Abandoning unwanted children

Frank Sonnek alerted me to another heart-breaking phenomenon, as if we needed any more. A number of states have passed “safe haven” laws designed to allow young mothers to leave their newborn infants at a hospital or other facility with no fear of prosecution, an easy way to give up a baby for adoption. The intention was to prevent the horrible phenomenon of “dumpster” babies. This was a humane, pro-life measure, designed to halt infanticide. But increasingly, parents are leaving teenagers at hospitals. They are typically out of control adolescents that the parents do not know what to do with. Sometimes, though, parents are abandoning their children en masse because they no longer feel they can take care of them.

Conflict in and between vocations

Over at Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds is taking place an illuminating discussion of vocations. vocation. (Thanks to Neb for alerting me to this in his comment to our short break from politics.) A pastor asks for help in filling his different callings as pastor, father, and husband, feeling that they are pulling him in different ways and that he is not fulfilling his various vocations as he should.

Pastor Peter Bender jumps in:

Let me say this, first, to you: You are a free man in Christ! There is no condemnation for you, for you are in Christ Jesus and His righteousness covers all your sin and inadequacies. Furthermore, you were called to be a husband and a father by the grace of God and not because of any merit or worthiness on your part. Therefore, it is going to be God’s free grace in Christ alone that sustains you. You have also been called and ordained to the Office of the Holy Ministry by grace alone and not because of your talents, abilities, or merits and it is the grace of God in Christ that shall sustain you in that calling or you won’t be sustained at all.

When we speak of our vocation as Christians we almost always look at our calling in terms of the Law–What I am supposed to do, my responsibilities and obligations. This is NOT the foundation of our vocation. Vocation is first and foremost a reference to the call of the Gospel and how each of us is called to live by faith in the grace of God in Christ wherever He has placed us in this world. This means that the strength of our vocation is in the call to live by faith in the Gospel, rather than a call to live by faith in the Law or in how well I am living up to the “obligations and responsibilities” of my office.

The truth is, we all fall short daily. Our joy, comfort, strength to persevere, and freedom come from the Gospel alone and never from the Law or our own accomplishments. What this means, practically, for you is that if your congregation supports you in love during this difficult time (because of their faith in the Gospel I might add), God be praised! Serve, therefore, as you are able with no pangs of conscience. And, if your wife, also, supports how you are able to tend the flock, watch over the children, and see to her needs while she lays pregnant in Fort Wayne (something that she, too, is able to do because she believes the Gospel), then God be praised! Serve your wife and family as you are able.

The bottom line is this: the Gospel sets us free to do what we can within our vocation and to commend the rest to God. Indeed, we commend it all to God in Christ since He is the one who has placed us into our respective offices in the first place. Vocation is chiefly about where God has called us to live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself to us. For your comfort and encouragement I urge you to reread Luther’s, “The Freedom of a Christian.” I don’t think we can reread that little tract enough. Finally, give thanks to God that He gives you the opportunity to live by faith in His grace in the midst of seemingly unbearable circumstances. When you get home at the end of a day, or return in the evening after visiting your wife who is pregnant with three little babies that you don’t deserve, drink a beer and give thanks to God for His mercy and grace by which you stand righteous and by which you lack nothing.

Then Pastor William Cwirla adds something:

I would add the following thought. Vocation is the offering of our bodies in the form of our work, worship, and play as a spiritual sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable through His mercies which are in Christ Jesus (Rom 12:1-2). We are called to serve our neighbor in a variety of capacities, whether husband, father, pastor, son, citizen, etc. What we are given to do at any particular moment, and whom we are given to serve at that moment, is our calling. And it will be most fulfilled as we give that task, that person, our undivided attention and energy. Everything else can wait, trusting that the Lord will provide.

So when you are with your family, at that moment, forget about your congregation. They are in the Lord’s hands, and you are not their Savior. When you are working to provide for your family, you are doing your vocation as husband and father; put everything else out of your mind. The Lord will take care of the rest. When you are visiting a shut-in or preparing a sermon, put everything else out of your mind and enjoy the moment for the blessing that it is.

One of the tricks the devil plays with us is guilting us into thinking we should be doing something else. I should be doing this, I should be reading that, I should be visiting so and so. Fie on that! Don’t let the devil rob you of the joy of the task at hand.

Read the whole discussion, which is full of wisdom and good counsel to all of us.

A father’s vocation

Thanks to Mollie Z. Hemingway at Get Religion for alerting us to this moving story about Thomas S. Vander Woude, who died to save the life of his son:

When Joseph, 20, who has Down syndrome, fell into a septic tank Monday in his back yard, Vander Woude jumped in after him. He saved him. And he died where he spent so much time living: at his son’s side.

“That’s how he lived,” Vander Woude’s daughter-in-law and neighbor, Maryan Vander Woude, said yesterday. “He lived sacrificing his life, everything, for his family.”

Vander Woude, 66, had gone to Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville on Monday, just as he did every day, and then worked in the yard with Joseph, the youngest of his seven sons, affectionately known as Josie. Joseph apparently fell through a piece of metal that covered a 2-by-2-foot opening in the septic tank, according to Prince William County police and family members.

Vander Woude rushed to the tank; a workman at the house saw what was happening and told Vander Woude’s wife, Mary Ellen, police said. They called 911 about 12 p.m. and tried to help the father and son in the meantime.

At some point, Vander Woude jumped in the tank, submerging himself in sewage so he could push his son up from below and keep his head above the muck, while Joseph’s mom and the workman pulled from above.

When rescue workers arrived, they pulled the two out, police said. Vander Woude, who had been in the tank for 15 to 20 minutes, was unconscious. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said. . . .

Vander Woude was a pilot in Vietnam, a daughter-in-law said. After the war, he worked as a commercial airline pilot and in the early 1980s moved his family to Prince William from Georgia. In the years to come, he would wear many hats: farmer, athletic director, volunteer coach, parishioner, handy neighbor, grandfather of 24, husband for 43 years. . . .

But loved ones said his favorite job was the one he did last: being a good dad.

“They always considered Joseph a wonderful blessing to the family,” said Francis Peffley, pastor at Holy Trinity, where Vander Woude served as a sacristan and also trained altar servers. “His whole life was spent serving people and sacrificing himself. . . . He gave the ultimate sacrifice. . . . Giving his life to save his son.”

How to argue rightly?

tODD raises an important point. In case you missed his comment on the “Why the Vitriol?” post, he says, among other things,

Dr. Veith, it’s good for you to call out the “knee-jerk HATE” that
some liberals have leveled at Palin. However, your entry seems to have
ignored the knee-jerk hate that some here on your own site spread
about Democrats.

OK, so where should Christians–enjoined to love even their enemies, obey the 8th commandment (the one about False Witness, for those who number differently), and “put the best construction on everything” (as Luther’s “Small Catechism” puts it in the explanation to that commandment)–draw the line in their discourse?

An argument is meant to persuade, but when it degenerates into merely attacking the opponent, the opponent becomes defensive and so will never let you persuade him. Thus, besides being ethically problematic, that approach is just ineffective arguing.

I also think there is a difference between complaining in the abstract–against a distant opponent, addressing someone who already agrees with you–and addressing a “neighbor,” an actual person who holds that belief you oppose. In the former case, one is free to rant and rave, which is why blog discussions can get so overheated; but in the latter case, we must argue vocationally, that is, in love and service to our neighbor.

What other principles ought we all to consider? What is fair game and what is out of bounds?

Sarah Palin as Supermom

Some of you expressed concern that Sarah Palin is neglecting her family by pursuing a political career. Well, according to this article in the Washington Post (usually no friend to conservatives), she sounds like a Supermom. She nurses her baby (even at meetings), fired the chef at the governor’s residence so she can do her own cooking, has never paid for child-care (neither hiring a nanny or even babysitters). She still commutes from their small town home in Wasilla. Her husband and parents help out with the kids, but she is reportedly deeply engaged in motherhood.

Here she is, in a photo shot in June, doing her shopping and talking to a constituent:
Sarah Palin doing her shopping

Belated happy Vocation Day

I hope you had a happy Vocation Day, also known as Labor Day. (Remember our crusade to take over that holiday and get it into the church year.) We did, meeting our new granddaughter Elizabeth and all.