last edited: Mon, 21 Jan 2019 13:31:34 -0500
"A man shall leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife and the two shall become one flesh," ... I am talking about Christ and the Church - Ephesians 5:31-32
***NOTE: A sermon is an oral proclamation made to be heard, not read. The following manuscript and notes served as the main content but was altered during delivery in some places, it is best to listen rather than read.
GRACE MERCY and PEACE are YOURS this day from God our Father, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved. We are gathered here today at the call of the bridegroom – who gathers us here in order that He may hand over to us His love, His grace and His mercy.
This is, in fact, THE REASON that Christians gather together around the altar and the font and the pulpit. From these places – the Church's bridegroom dotes upon his beloved bride.
He descended from His throne in the presence of His Father in heaven and we read in our Gospel text that He also left His earthly mother – all in order to be united to His bride – giving himself in body and spirit to His beloved.
This bride He washes clean and makes spotless in the waters of Baptism – cleansing her from every blemish or wrinkle so that she may be radiant and beautiful and that she might be presented to Him in the splendor and majesty befitting the bride of the only Son of God.
He suffered all, giving up his very life in order that she would not suffer the pains of eternal death, but would have eternal life.
He nourishes and cherishes His beloved bride – feeding her with his very own body and blood so that she may share in His divine and eternal life.
He comes to Her in His Word – not to speak sweet nothings – but to speak those words which themselves give eternal life – words of forgiveness – words of reconcilliation – words of hope – and words of promise that He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Like God opened Adam's side taking a rib and making for Adam a helper fit for him, in the course of God's plan of salvation, the soldier pierced the side of Christ Jesus and blood and water flowed. “The life is in the blood!” is the refrain of the Old Testament – and it is through Water that each believer is given new birth from above.
In this way, Christ gives life to the Church – making us clean by the waters of Holy Baptism – nourished and fed by His very body and His very blood
And, as the dearly beloved bride of the eternal bridegroom – knowing His love and His care for us, Christ's bride the Church gladly and willingly submits to Him – and receives that love – and mercy – and forgiveness and grace.
Notice, we do not submit and obey out of fear of his anger or dread of His wrath. The Church submits to Jesus, honors and obeys her bridegroom, Jesus, because He has already shown His loving care and mercy to us – by suffering, dying and rising again. He comes to us time and time again in this life to wash us clean once again from our sin and feed and nourish us with His Word and His Sacraments so that we would endure faithful to the end. And because we know and have certainty of this, the Church willingly submits – out of reverence – trusting in His loving care and receiving His blessing and His grace.
Dearly beloved, we gather here today as Christ's bride, the Church. And as we do, we testify to the world about God's love and mercy for all mankind – as we receive forgiveness of our sins – as we call upon our beloved, the bridegroom for His love and His care and His protection, as we willingly submit ourselves under His Word and by faith lay hold of His promises, we preach and proclaim to the world the very Gospel of God's love for mankind – a true and abiding love that caused God to go to the greatest lengths to pursue us and bring us to Himself.
St. Paul tells us that we must understand the work of Christ in these terms. We must understand that in the most intimate human relationship – God has hidden the central truths of the Gospel. The good news of God's love for mankind and the tender compassion of God who seeks out those whom He loves and makes for himself a beautiful bride out of us poor wretched sinners.
This is what St. Paul means when He quotes God's Word from Genesis, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh,” and explains, “I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
And with this truth in mind, it is easy to see more clearly what is happening in the world around us and understand why we as the Church must maintain a firm line regarding traditional marriage. It is not God's law that it at stake, it is the very heart of the Gospel – the very truth which brings life and salvation into the world is overthrown and destroyed when we give one inch to the godless agenda of a heathen society that seeks the extinction of God's Word and the Gospel egged on and pushed forward by the evil tyrant Himself.
Most of us sitting here find it amazing that the world has moved so far so fast when it comes to the overthrow of the family and society's confusion about marriage.
But it takes only a brief consideration to see that we haven't come very far and it hasn't been very fast.
Indeed there has been a shift – the nearly universal picture of the relationship between men and women – especially between husbands and wives – was that the man was the protector and the provider – one who cares for his wife as his own body, you might say. It was a nearly universal understanding – at least in America, that it was men who would go off to war to do battle against our nation's enemies and protect the women and children at home. Recall the old school code of conduct - “Women and Children first!”
Now such thinking gets called “toxic masculinity” - and the idea of “paternalism” gets considered an evil that needs to be remedied.
But Christ loved His bride enough to lay down His life for her. It was the love and concern of our heavenly father that caused Him to send His only begotten Son into the world in the first place.
Now, let's be honest – there is a small step from a proper respect for women – and the objectifying them. It is one thing to love and care for them, it is another to consider that the differences between men and women mean that women are inferior to men – or that men have a right to have women submit to them. Certainly – THAT is toxic masculinity – the idea that women are objects or inferior.
The truth is women are simply different. They have a different role to fill in society and in the family. Women receive – they receive love – they receive care – they receive protection – and they receive it from men. This isn't because of inferiority – God created women and formed them and therefore they have inherent dignity and honor and glory as a creation of God along side men.
But they are DIFFERENT – and these differences point to the greater reality of Christ and the Church. Christ is our advocate – our champion – our defender – our provider in this life. Jesus is the one who rescues, saves, and protects and cares for us. This is how He loves us.
And this love and care for His bride the church is represented in the world by men taking their proper role in marriage – and in society.
And now you start to see why the world and the devil hate true traditional marriage so. Every marriage – even that of unbelievers – that follows the traditional pattern preaches Christ's love for the Church – His love for us.
The undermining of the truth about marriage began with the undermining of faith in the Gospel. As faith and trust in the Gospel has declined, so has marriage.
Many would point to this fact and misinterpret it – they would say that the decline of traditional marriage and the family has been the cause of the decline of faith. But that would be to put the cart before the horse.
Just as it is true that a proper Christian marriage proclaims the truth of the Gospel, it is also true that Marriage gets it's meaning from the truth about Jesus.
The result is, if faith is no longer active, and the Gospel is no longer central, marriage loses its meaning.
Without Jesus, the relationship between the spouses is not grounded in any reality outside itself. And so the imagery of “A man shall leave His father and His mother and hold fast to his wife,” quickly and easily becomes distorted if it does not refer to a SPECIFIC man and a SPECIFIC bride. If it remains in the realm of an idea – a thought – about two people starting a new life together – it becomes easy to interchange man and woman and come up with all sorts of different arrangements. And we see that is what has happened in our society.
This has been a slow steady march for nearly 200 years, as the society at large has done the devils bidding teaching our children to disbelieve and reject the truth of the Gospel – slowly and bit by bit removing everything in society and the world at large that would serve to prop up the church – even as the church as a whole began to decay and rot from within – as her members cared more and more for worldly pursuits – sought only comfort and ease in the pew and rejected the idea of sound teaching. As pastors and laymen alike ceased diligent and careful study of the Scriptures and were content to recite pious platitudes to one another. So that from without and within, slowly, the truth of the Gospel has been robbed – faith has withered – and – from an earthly point of view – the church appears as a poor old begging maid.
Oh, it has not been fast, this has been many generations in the making – as apostacy and hatred of God's Word has taken root in society and even within almost every corner of Christendom – especially here in our own nation.
But in the midst of it, we dare not lose heart. We dare not panic and be afraid as no doubt the servants at the wedding feast in our Gospel were when it became known that the wine had run out. Even the very mother of our Lord Jesus has a hint of panic in her voice as she rushes to her Son and says, “They have no wine!” - which was sure to put a damper on the festivities that day.
In that exchange, having already left His Father's side in the glory He had from the beginning, now Jesus leaves His earthly mother, “Woman,” he says. Not “Mother,” but “Woman,” marking a clear separation. “What has that to do with me. My hour has not yet come?”
And here is where we must pick up with our imitation of the servants that day, as Mary tells them, “Do whatever He tells you.” In other words, be faithful to His Word, cling to His promises. Listen to Him as our Lord and Savior and Master.
They did not know, nor did they understand what Christ was asking of them as He commanded them to fill the water jugs. Just as we do not know what will happen when we take up His charge to fight the good fight of faith – to preach and proclaim the Gospel in our own homes – and in our community – even as we come to regularly hear it preached and taught in our sanctuary.
We cannot see or understand by earthly reasoning what God does through simple water at the baptismal font – we cannot know by our own cunning what God delivers to us in the bread and the wine – we have no earthly reason to hear some man tell us our sins are forgiven and we have no worldly cause that compels us to study the Scriptures.
But these are all the tasks that God places into our hands – the waters of Baptism by which He makes disciples – the foretaste of the eternal wedding feast as Jesus feeds us with HIS body and HIS blood – strengthening our faith – as we hear the words of Absolution and know and believe that Christ Himself has sent to us someone to speak them into our ears so that it is JESUS' forgiveness we receive when we hear, “I forgive you in the NAME of the FATHER and of the SON and of the Holy Spirit.”
And as we abide in His Word. These are all the things that Jesus gives into our hands as His beloved bride – and through these, He clings to us. He pours Himself out for us – He continuse to love and care for us – to nurture us as we walk through this world.
And as we are faithful in these things, He promises to be and abide with us always to the very end of the age – cleaving to us as His bride, the Holy Christian Church – and in the end, to present us to Himself in all the radiance and glory and majesty befitting the bride of Christ.
LET US PRAY -
Gracious God and Father – as the attendants at the feast at Cana were faithful in their task – filling the stone jars to the brim and drawing water to give to the master of the feast – make us faithful in the tasks that you give to us – large or small in this life – by which you promise to work for our benefit and for the extension of your kingdom – delivering your mercy, love, and grace to those in our community and throughout the world.
In the NAME of JESUS. AMEN.