The vocation of children and having children

The next dual relationship that constitutes a “holy order” according to the Table of Duties in Luther’s SMALL CATECHISM is that of parents and children:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3.

Being a parent is a good example of both authority and service in vocation. Of course parents have authority over their children, but notice how so much of parenting consists of self-sacrifice on their behalf (all that work that children demand; taking care of them; cleaning them up; driving them around; spending money for what they need; etc.). And yet, because we love our children, we don’t really mind!

So in what sense is being a child a vocation? What are the proper duties of children? How can they love and serve their neighbors in that particular calling?


Authority in vocation

So many discussions of vocations that speak of authority degenerate into arguments about “who has to obey whom.” They forget what Jesus Himself teaches about authority, that it must not be a matter of “lording over” someone, which is how non-believers treat authority, as just another form of power. Rather, authority–in the church, the state, the workplace, and the family–is to be used in service to the one you have authority over. So says
Matthew 20:25-27:

And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servan and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

What husbands and wives owe each other

From the “Table of Duties” in Luther’s SMALL CATECHISM:

Likewise you husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. Colossians 3:19.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord…as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are as long as you do good and are not afraid with any terror. Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:6.

So wives love and serve their husbands by submitting to them, as to Christ; and husbands love and serve their wives by giving themselves up for their wives, as Christ did for the church.

It is surely easier for the wife to submit to her husband if he is giving himself up for her.

Notice that Christ is in marriage. And both husbands and wives bear a cross of self-sacrifice for the other.


What magistrates and subjects owe each other

Having first discussed vocations in the estate of the church, the Table of Duties in Luther’s Small Catechism next turns to another estate that God has established for our life on earth, the civil government:

Concerning Civil Government.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For the power which exists anywhere is ordained of God. Whosoever resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Rom. 13:1-4.

What Subjects Owe to the Magistrates.

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s. Matt. 22:21. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, etc. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also; for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honor, to whom honor. Rom. 13:1,5ff. I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 1 Tim. 2:1f Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, etc. Titus 3:1. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors as unto them that are sent by him, etc. 1 Pet. 2:13f ]

Magistrates love and serve their subjects by not bearing the sword in vain (vs. refusing to use force when needed to protect the social order), by being the minister of God (vs. refusing to recognize God’s authority over him and instead using his God-given power for his own ends), by punishing evildoers (vs. punishing law-abiding citizens).

Subjects love and serve their magistrates by paying taxes, by giving honor, by obeying the law, and by praying for them.

If rulers would fulfill their vocations in love and service to their people, we would have no tyrants.

What Pastors and Hearers Owe to each other

The Table of Duties in Luther’s Small Catechism first attends to the vocations in the Church:

For Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers.

A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice; holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 1 Tim. 3:2ff ; Titus 1:6.

What the Hearers Owe to Their Pastors.

Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. 1 Cor. 9:14. Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Gal. 6:6. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn; and the laborer is worthy of his reward. 1 Tim. 5:17-18. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you. Heb. 13:17.]

The dyad of relationships in this calling is between Pastors and “hearers.” What a remarkable way to think of the members of the congregation. We are “hearers.” That is, we are those who hear God’s Word.

Pastors love and serve their hearers by preaching and “holding fast the faithful Word.” Hearers love and serve their pastors by submitting to their pastor’s faithful teaching and by supporting him financially and by giving him honor.

Conflict between pastors and their people is tragic and all too common. The spirit of love and service on both sides would solve a lot of those problems.

For various holy orders

Now we come to the section in Luther’s Small Catechism that teaches the DOCTRINE OF VOCATION. Namely, The Table of Duties.

This part of the catechism has been shamefully neglected, in my opinion, and thus the doctrine of vocation has faded out of even Lutheran churches, in many cases. The previous hymnbook, “Lutheran Worship,” included the catechism, which was good, but totally left out the Table of Duties!

I have been linking to the translation of the catechism used by the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), but that version inexplicably leaves out the headnote to the Table of Duties, which is key to its meaning. In the words of the headnote, the Table of Duties consists of

Certain passages of scripture for various holy orders and positions,
admonishing them about their duties and responsibilities.

“Holy orders.” That is the exact language used to refer to the Roman Catholic religious orders of priests, nuns, and monks. But here the “holy orders” are husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and workers.

Notice how the Table of Duties organizes these different holy orders into dyads; that is, pairs of callings that relate to each other. This teaches that vocation has to do with relationships. Each vocation given here is paired up with the particular neighbor in that calling who is to be loved and served.

Note too how Biblical the doctrine of vocation is. The Table of Duties, unlike the other parts of the Catechism, consists of nothing but Bible verses.

Part of the purpose of the Cranach Institute and this Cranach blog is to bring back the doctrine of vocation, so in the days ahead, we’ll look at the Table of Duties in detail, taking each vocational pair and catechizing each other as to its implications.