READINGS: Genesis 2:18–25 Psalm 128 Hebrews 2:1–13 (14–18) Mark 10:2–16
COLLECT OF THE DAY: Merciful Father, Your patience and loving-kindness toward us have no end. Grant that by Your Holy Spirit we may always think and do those things that are pleasing in Your sight; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
The one flesh of marriage is manifest in the biology of a man and a woman, like two puzzle pieces put together by another as the Lord places together Adam and Eve, man and woman. The Lord gives marriage before the fall into sin. Marriage is God’s gift. Marriage is the fundamental order of creation, of authority, of the continuing of God’s good creation. Marriage and family have two commandments: the 4th , “Honor your Father and your Mother”, Family and the 6th, “You shall not commit adultery”, Marriage. Marriage is concrete: The two become one flesh. As anyone doing jigsaw puzzles knows, you can put together two pieces that don’t fit and if you do, then you can break the pieces. This is what divorce is like and so is “hooking-up”. The maker did not make puzzle pieces to be incorrectly linked together…to say the least. Luther wrote:
“So here all will depend on a sound knowledge and understanding of what this “What God has joined together,” is trying to say. It does not say, “What joined itself together,” but, “What God has joined together.” The joining together is easily seen, but men refuse to see that it is to be God who does the joining. As soon as a joining together has come about by the parties’ own efforts, they immediately want to hang God’s name over it as a cloak to hide their shame, and say that God did it.
It was for the harness of the human heart, Moses gave this commandment about divorce, but divorce is not from the beginning, that is from creation: Jesus goes to the beginning, after all He was there: it is about marriage, man and woman become one flesh, two yet one, like jigsaw pieces.
The one flesh of marriage is denied in our day, even denigrated and forgotten. Divorce, living together, same-sex marriage, and abortion are the sinful symptoms of the denial and denigration of marriage, exacerbating the cause of that destruction of marriage. Even if ‘same-sex so-called marriage is civil law, St. John Chrysostom preached: “God will judge you at the last day not by the civil law but by His law”. While there is life, there is repentance on account of Christ.
What is the cause of the destruction of marriage? The reason will seem innocuous. One gay commentator wrote that marriage is, “…primarily a way in which two adults affirm their emotional commitment to one another.” Then it stands to reason the two adults can be any combination of genders. No matter how you do the jigsaw pieces, only male and female can fit with one another. Maybe with the availability of relatively easy contraception, marriage is seen more as an emotional commitment and that’s it. It’s all about how we feel. “Emotional commitment” as the basis of marriage is the operative cultural definition of marriage and is not limited to one gay commentator. When I watch sitcoms and there is a wedding, invariably the couple writes their own “vows”. Those are not vows at all, but statements of emotional commitment. The phrase “emotional commitment” is bland and bloodless which has caused, as the Brits would say, bloody bad things. I have an emotional commitment to you and you to me, and to each other in Jesus Christ, but that does not mean we are married. “Emotional commitment” as the sum and substance of marriage is denial and even destruction of marriage. We know what happens, “once the love has gone”. The primary divine purpose of marriage is the two become one flesh, not one soul or heart, ‘soul-mates’ or other flights of spiritualized sentimentality and cultural rot. Man and woman become one flesh to have children and for the continuation of life and love. “(The Lord) forbade men to marry their sisters or daughters, so that our love would not be limited to members of our families, and withdrawn from the rest of the human race”(St. John Chrysostom).
Another saying making the rounds is “love makes a family”, well, no as love is understood as only emotional commitment and warmth. It is not as that warmth can become really cold. Marriage makes the family, between male and female, as the Lord has created us. Once “emotional commitment” becomes the sole reason for marriage then divorce becomes simply (supposedly) “no fault”, but if marriage is based upon love, that is, loving feelings, those emotions will soon fail, marriage is based upon God’s Word, vows, God’s and ours, so that we can learn to love even as we have first been loved.
Intimate of the first reason for marriage is the second, which God in His Word makes clear: it is not good for the man to be alone. The Lord God gives a helpmate, one for another. This too is not simply an “emotional commitment”. Once again, man can have an emotional commitment that he or she hates someone so much, they commit to murder. Emotional commitments by themselves are not necessarily positive, to say the least. The second reason for marriage is companionship. The word “companion” has two Latin words: “com” and “panis”. “Panis” is bread, “com” with, or share. Husband and wife share bread together, serve one another, subordinate their desires in that service. If blessed with their children. The home table is sacred. Sharing bread is service which is love which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.
We have been encouraged in our time to talk about sex…a lot. C.S. Lewis wrote about this endless, almost pornographic dialogue:
They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still in a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess.
Lewis first said this in radio talk in England during World War II. If we need to see what America has become, Europe was well on the way before us, and we have sadly and terribly caught up. Marriage has become a mess. Moses knew that. God knows that and Jesus, God’s own Son, became flesh.
Again St. Mark show us two paintings, two scenes: first scene, Jesus teaching marriage between man and woman and the second scene, back in the house in Capernaum, and once again children are present. The sturdy orthodox Lutheran theologians speak of marriage and family, as in the first scene of today’s Gospel, as the order of creation. Marriage and family are foundational, government at it’s best is to serve families, not for families to serve the illiberal immorality of the denial of marriage. Marriage and family have two commandments: the 4th and the 6th. The messing up of marriage has now happened in cyber speed.
Then in the house, fathers and mothers ask Jesus to bless their children. The disciples were preventing them. St. Mark reports that Jesus literally snorted with indignation at them. This Scripture is the one used at every Baptism in the Lutheran Church. When Jesus went back into the house, the movement is from the order of creation to the order of redemption in Jesus Christ. Going into the house with the Lord it became the House of the Lord, Church. This is the proof text that the Lord baptizes infants, a holy new family, h-o-l-y, but according the Gospel of Christ, there is no adult baptism. All baptism is baptism of children, of infants, to be like a child, knowing on our own we make a mess of so much and can, but in Him we are saved and receive like a child all His gifts, as a child does from Mother and Father. Children are not pure, but they trust. The Pharisees wanted to have an adult theological discussion in order, well, to finally get their way in salvation, find out what is permitted. See how much one can get away with and then be good to go. On our own we cannot be good to go. Jesus went all the way as He tasted death for us. He sanctified us and is our brother, and our Lord Jesus blessing the children finally and fully, met our breakage of the Law at an intersection: His Cross. He enfolded into His arms the children that day and blessed them. He still does and has for you.
Marriage is the Lord’s always new math: 1 + 1 equals 1. Marriage is God’s gift to Adam and Eve. Marriage begins the Bible and even as sin entered the world, the Lord did not abandon His gift of marriage to men and women. The Bible is the history and story of marriage and families from the beginning to Abraham and Sarah to Joseph and Mary and Christ and His Church and in the new creation when the heavenly Jerusalem descends as His bride. The stories of those families is checkered to say the least. We can read for ourselves the messes the Patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob say made of their marriages. The Lord gave His promise through many of those families. by sheer grace, not because of their deeds. The Lord came, and sought His bride and slipped the pure gold wedding ring of His saving love on our finger, in true faith. What is Mine is thine and what is Thine is Mine, He said in His eternal vow.
“(In marriage) you are sacrificing yourself for someone to whom you are already joined, but He offered Himself up for the one who turned her back on Him and hated Him” (St. John Chrysostom)
All your brokenness of sin I have taken upon Myself and I give you all that I have: grace, mercy and peace, the fidelity of love stronger than sin and death. You divorce Me, but I will not divorce Thee. How is marriage a mystery? The two have become one. This is not an empty symbol. They have not become the image of anything on earth, but of God Himself. (St. John Chrysostom)