While traveling the city recently, we noticed a local Lutheran Church (ELCA) bulletin board advertising an up-coming Sunday as “Pet Blessing Sunday” in/at their church.
Also this week, in our preparations for a Bible Class study of the Smalcald Articles written by Dr. Martin Luther, we came upon this paragraph in that Confession of ours: “Finally, there remains the pope’s bag of magic tricks which contains silly and childish articles…such as the baptism of bells, the baptism of altar stones…Such baptizing is a ridicule and mockery of holy Baptism which should not be tolerated. In addition, there are blessings of candles, palms, spices, oats, cakes, etc. These cannot be called blessings, and they are not, but are mere mockery and fraud. Such frauds…are without number…we do not wish to have anything to do with them.” (SA, Part III, Article XV, Human Traditions)
Throughout our studies of the Smalcald Articles we have been noting that the Reformer’s overriding concern was defending the heart of the gospel—the “first and chief article…that Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, ‘was put to death for our trespasses and raised again for our justification’” (Romans 4:25). In particular, this Confession warns against various “traditions” within the system of Roman Catholicism which undermine that “first and chief article.”
As in the above quote, Luther does not mince words as he exposes such traditions as being unscriptural and thus ungodly. That is where he is coming from when he derides the “pope’s bag of magic tricks….” No, he does not specifically mention the blessing or baptizing of pets in this Confession (we suspect that such a practice had not yet been invented by the Roman—not to mention the Lutheran—church). Yet “pet blessings” would fit right in with the items mentioned as “silly and childish…mere mockery and fraud.”
In saying this, we are coming from the same vantage point as the reformer—being concerned lest anything done or practiced in the church detract from the first and chief article of the gospel. “Pet blessings” and other such supposedly holy practices or rites in and by the church come across as a blasphemous spoof of the divinely instituted Sacrament of Christian Baptism.
When Holy Baptism is administered in accord with the Word of God, it is indeed a blessing, for it is a miraculous “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5) upon the human recipient. Such a heavenly washing brings about nothing less than the actual rebirth of an otherwise hopelessly lost and condemned sinner, by nature born a child of the devil—“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Through the marvelous working of God the Holy Spirit, the baptized and thus reborn person has become a “saint” who—clothed with the righteousness of Christ—is now a child of God and a member of His family of believers! “For you are all [children] of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).
We realize that pets are part of God’s created world, and that they may even afford folks a measure of therapeutic comfort and enjoyment. Yet when it comes to the spiritual arena, we—with Luther and all fellow Lutheran confessors who accept the Smalcald Articles as their confession of faith—“do not wish to have anything to do with” pet or boat/motorcycle/automobile or other “blessings” that mimic and thus devalue the Spirit’s work in Holy Baptism.
(September 23, 2012 Church Bulletin)