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Archive for August 23rd, 2015

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…  (Ephesians 5: 25)

 In last week’s lesson from Ephesians, the Apostle Paul reminds the Lord’s Church in Ephesus they all have a vocation from the Lord Himself:  faith by God’s grace in Jesus Christ and so to walk in love as He loved them and us.   The inspired Word says it better:

 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

 But immediately he writes to them, and us, regarding sexual immorality, impurity, filthiness, crude joking, covetousness, foolish talk and later drunkenness.  These things should not even be “named among” them. Why?  Our Lord died and rose for us, gave Himself up for us.  Jesus Christ is “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”.  In comparison, to the Lord who bore our sins in His own body,  sexual immorality, covetousness etc. stinks, stinks to high heaven. Later in the lesson, Paul quotes Genesis that two become one flesh.  Sermon illustration: Two pieces of paper glued together just as the two become one flesh. If I try to tear them apart, what will happen?  Yes, it’s a mess. Then if I were to glue them to other pieces of paper, becoming one, and then ripping them apart…anyone who has been divorced knows this. And this is what sexual immorality looks like:  we are not made to hook-up again and again. One husband, one wife. There were people back then and now who approve of such in the Church:  God’ll understand, it is said. Yes, He does and that’s what is scary.   Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Imitate God, not the popular culture, as His beloved children in Baptism.  He has called you it says in Ephesians, to a high calling.

Immediately after those verses,  the Apostle  teaches his fellow Christians concerning, submission to another out of reverence for Christ and immediately launches into teaching Christian marriage. He repeats that Christ Jesus gave Himself up for His Church, like a joyous refrain.   What a contrast between marriage in Christ and sexual immorality, impurity, filthiness, crude joking, covetousness, foolish talk and drunkenness! But when  the lesson turns to submission and headship, then in our time all bets are off and this text is considered offensive.  What is really offensive, the goodly and Godly order of marriage in Christ or sexual immorality? 

We are blessed in this little mission with bright and intelligent members.  Most of us, if not all, have gone to college or are so attending or probably will.   But have any of us ever had a course in any school, even a university,  on Marriage?   Maybe “sex education” but not marital education: we can know the mechanics but not the meaning of marriage and the home.

 It is said that the cornerstone of a good marriage is communication.  It has been my experience that I can all together too well communicate to my wife what I am thinking and feeling and usually to her chagrin.  Yes, talking with one another in marriage is important. But cornerstone? Like a cornerstone, the basis of a building, holding it together.  No, I do not think so. Communication is good but communion, the Holy Communion of His Church is the living cornerstone, Jesus Christ for us all.

The cornerstone of a good marriage is love.  Usually, when the words “love and marriage” are linked it means something about love as emotion. So “love and marriage” are the names of two separate volumes.   If love is the basis of marriage, then marriage will not be built  upon a cornerstone but a blown-up beach toy riding on a storm in the ocean.  Love is crucial, love in service, that is, not a feeling alone, which flows from faith and hope and that love, His love in lived in our lives, endures.

The cornerstone of a good marriage is common likes.  Yes, that is helpful but not necessarily needful.  Yes, a married couple may love to go on long hikes but that does not mean they won’t argue on one of those long hikes!  Common likes are important and will draw man and woman together;   but it is the Lord who joins a man and a woman to each other.  Not us. What God has joined together.

So like a cornerstone, which is the basis of the building, holding it together, what is the cornerstone of a marriage?  Answer:   Jesus Christ and flowing from His riven side, water and blood, Baptism and Communion,  His grace, mercy and peace for sinners. Earlier in Ephesians, Paul wrote that the Church’s cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  Man and woman is like Christ and His Church.  Christian marriage is a house church. Marriage in Christ is made good by His forgiveness of His baptized man and woman, sinners washed in His Name.  Many people think that the 3 most important words in a marriage are, “I love you”.  Important yes, but even harder:  I forgive you.  Marriage is the house, home and hearth of His forgiveness.  A Christian marriage is a baptized one.  One of the controversial statements I made in a wedding sermon was, Today two sinners are getting married…and they are forgiven in Christ.  Forgiveness is as hard as nails, the nails that pierced His hands as He gave up his life for us.  His forgiveness is as hard as rock, a cornerstone that holds husband and wife together.  He holds you together, married or single.

 In Ephesians 5, a wife is to submit to her husband as to the Lord, verses 22-24.  It is the husband, though,  who in particular is subject to the Lord, the Lord made flesh, the Head of His Church:  Jesus Christ.  Submission but not domination… In fact, more verses are spent on the husband’s married service to his wife, as Christ also serves His bride the Church, than the wife to her husband! Verses 25-33.

It is the man, the husband who needs to be so submitted to his Lord!  Not that the woman, the wife, also needs be, but given the nature of literally fallen man to dominate, not serve in his role of dominion in submission to the Lord, it is of greater necessity. Regarding Ephesians 5: 25-33, a feminist quipped after hearing those verses that if followed, there would be no need for feminism(!). In the Biblical sense: there is no such need. Who is the real man? Some guy running around in tights with a mask and a cape? A make-out king? Who is the real man? Jesus Christ.

What kind of marriage can there be when the wife is afraid of her husband?  What sort of satisfaction could a husband himself have, if he lives with his wife as if she were a slave and not with a woman by her own free will?  Suffer anything for her sake, but never disgrace her, for Christ never did this with the Church.(St. Basil)

I think the image here is a great one for marriage in Christ and the Christian home.  Two rings on the cross.  It is to the cross that married and single turn to the proclamation of His forgiveness of us all.

 Oh, blest the house, whate’er befall,
Where Jesus Christ is all in all!
Yea, if He were not dwelling there,
How dark and poor and void it were!

Then here will I and mine today
A solemn covenant make and say:
Though all the world forsake Thy Word,
I and my house will serve the Lord!

 

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