I do by the grace of God

This is how you respond when you are taking vows in the church. You may be making vows at your baptism, the baptism of your child, your confirmation or being received by a profession of faith, being married.
Since I don’t do it all the time, and I’ve only been a pastor four years, I am still a little taken aback when I review these vows with people and then stand before them as they make these solemn vows before a congregation. For example I may be confirming a teenager, to an adult of any age. Often when I go over these vows with them, I really lean on these on these questions. “I want to make sure you really understand what this is.” I will say. The response is always a sort of glib, ‘yeah what’s the big deal’ response, ‘oh yeah I understand’. When I stand up in front of the congregation with them I really lean on those words. Because I want them to really understand what is going on, I don’t want someone having some kind of an excuse later; “I didn’t know, nobody told me.” Who yea “they” did.
I know I’m hitting a nerve for some people, and I’m not really pinging on those who have been divorced, I’m sure that most who have been divorced have come to terms with that, with themselves and their pastor. But for those who haven’t been married, or are still married and maybe thinking about giving up, think of your vows. For the guy the vows are even more compelling. Are you going to give up, forget about the vows you made before God and your brothers and sisters in Christ? Or is this time to stand up? Yea, the world will back you up, “hey he/she, they weren’t happy, they ‘deserve’ to be happy, fulfilled, have someone else, whatever the excuse. Those things are more important than some simplistic promise you made and anyway God’s supposed to forgive, right?” Yea, OK, so much for integrity, so much for your Christian witness, after all it’s all about you and not what Christ did for you. Right?
As I said the guy has an even greater responsibility, because part of the vows you made were to do for your wife, what Jesus did for His bride, the church. To sacrifice yourself for her.
Yea, I know, nothing’s ever going to happen, no one’s going to kill you because of your being a Christian… Right? Sure, being a Christian is just another membership, you know like Jackie Gleason and Art Carney were members of the Loyal Order of Moose, like the Masons. Yet, there are many thousands who have lost their life, it is happening right now. In Iraq, China, India, Southeast Asia, Nigeria, Kenya, many other places. There were more Christian martyrs in the 20th century then all the previous centuries, combined. Sure, if you ever confront the situation, you can just recant, disavow Jesus and you’ll live. But what do you think that means in eternity. Sure you lived, but what does that mean in terms of your day to day relationship with Jesus, with your church? Do you pray, how do you think that’s going to go now that you’ve disavowed Jesus? Is it possible that you may not have verbally done so, by your acts, by your lifestyle, you really have all but said, “I’m not really interested in living as a Christian, it’s not important, doesn’t really mean anything, it won’t matter.”
If that’s how you really feel why even bother taking vows, or is it just some simple “pro forma”? Go through the motions and things are just hunky, don’t you worry your pretty little head, right? Yea, tough decision, really stand-up kind of guy. What do you think it will be like at the final judgment, and there will be one. God won’t be interested in your excuses, you will be there entirely by yourself, don’t try to blame someone else, it’s you and you alone. How do you think that’s going to go … for eternity. I’d seriously think about those vows, maybe you aren’t/never will be a Christian. OK, that’s bad enough, but why make it worse by rejecting your integrity and your word to God? Or maybe you just don’t want to deal with being persecuted. Is anything you could suffer on earth be worse, then anything you could suffer before an all holy, all powerful Creator of everything who will condemn you for eternity?
It’s up to you, but I’d take those vows, and then find a way to really live them out. It may not be fun or pleasant, but if you promise to “…continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” If you promise that woman who trusted you that you will serve and defend her even if it costs your life, if I were you, if Christ means anything to you at all and what He suffered, then I would make sure I live up to those vows.
Rev Randall Golter reminds us that: “What God wills, God sees through! Be comforted. You don’t plan your death or even your public witness; God does, even as He plans your life.”Lutheran Witness June/July 2014 p 4
It’s not your call, you can quit, or, I pray, the Holy Spirit will help you figure it out, it’s way better doing it God’s way.

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