Our Spiritual Fathers
Wednesday of Pentecost 20
10 October 2018
In 2001, I addressed the national convention of the LCMS, delivering part of the convention's essay. I began the essay by addressing the gathered community as "Reverend Fathers, Christian Brothers and Sisters...." To my dismay, a number of people criticized me for using this form of address. They thought I was suggesting that our pastors should be treated like Roman Catholic priests (Oh dear, another sacerdotalist!). I chose this form of address out of respect for the people I was addressing. My spiritual fathers were sitting before me, permitting me to instruct them. That was an awesome responsibility! However, why this allergy to the term "father?"
Maybe we dislike the idea that these men are our spiritual fathers because we don't we don't want to listen to them or be instructed by them. A step-father who disciplines a step-child will often encounter an outburst: "You're not my father!" This outburst has nothing to do with the term or the origin of his birth; it has everything to do with the rejection of authority by the child. The allergy to the term "father" in our church language may be identifying our rebellious nature, masked by the claim that the term is really Roman Catholic.
When I was ordained to the ministry I went to my first pastoral conference about a month later. I spent several days in close conversation with the men whom I knew from the days of my youth and were great authorities in my life. I had deep respect for these faithful pastors. To a man each one invited me to call him by his first name. This I had some difficulty with. I still wanted to show them the proper honor and respect that was due them as senior statesmen of the church. They were dear fathers to me; each in his own way.
Our pastors are our spiritual fathers, not in the way that a Roman Catholic priest is "father," but rather as the one who brings us to our heavenly Father through preaching the Word of God to us. Our pastors act like fathers by sacrificing themselves for their children. Our pastors love and treasure us when they tell us what we do not want to hear, and especially when we cry out, "You're not my father!" Those fathers are to be honored and loved by the people of God because God our heavenly Father gives them to us. Let's thank God for our spiritual fathers.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"We have two kinds of fathers presented in the fourth commandment: fathers in blood and fathers in office. Or, those who have the care of the family and those who have the care of the country. Besides these there are still spiritual fathers. They are not like those in the papacy, who have had themselves called fathers that have performed no function of the fatherly office (Mt 23:9). For the only ones called spiritual fathers are those who govern and guide us by God's Word. In this sense, St. Paul boasts his fatherhood in 1 Corinthians 4, where he says, 'I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel' (1Co 4:15). Now, since they are fathers, they are entitled to their honor, even above all others. But to spiritual fathers the least amount of honor is bestowed. The way the world knows for honoring them to drive them out of the country and to begrudge them a piece of bread. In short, spiritual fathers must be (as says St. Paul, 1Co 4:13) like the filth of the world and everyone's refuse and footrag."

Martin Luther, Large Catechism,
1 Corinthians

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
O Lord God, our heavenly Father, we thank You for our spiritual fathers who lead us into Your caring arms. Bless our earthly fathers in Your Word, so they can lead us to You. Amen.
For Pastor Marvin Donaire, who is the president of the Lutheran Church of Nicaragua, that God the Lord would grant him strength as he carries out his office
For Charlie Hinrichsen, that he would be kept safe in his travels and that the holy angels would surround him
For Doreen Scholz, that Christ the good physician would continue to grant her health and healing
For those struggling with sin, that they might cast all their cares upon Christ and find strength in Him alone
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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