Posts Tagged ‘communion’

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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We have this small icon in our kitchen and dining room. I appreciate the literal

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. St. John 15: 5

teaching that goes on in an icon.  This is obviously teaching us, “I am the Vine and you are the branches.”  The branches are growing directly out of the side of Jesus.   Jesus is seated on the grave where He laid His head in death.  The reason the branches are growing is He is risen, indeed!  He is risen and gives us the fruit of His death upon the Cross and so the branches are entwined around it:  the dead wood of the cross is now the Tree of Life in the paradise of His saints.

Further,the branches are portrayed growing from His side reminded me of another verse, unique in it’s reportage in John’s Gospel:  “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” St. John 19:  34  The Water and the Blood signify the two Sacraments, Baptism and Communion.  The only way we grow from His side  is abiding in Him. The water of Baptism, and His Word in the water, cleanses and washes us to be His own.  We are fed the drink of His holy Blood in His love out-poured and so we grow to love as He first loved us.  It is hard to love as He first loved us.  Without Him, we can do nothing, even love aright.  Unregenerate man, stuck on himself, incurvatus, curved in upon oneself, will only love selfishly.    In the icon, note that it seems as if Jesus is squeezing the grapes over a chalice! The grapes become juice which is then fermented into wine is fermented in the Word to be the blood of Christ.  He draws us forth to be His own, as the steward of the wedding feast in Cana drew forth the water now become wine by His Word  (St. John 2: 1-11)  “…He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” St. John 11:  43  He drew us forth from death to life and will in the resurrection unto eternal life. He alone changes us.   “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” St.John 12: 32  His Church has only one draw: Himself, His Word and Sacraments, for sinners.

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Who We are is Who’s We are!

See Matthew 19:14,  John 15:161 John 3:1-3,  1 Corinthians 1:25-27,1 Peter 3:211 Peter 1:17-19Colossians 3:11-131 Peter 2:9

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A couple of  weeks ago I watched again The Manchurian Candidate (1962 Manchurian Candidate synopsis).  I think it is one of the most frightening movies.  It is about a group of American soldiers in the Korean War who are kidnapped and brainwashed by the Communist Chinese and Russians  for a deadly game of American politics during a presidential campaign at the time of the Cold War.  One soldier is brainwashed to kill. 

The soldier(s) had to be first isolated for the deadly “brainwashing” to occur.  The main Chinese operative in the procedure points out that the popular understanding that a person can not kill contrary to his nature is simply not true.  This is a truer understanding of the Old Adam and the corrupt nature of man (see Genesis 6:5Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19) than what  is taught and preached  in many churches in our day.

My simple point is this:  they had to be isolated, cut-off for the drawing out of their murderous intent.  Isolation.  About the time I re-watched this movie, Jared Loughner killed in Tucson.  This is one in a deadly string of such killings.  Some go unnoticed because those killed are not famous. Not “every thing that bleeds, leads” in a media story because there is so much blood so shed.  There seems to be a common thread in many of  these killers:  isolation.  As I write this on a blog, the computer/internet can be a source of “social networking” or for utter social isolation.  I am reminded of the verse from Paradise Lost by John Milton:

The mind is it’s own place, and in it self/Can make a Heav’n of Hell and a Hell of Heav’n

This is part of Satan’s address.  The deceiver had to get the woman alone in the Garden to do his perverted will.  The internet can be a perfect tool for such isolation, in front of a screen, selectively feeding our perverse Adamic wills in pornography, violence, and hatred.  But the internet does not kill, people do and Satan finds another way to isolate a fellow fallen son of Adam or daughter of Eve. The apostle Peter cautioned, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5: 8).  From all those National Geographic specials about the Serengetti Plain:  the lion attacks when a member of the herd is off by himself.  The mind “in it self” can so pervert both heaven and hell that there is no distinction.  This is madness.  I understand that much mental illness is caused by biological factors that can be remedied by medication.  But much what goes for mental illness is induced, as in The Manchurian Candidate and feeding the  mind in isolation from a community or a communion.   It is not that there are many “Manchurian candidates” but we are all Manchurian candidates.  Milton was only following the Scriptures.  The only difference between Milton’s day and our own is that people are becoming lost in cyberspace.   Even before the fall, the Lord observed, “ “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2: 18)   It is not good particularly after the fall.  The apostle encourages after 1 Peter 5: 8:  “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”  In the Beautitudes the Lord is forming by His Call and Election by His Grace, a communion, His Church.  Martin Luther in his Letters of Spiritual Counsel, would encourage those suffering from “melancholia” (i.e. depression) to seek someone or something beyond the self: a walk in the woods, the laughter of a child, etc.  If it is not psychological depression, but sorrow because of sin, confess to hear the Lord’s forgiveness from the Cross.   Seek a pastor, a fellow Christian, His salvation. There is a social network in the world that is Lord’s own forming:  His body, the Church, the net of His Word.    If the devil preys, the Church must ever pray.   His social network is not in cyberspace, but around the corner.

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