story is Hebrew shuv, describing Nineveh's repentance, God's "repentance." The book reveals God's character and leaves us to wonder what Jonah learned from that revelation.


Yes, שׁוּב, occurs in 3:8, 9, 10 (as qal) and 1:13 (as hiphil).


Even more important: what do we learn from that revelation?

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Your Turn / Re: Church and weddings...
« on: January 20, 2021, 01:18:54 PM »
This view of marriage sounds so empty, and if it were true, I can't figure out why Paul would dare use it as a picture of the relationship of Christ with the church (Eph. 5).  I also can't imagine why John would see the "holy city, new Jerusalem" coming down out of heaven "made ready as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev. 21:2) Why would both Paul and John elevate a Roman custom to witness to such holy realities? It's only a physical bond for instinctive reproduction and a mechanism for hereditary transfer of wealth. Not a very good image for God's relationship with His people. And if true I can see why marriage should hold no longer hold a special place for Christians as an ideal.  If the idea of monogamy is only something from "Roman law" then God's expectation from the OT that Israel should be devoted to God seems rather empty as well.  So empty. Wow.


The question was about the origin of "marriage." They existed before scriptures were written. They exist in cultures that have no contact with Jews or Christians. One could argue that marriage is part of the nature that God built into humans, but that would also be before scriptures talked about marriages.


There's nothing in the OT that commands monogamy, nor that forbids polygyny. If the people are the "bride," women could only have one husband; and ba`al is a Hebrew word used for "husbands," and "masters," and "(foreign) gods."

We could also talk about the origins of the marriage license. I don't think that it came from the churches. (The church record book was good enough in olden days, I believe.) Before that, it was the acceptance by the community that these people were married, which meant "hands off".

Like the covenant with God, the people are not given much of a choice: "I am your God, you are my people," so it was with men and women, "I am your husband, you are my wife." (Divorce was the man saying, "You are no longer my wife.") Marriage, like the covenant, was about possessing the people. "You belong to me." "You are mine." We are told that our God is a jealous God. He does not want anyone (or anything) to take his people away from him.

In terms of heredity, don't walk talk about "inheriting the kingdom" and "heirs of eternal life"?

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Your Turn / Re: Church and weddings...
« on: January 20, 2021, 12:57:25 AM »
I’m not sure it’s accurate to characterize the Western tradition as though the folks getting married were the ministers of marriage (I know that has been done), but do notice:

1. The traditional Lutheran marriage rite was utterly devoid of vows. Simply the question asked on the doorstep of the Church (hence, publicly): “Hans, you wanna marry Greta?” “Ja.” “Greta, you wanna marry Hans?” “Ja.” Then the exchange of rings and the joining of their right hands with the very telling words from Jesus: “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Clearly the action is God’s!

2. The pastor then declares to those assembled at the church door: “Therefore, because Hans and Greta desire each other in marriage, and confess the same publicly in the presence of God and before the world, in testimony whereof they have given each other their hands and wedding rings, I pronounce them joined in marriage in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

3. THEN the couple is invited within where before God’s altar the Word of God is read over them, after which they kneel and the pastor prays with hands spread out over them: Lord God, since You have created man and woman and have ordained them for the married estate, have blessed them also with the fruit of the womb, and have therein signified the sacrament of your dear Son Jesus Christ and the Church, His bride: we therefore beseech Your never-ending goodness that You would not permit this Your creation, ordinance, and blessing to be removed or destroyed, but graciously preserve it among us through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

THAT was Lutheran marriage for a very long time. And in both the “what God hath joined together” and in the prayer it is clear that the actor in marriage is not so much the man and the woman who give their hands to each other and their rings, but it is God Himself, for marriage is HIS creation, ordinance and blessing. FWIW. (The current form among Lutherans in America is largely adapted from BCP).

Excellent, thank you.

"What GOD has joined together..."

So, in some ways, the conversation comes full circle.

Thanks, Pr. Weedon, for the historical context and info! I suspect that the arm's length relationship between Lutheranism and civic government, because of the context as a former part of the Holy Roman Empire, will more and more be our reality. I suspect that the hand-in-glove assumptions that accompanied the Anglican formulation will less and less reflect our situation in the US.

I believe that marriage is God's act of joining male and female into one flesh. Of course, there is a human aspect of acknowledging and solemnizing this and pledging to live according to it. This has always been the church's purview, with various customs and ceremonies observed in various places at various times. The US government has chosen to recognize that marital status for a number of purposes, most easily seen in tax filing and census-taking. However, God-honoring marriage long pre-existed (and may long outlast) the civic aspects we currently assume.

For me, that carries a strong implication for our present circumstances: as the governmental definition of marriage and the traditional Biblical understanding have grown further and further apart, I think that we in Biblically-conservative churches need to step away from the civic aspect. For a while now, my congregation has had as its policy that I only perform weddings for members. I can make an exception to that policy on my own judgment, but that means no couple can come into my office and demand that I marry them unless they first become members, which means subscription to LCMS teaching and belief. The day may never come when the government requires gay marriages from pastors who object: I pray it never does. But that day probably comes sooner than any government mandate to churches who may or may not be members.

I am strongly considering (and have been discussing with my elders) no longer signing marriage certificates at all. It means couples that I marry would have to also have their wedding authorized by a JP or the town clerk, which is an unfortunate pain for them, but it would get the church out of the marriage wars culturally.

A further implication for pastoral counsel and input would be with those for whom pension and Social Security benefits depend on their marital status. I would foresee the endpoint being that this decision, too, is separated from the religious marriage. This separation means that decision is theirs to make before the law. I suspect that in nearly all cases, I would still be advising them to be married in both the religious and the civic sense, so as not to be accused of or participate in fraud. However, I think I will also be pursuing with my state representative what can be done to address the situation for seniors from a statutory standpoint.


Marriages were and are part of societies that have no connection to the Jewish or Christian God. If you state that God built in marriage to his creation, I would disagree. Reproduction is instinctive. Plants and animals find ways to reproduce - and none except humans find a need for marriages. Most animals  have many partners (as do many humans). Men needed to know that the child the woman bore was his own and fit to inherit the property so committed relationships were created. No man was to have sex with a woman who had been given to a man (whether as a wife, slave, or concubine). The Christian ideal of monogamy came from secular Roman law rather biblical mandates.

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After reading George Barna's reports on the absence of biblical worldviews among American Christians I have used my sermons to highlight what it means to have a biblical worldview and live accordingly.


I realize that my question here sounds suspiciously like a put-up job, but I'm asking honestly:  what is a "biblical worldview"?  The term "worldview" is so conceptually overinflated as to be useless; and conjoining it to "biblical" seems like the creation of an oxymoron.  Is it intended to mean something like a "biblical perspective"?  If so, that doesn't help a great deal.  It doesn't tell me what is necessarily included in, and what is forced out of, that "perspective."  Some specifics would be useful.  Thanks.


The reality is, every denomination has its own "biblical worldview." There isn't one.

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After reading George Barna's reports on the absence of biblical worldviews among American Christians I have used my sermons to highlight what it means to have a biblical worldview and live accordingly.  Part of that demands that I not simply refer to generalized sinfulness but to actual and real sins.  If we preach nothing but gospel, assuming everyone in the pews really believes themselves to be sinners in need of grace, we are fostering a view of the Christian life which is not only false, but dangerous.  We live in a world where people, including Christians, no longer believe they sin, they just make mistakes.  Well, that ain't the way it works.  At least biblically speaking.

BTW, some of Barna's findings about biblical worldviews among American Christians: 21% of evangelical Protestants have such a view of the world, 16% of Pentecostals, 8% of mainline Christians and 1% of Roman Catholics.  To me this is just horrifying and as a pastor I'm willing to take on my share of the blame for the failure of the Church to preach truth to our people.


It was a debate at seminary whether one needed to preach Law to the people from the pulpit or if the world did a good job of pointing out their shortcomings. The professors did not agree about this. Some argued that the Law was necessary to give context to the Gospel. Others argued that the world had been preaching Law to the people all week, so they come hungry for the Good News that the world doesn't know and that only we can offer.

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It seems to me that Jonah is more about God's messenger (Jonah) being judged by God for his judgmental attitude towards the sinful Ninevites than it was about God's judgment of those sinners. God cared for them. They repented of their sins. God did not destroy them as they deserved. Did Jonah repent?

This proves my point. Jonah preached the Law--God was going to destroy the city. (Law) In response to his preaching, the people repented.  Since they repented, the Lord did not destroy the city. (Gospel)


Jonah spoke five words in Hebrew. He didn't tell the people to repent. We know that he didn't want the people to repent. He resented God's grace towards those people. The book is more about the sins of Jonah than those of Ninevah. It is our tendency to point to other people's sins, rather than see our own prejudices.

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How do you bring God's forgiveness to a woman who had an abortion who might be in the congregation?

Good question.  How do you bring God's forgiveness to a man or woman who had committed murder, assault, arson, rape or any form of abuse who might be in your congregation?


Some things I did do.


I worked with recovering addicts through the steps of AA. Most importantly, as part of their treatment at the rehab hospital, they spent a week writing down character defects. They read them to me. I had them pray for forgiveness. I quoted 1 John 1:9 to them: "If we confess our sins to God, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I asked if they believed this. They did. We burned the papers with all their defects on them. I assured them they were forgiven; and that they needed to forgive themselves. (That was often a harder step.)


I have used "Individual Confession and Forgiveness" with people who were especially troubled by particular sins.


From the pulpit I declare that all are sinners and all are forgiven by God's grace. At times I will mention sinners who have had abortions and sinners who strongly oppose abortions; sinners who are homosexual and sinners who oppose homosexual relationships; etc. I do not highlight a particular sin as worse than any others.






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