Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God,through John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, You once proclaimed salvation.Now grant that we may know this salvation and serve You in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS

Isaiah 40:1-5

Psalm 85:(1-6) 7-13

Acts 13:13-26

Luke 1:57-80

Bio:  St. John the Baptizer, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, was born into a priestly family.  His birth was miraculously announced to his father by an angel of the Lord (Luke 1: 5-23), and on the occasion of his birth, his aged father proclaimed a hymn of praise (Luke 1:67-79). This hymn is entitled the Benedictus and serves as the traditional Gospel Canticle in the Church’s Service of Morning Prayer. Events of John’s life and his teaching are known from accounts in all four of the Gospels. In the wilderness of Judea, near the Jordan River, John began to preach a call to repentance and a baptismal washing, and he told the crowds, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). John denounced the immoral life of the Herodian rulers, with the result that Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, had him arrested and imprisoned in the huge fortress of Machaerus near the Dead Sea. There Herod had him beheaded (Mark 6:17-29). John is remembered and honored as the one who with his preaching pointed to “the Lamb of God” and “prepared the way” for the coming of the Messiah. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:

This is the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald (circa 1515).  The Lord’s vocation to John is amply shown in the detail of John the Baptist:

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” St. John 1: 29b

The long bony finger says it all:  it is John’s sermon visualized pointing us to Jesus Christ and in particular upon the Cross.  There is our salvation, not in my heart and mind but in Jesus Christ so that the Holy Spirit bears witness to us all of so great a salvation, we must not neglect the preaching (Hebrews 2:3).  The Baptizer’s sermon recorded in John 1: 29 is only one sentence!  Reading carefully the entire text,  John 1: 29-34, and not that the Evangelist reports no other people listening to John in this paragraph.  We are the hearers of the Word and  doers of the Word (Luke 8:21). In fact, the whole world (in Greek, “world” is cosmos), is under the Cross, objectively, existentially and really (John 3:16).  We are all sinners.  John the Baptizer points not to himself, not to man nor woman, not to His blessed Mother, not to our spiritualities but ever and only to Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him, we are His baptized saints, with John, Paul, Mary and the whole company of heaven.  The Lord’s finger pointing at us is His just Law and judgment.  The finger pointing to Jesus Christ and Him crucified is His finger pointing us  ever to the  pure Gospel for our lives day by day as we are justified freely on account of the Christ John so pointed out.

Christ is our steadfastness in these times of immorality and unrest, even near  those who bear the name of brother (see 1 Corinthians 5:11) . John was steadfast in his preaching, especially regarding marriage. The Festival of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, 24 June 2014 He was born for this.  The saints are encouragement to the Church to hold the course steady in doctrine and practice.  The Church will not be patted on the back by the world.  It is not easy but we can point others to the Lord:  Behold!  The Lamb of God. We are reborn for this.  Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard, in his commentary on  Matthew 11:7:  

 “…John’s (the Baptist) steadfastness is held up as an example to be followed by all faithful teachers—indeed also by all true Christians. John was not a reed. He did not allow himself to be deterred from the pathway of truth and from his calling by the world’s cunning and temptation.  So also Christians are not to be fickle and erratic like a reed.  Rather, they are to be grounded like pillars and columns in the house of God.   1 Tim. 3: 15, Rev. 3: 12—Johann Gerhard

Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word!

Read Full Post »

Joy describes the wedding at Cana and it should describe any wedding.  Nowadays, we probably do not understand the joy that day in Cana.  In Jesus’ day, in Israel, after a man and a woman found each other, their fathers would come together for conversation to arrange the wedding and marriage.  They would write marriage covenant. The young man and woman would say to each other, Today, You are my husband, Today you are my wife.  Then the families then would have a betrothal dinner.  The couple were considered married. This is why as  Matthew’s Gospel begins, we read Joseph and Mary were betrothed and when Mary is found to be with child by the Holy Spirit, Joseph decided to quietly divorce her.  Betrothal only began a couple’s wedding journey.  She would then wear a veil to indicate in the town square that she was betrothed.  He would go back home to his family’s home and begin to add a room to their home for he and his bride.  This could take up to year to build.  When the room was built, the groom would send his groomsmen, complete with shofar, the ram’s horn, to go his bride’s home for her.  They would not know the hour when this would occur.  As the groomsmen approached the bride’s home, they might blow the ram’s horn.  With joy the bride and her party would go with the groomsmen to the groom’s home.  There in the privacy of their new room, husband and wife consummated their marriage, with the groomsmen standing guard outside.  Her veil was put aside.  The couple became one flesh.  Then began the wedding party which would last up to 7 days.

 This is exactly the time of the wedding at Cana.  The Lord knew what was going on…besides, He created marriage.  He brought His joy to the wedding of the man and the woman and added to their joy.  It takes time to make a couple.  One flesh is not an overnight or a hook-up.  Never was. In Luther’s day the church gave it’s approval to being a monk or nun as the holiest way of living. No, preached Luther, we find nothing in the Bible about monks or nun but right away in Genesis, we read of husband and wife.  Mary and her Son went to the wedding in Cana and He added more joy with the best wine.  Marriage is the estate ordained by God and is the basis of all authority.  Government, at it’s best is to protect  marriage not add to it by redefining it.  But government is only doing what so many churches have done:  redefine marriage or approve living together.  What Luther preached in his day is the same in our day:  “All heretics have denigrated matrimony and have sought for and begun some newfangled and bizarre way of life.” No kidding, Fr. Martin! I would guess that about 9 months after the wedding in Cana, the joyful couple had their first child.  Jesus would not have attended the move-in of a woman to live with her guy or  given consent to hooking-up or my biological clock is ticking, single-parenthood on purpose.  Churches, or Christians,  have said this is not so bad, and even God pleasing.  It is not. He does not want a child to fear abandonment because of different living arrangements.  He does not want a child aborted to fit a life-style.  The Old Adam likes, no, lusts after new ‘life-styles’. Once I was talking with my father-in-law about hooking-up and like and he quipped, I guess I was born at the wrong time.  Back in the ’60s, the  “new morality” was touted but as one conservative put it, it is actually the old immorality.  Christ was baptized for this…to save us from ourselves and sin, death and the power of the devil.  Our Lord protects husbands and wives with two commandments:  Honor your father and your mother and You shall not commit adultery. He protects, we wreck. The Lord loves the life He created, each and everyone of us, and wants it to continue and when fallen into disrepair He has sent His Son. He went to a wedding.

 Yes, a cross is laid on marriage, as it is written, there will be troubles in marriage. Yes.  If all the money of a  lifetime were put before a worker, like winning the lotto, it would not be considered to be enough.  But the Lord gives us money, our salary, we wonder if will we make ends meet. He will change water into wine as we manage and serve in our households.  This is God pleasing. If we are but godly and pious and let Him do the caring (Luther).  There will be enough so that faith is engendered, hope renewed and love quickened. When the wine ran out, they had enough by our Lord’s quiet sign of changing water into wine. The Christian home is faithful.

His Cross, His forgiveness in the home is the sign bar none of His forgiveness.  Husband and wife need His forgiveness day by day along with their children.  Forgiveness is bread on the table.  It is bread here today to be eaten, His body.  He commands all who would be His children to be washed in Holy Baptism and for the Christian household to walk wet in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit engenders His gifts bar none, more important gifts and fruits than any received this past Christmas. His gifts are:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   The Christian home is crucified and it’s member walk in the newness of life.  This newness is fostered and nurtured in confession and absolution. The Christian home is a confessional of sin, confesses Christ and confesses His praise by their service.

 Even His Mother cannot prescribe the time in which the Lord will help. Neither can we.  We come to the end of our rope, and cry out, Lord, help…in a situation like a wedding in which the wine has run out!  Jesus clearly teaches here for our sake, He will provide at the right time.  He did at the wedding at Cana.  He served the best wine. Mary said, Do whatever He says.  This is a good reminder to us all in all walks of life and especially in our homes.  Do whatever He tells you as in when you prayer, say, Our Father Who art in heaven.  Take and eat, take and drink.  Meditate on My Word.  The Christian home is a house of prayer.

 You have saved the best wine to the last. This could be a lesson for husband and wife.  When we first start seeing someone, we put our best foot forward, dress nice, best manners and personality…then marriage and my wife gets to know me. And one’s less charming aspects come to the fore quite quickly.  But of the Lord it can always be said, you have saved the best wine till now. His blood shed for repentant  sinners joyful in His forgiveness. We are told the master of feast knew could taste this was the best wine.  He probably did not know the first and original Master of the Feast was present with His disciples.  Jesus is the Master of the feast, this feast He founded.    My hour has not yet come, He told His Mother.  Jesus repeats this phrase, “my hour” a few times in the Gospel.  He changed water into wine, but this was not the glory.  His presence, message and person pointed to another glory, the glory of the only-begotten Son who died on the Cross for sinners in His love which conquers death.   He changes wine into His blood for us all. Taste and see that the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever. The taste for sin is all too real and the taste of His joy in the family knows no bounds and He has overcome the world.  So the Christian home serves Jesus Christ. 

 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Read Full Post »

St. Luke 2: 49:  And  he said to them,  “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

In the Old Testament reading, Solomon’s focus was not on himself and his prerogatives as king:  long life, riches and winning over his enemies.  His focus was on his people.  He prayed to the Lord for a wise and discerning will to govern this great people.  He knew that he could not rule knowing himself. His initial wisdom was the wisdom to say he needed help. His focus finally was on the Lord.

In the Epistle Reading, the Apostle Paul begins his epistle to the Ephesians in these magnificent verses, focusing his brothers and sisters in Christ, not upon themselves but on Christ, in the “heavenly places”.  The Lord does the choosing, the predestining, forgiving, redeeming and the lavishing of His grace for them, for us. 

And at the age of 12, before He grew into a man at 13, Jesus knew where He had to be.  Three times in the first 4 verses the place is mentioned:  Jerusalem, the place of God’s Word, His Name.

Now the situation here is NOT like Joseph was driving the car and said, “Son, how did your like Passover this year…son?! Son?!…Mary, I thought you were you going to get him at the rest stop..”  “I thought you did, Joseph!”  The Passover group from the towns were more like caravans, maybe 50 or so family and friends making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, with thousands of Israelites going up to Zion, the Lord’s city and Temple.  In a group of that size, walking, strung out along the road, talking and laughing, it would have been quite possible to lose track of a 12 year old.    

Jesus purposely stays behind in Jerusalem. As we think on this Gospel that is the real problem we have with it.  Jesus on purpose stays behind as if He is breaking the 4th commandment, Honor your father and your mother, yes!  But the fourth commandment is the Lord’s intention to be the fourth one, as the first is, You shall have no other gods before Me. He had to be in His Father’s House.  and so He becomes lost to His parents.  

Mary and Joseph are traumatized and understandably so.  One thing about their Child:  He really could not get lost. In fact, He is the one who does the finding.  In Luke 15, the entire chapter is unique in his Gospel:  three parables of lost and found, the shepherd in search of His one lost sheep, the woman householder in search of her one lost silver coin, and a father in search of his one lost son.  Jesus, even at 12, is found where He is must be found:  His Father’s House, the first place we should all look. Jesus can be lost…by us.  “Just think what it would mean if we lost the child Jesus from our hearts!” “Christ is lost in actuality and reality by departing from pure doctrine, by unbelief and severe sins against conscience.” (Gerhard).   The problem is not doubt but doubt resulting in unbelief, no longer taking the Lord at His Word that He made you, He redeemed you, He sanctified you. Why do so many professors and teachers want to take us away from the Lord and faith?  The greatest scientists were Christians and many of the current crop are not. These professors want to be your guiding light and will admit no other light which is curious for people who prize open inquiry.  Then people run to and fro for all sorts of sub-Christian and anti-Christian doctrines and teachings looking for guidance.  Then men and women have supposed sanctions by  looking for salvation even in sin to whet our lusts for more in greed and sex.  We were looking for a god in all the wrong places, places that are agreeable to us and not where and when the Lord said He will be…as in the manger, in the  Temple and finally upon the cross. There were no other gods before Him, in the Temple on the day of His visitation.  The Lord’s first words in Luke are in the Temple, in Jerusalem and His last Words would be in the Temple and then outside the city of Jerusalem on Golgotha. Luke tells us that Jesus MUST be in the Temple, His Father’s House and the Lord will use that word again as in The son of Man must be betrayed, suffer, be crucified and rise again on the 3rd day.

There are other so-called ‘gospels’ from the 2nd and 3rd centuries called the “Gnostic Gospels” in which as a lad, Jesus causes a boy to fall off his donkey and die, then Jesus raises him.  Or another in which Jesus is playing in the mud, making mud birds and then causing them to come to life.  Jesus’ Church did not accept them because, The  Holy Spirit did not inspire them because they are factually false as seen by the fact that He did those ‘miracles’ all for Himself.  Jesus as a boy in the Temple, and keeping the 1st and 4th commandments, in that order, is what 12 year old Jesus did as His focus was not Himself but His Father and His Word.  He did not make His Father’s House into a playhouse for His amusement or an inflatable fun house, filled with sinners’ hot air.  The Lord’s House is filled with His breath and wind, that is, the Holy Spirit as His Word is there and finally, fully and for all:  the Word made flesh.  The Temple was the House of God’s Word and as He told Solomon: for My Name. So when Jesus entered the Temple He was coming home.  Jesus knew where He had to be, the locus of His entire life:  His Father’s will, as Solomon and Paul point us also in Christ to the Lord.  Without Jesus we are lost.  Without the Lord, Israel would still be found as slave people in Egypt.  Joseph and Mary had just come from the most important of all Old Testament holy days, the Passover.   Passover, pascha, the Greek and Hebrew word, is all about the Lord finding and saving His people.  The Lord’s finding His lost people is freedom.

The Christian’s focus is always the different locus.  When we make our selves the direct object of inquiry, the result is either one of two things:  despair, I am no good or overweening pride. His Word is ever our guide between despair and pride to show aright our right and to give us anew the grace of His forgiveness.  The locus is the Lord’s commandments and the promises fulfilled in Jesus.  Solomon went every to Gibeon to offer a 1000 burnt offerings and what Solomon finally needed was God’s Word, Law and Promise—showing us the way to go and now in Solomon’s Lord, the Way Himself in the lad who became a man, the man for all men. We are told that Solomon’s conversation with the Lord was a “dream”, but it was no nightmare!  We have nightmares aplenty in our day from selling fetal body parts to greed and lust.  The Christians’ focus is a different locus, place in life, home and work:  the home altar of His Word, the Catechism and it’s six chief parts.  We need orientation, noting that the word “orient” is the word for “east”, from whence has come our Savior, orienting us throughout our days ahead according to His Word.  “Christ especially wanted to assume the aging promise to show all mankind, not matter what their age, would have in Him a Savior” (Johann Gerhard). 

The Lord told Solomon that the Temple would the place for His Name, a different locus and on that day in the Temple Jesus, literally, “God saves”, His Name entered into the Temple to begin salvation.  Jesus’ focus was not Himself but His Father.

On The Circumcision and Name of Jesus, for the sermon, I remembered the probably only funny song by Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named Sue”.  It is a story song about “Sue’s” father giving him the name Sue.  And the way how he hated it all his life because it got him into fights…and hating his father who also left him and his mother when he was three.  One day he caught up with his Dad in a bar, they got into  fight and his dad told him the reason he Sue that name:

 And he said, “Son, this world is rough And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help ya along So I give ya that name and I said goodbye I knew you’d have to get tough or die And it’s the name that helped to make you strong”

“And it’s the Name that helped to make you strong”.  The Name of Jesus will make us strong, tough, steadfast in the faith because He was and is strong.  He was born an infant and from day 1 bearing the sin of the world.  He fasted for 40 days and nights and was tempted by Satan three times and that would not be the last time. He walked to and fro all of Palestine, preaching, teaching,doing good and at every turn someone was out to get Him and finally they would.  He would be cast out of the Temple and crucified on Golgotha…a different locus is the focus of our salvation. He was tough, yet He was and is tender toward sinners who receive with child like faith, a faith He knew as a child.  He is tender, as a mother hen who gathers her brood, so we are saved and can be tender toward each other bearing each other’s burdens. His Name will make you strong as He has saved you to be His, strong in faith and in love serving, in His Name, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen!

Read Full Post »

O God, our refuge and strength, You raised up Your servant Katharina to support her husband in the task to reform and renew Your Church in the light of Your  Word. Defend and purify the Church today and grant that, through faith, we may boldly support and encourage our pastors and teachers of the faith as they proclaim and administer the riches of Your grace made known in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Katharina von Bora(1499–1552) was placed in a convent when still a child and became a nun in 1515. In April 1523 she and eight other nuns were rescued from the convent and brought to Wittenberg. There Martin Luther helped return some to their former homes and placed the rest in good families. Katharina and Martin were married on June 13, 1525. Their marriage was a happy one and blessed with six children. Katharina skillfully managed the Luther household, which always seemed to grow because of his generous hospitality. After Luther’s death in 1546, Katharina remained in Wittenberg but lived much of the time in poverty. She died in an accident while traveling with her children to Torgau in order to escape the plague. Today is the anniversary of her death. (Collect and Intro fromThe Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Martin Luther’s Home The Luther family, wife and six children, and various students and visitors lived in the central part of the building. He was given the building by one of the aristocrats supporting his movement.

There were many people at one given time for dinner or to stay.  Students, pastors fleeing from oppression, friends and dignitaries were guests in Luther’s home and Frau Luther took care of them all, overseeing a house staff.  Luther would preach in their home, and the those sermons are called “hausepostilles”, or house sermons.  In a 3 volume edition of Luther’s Hauspostils is a little bit more about Katharina von Bora:

The Luther household was often quite extensive—a real test for Katie’s ingenuity at balancing the family budget!—because of relatives, students, and associates who were domiciled there or regularly present at Luther’s elbow for one reason or another… Luther had been a member of this monastic order since 1506 when he completed a one-year probationary novitiate, and in a sense he really felt he had not left it until June 13, 1525when he married Katharine von Bora, who had been a nun. Luther had lived in the old monastery ever since joining the faculty at Wittenberg in 1511. Here he had his living quarters, often preached for the Augustinian chapter, and eventually also delivered his lectures as professor of Biblical theology at the university. Elector Frederick the Wise had designated the old monastery to be the family home for Luther and Katie, as Martin affectionately called his bride. She was up to the challenge, and with him established a model parsonage family and home. Together they rejoiced over a circle of six children that gladdened their hearts, but then also saddened them when Elizabeth died as an infant and Magdalene as a vivacious teenager.

Reflection:

Katharina von Bora was by no means a modern or a post-modern woman.  She is the antithesis of the so-called ‘liberated’ feminist.  She did not seek to “find herself”.  She did not “shop till she dropped”.  She could not have fathomed having an abortion.  She was not  “self-fulfilled” and yet she could run a household the size of a small business. She was not looking to smash “glass ceilings”. Women today seek in this zeitgeist (“spirit of an age”) is also what men look for in our so-called ‘enlightened’ age  and it is certainly not what our Lord says:  deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Me.

Frau Luther was no nun.   You can not find a word about nuns in the Bible but much about wives and mothers who were heroes of the faith in Old and New Testaments:  Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel…Mary.  She was not ‘holy’ by her self-chosen ‘spirituality’ and holy deeds  but made holy by her faith in Jesus Christ lived in her domestic vocation. Once again we are told that the Pope will make a saint, this time Mother Teresa. No pope, no man nor woman makes a saint, Jesus Christ does in baptism and faith according to His Work of Redemption for Katharina, Teresa, you and I.   Katharina was the antithesis in some ways of a Mother Teresa. Katharina is the model of woman that pertains to all of humankind and those of the household of faith:  fathers and mothers and their children and the 4th and 6th Commandments.  We need to look more at a saint like Katharina than a Teresa.  

The crescendo of Proverbs is the last chapter, 38 and it is all about wives and mothers. Here is a saintly portrait of a Mother, like Katharina. I think Frau Luther  epitomized this last chapter of the book of Proverbs.  God be praised for all faithful wives and mothers who confess Jesus Christ!

10 An excellent wife who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
11The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
12She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life.
13She seeks wool and flax,
   and works with willing hands.
14She is like the ships of the merchant;
   she brings her food from afar.
15She rises while it is yet night
   and provides food for her household
   and portions for her maidens.
16She considers a field and buys it;
   with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17She dresses herself with strength
   and makes her arms strong.
18She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
   Her lamp does not go out at night.
19She puts her hands to the distaff,
   and her hands hold the spindle.
20She opens her hand to the poor
   and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21She is not afraid of snow for her household,
   for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22She makes bed coverings for herself;
   her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23Her husband is known in the gates
   when he sits among the elders of the land.
24She makes linen garments and sells them;
   she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
   and she laughs at the time to come.
26She opens her mouth with wisdom,
   and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27She looks well to the ways of her household
   and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28Her children rise up and call her blessed;
   her husband also, and he praises her:
29“Many women have done excellently,
   but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
   but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31Give her of the fruit of her hands,
   and let her works praise her in the gates.

Read Full Post »

6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ St. Mark 10: 6-8

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)

Read Full Post »

“‘Let the marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled’ (Hebrews 13:4)  Hold fast to that, those of you who are married.  St. Augustine writes in one place concerning married people, that even if one of them is somewhat weak, etc., he should not be afraid of the sudden and infallible Day of the Lord; even if the day of the Lord were to come in the hour when man and wife were having marital intercourse, they should not be afraid of it.  Why is this so?  Because even if the Lord comes in that hour He will find them in the ordinance and station in which they have been placed and installed by God.”

From Luther’s Sermon for the Marriage of Sigismund von Lindenau, 1545, LW 51

Read Full Post »

not nice

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3: 15-16

A dear friend and colleague’s screen saver  was, “Nice is the enemy of the good”. A tombstone with the motto, “He was nice” is not one for the ages.  All people with a backbone were decidedly not nice at times, yet “nice” is the supreme compliment.  “Nice” means pleasing, agreeable but in a sort of bland way:  “’Have a nice day!’ ‘No thanks, I have better plans’” (Woody Allen).  The Lord has a much better plan for us all.

I think “lukewarm” is synonymous with “niceness”, neither hot nor cold.  Unlike Goldilocks’ “neither hot nor cold, just right”, this “just right” of niceness is not just quite right for the Church’s life and preaching.  Matthew Henry , the 16th/17th Century non-conformist minister, in his enduring commentary, bluntly wrote, “They may call their luke warmness charity, meekness, moderation, and a largeness of soul; it is nauseous to Christ, and makes those so that allow themselves in it.”  So, because you are nice, neither good nor bad, I will spit you out of my mouth.  Lutheran pastor and scholar, Paul Kretzmann on the same text:  

He (Jesus) is constrained to vomit them out of His mouth. That is the judgment of the Lord upon all such as are not seriously concerned about their Christianity, that still profess to be Christians, usually from some ulterior motive, and yet will not oppose the godless ways of the world. They want to mediate between Jehovah and Baal, between God and the world, between Christ and Belial, between light and darkness, between faith and unbelief, between righteousness and unrighteousness. Such people the Lord cannot bear, and unless they change their tactics very decidedly, His disgusted attitude will result in their punishment, in their being excluded from the blessings of the Kingdom.

The lukewarm and the nice will be excluded from the Kingdom?!  Hey, that’s not nice!

 We don’t want to, using ‘60s vernacular, “turn someone off” to the Church by our strident attitudes.  After all,   “It is nice to be nice to those who are nice” (“Colonel Frank Burns”, M*A*S*H).  In that sitcom, Frank Burns’ statement was meant to be nauseating because it is.  

The Lord, in the epistolary section of the Revelation, is speaking to congregations, not individual Christians.  We have a churchly hangover from the ‘50s and ‘60s of “nice congregations”, “lukewarm”. My Father grew up in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod in southern Minnesota. When I was child, visiting Minnesota, he would argue with his in-laws,  who were not Lutherans, about church.  My aunts and uncles complaining about you “German Lutherans”, all that “sitting, standing and kneeling”, especially the kneeling and the worst: “We can’t even receive Communion!”  I knew as a kid, hmmm, we’re different.  We were not “nice”, but that was going to change.   Downplay the doctrine and the practice to get new folks in. I would be catechized well and as a pastor I went along with the program.  I confess:  I was nice. Offer first the programs of the congregation, later the promises of Christ, and practice open communion. We waffled between “Christ and Belial, light and darkness, faith and unbelief, righteousness and unrighteousness” to “reach people”.    If niceness has become a synonym for lukewarmness, then it is a sin, especially in light of the 1st Table of the Law. 

Here is one congregational example of such waffling to get people in and not offend.  My first call was as assistant pastor in a large LCMS/AELC congregation. The sanctuary was quite a charming colonial edifice which was desirous for weddings.  Now, the senior pastor’s wedding policy was complicated in his “schedule of fees and donations” for member and “non-member weddings”. Most weddings were of the non-member category. The spring and summer seasons sometimes included several weddings each weekend.  The justification was that these unchurched couples would, “at least hear the Gospel”.  Pre-marital counseling sessions were required, (it was part of the program) and I began to realize that my sermon would have to be one helluva sermon for the couple, nervous, even nauseous, to “hear the Gospel”.  I do not remembering ever seeing those many newlyweds come back to Church.

I began to be discomfited with this practice, but I was single at the time, and an extra $100 or so every weekend, or more, plus a gift from the couple, was kind of nice…oh-oh.  Anyway, I never said anything to the senior pastor about my misgivings because those wedding services paid. 

Now the next verse in the Revelation 3 text is not usually cited: 

17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” 

Yes, pastors and congregations prospered and we were decidedly less poor  by “reaching out” in this nice way under the guise of “evangelism”.  I think that mega-churches are not new but are old, as they are actually retro mega-throwback ‘50s congregations, the ultra-nice church but using better marketing tactics to sell their niceness now on steroids:  see Joel Osteen. Merging lyrics from the sitcom “Cheers” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” applies:  “Come where everybody knows your name and to forget about life for awhile”.  It is so nice.  It pays but at a price for the soul of a church:  “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked”. The church thus has  acquired immune deficiency syndrome to  the onslaught of virulent atheistic secularism under the guise of niceness. After all, “…even a frank enmity against the Christian religion is more promising in a person than the luke warmness and spiritual indifference which these people showed (Matthew Henry)”.

In writing this, I looked up similar articles and came across a good one: “Have a Nice Church” by Fr. Peter Toon. I will be citing his article. “Have a nice Church”  is something our Lord never said. The Lord has a better Church than our nice one.

“We have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind”.  We went along with the prevailing winds to get along so the “cultured despisers of the faith” would accept us and we them.  Many parents and pastors eschewed saying and meaning, “no”.  In regards to marriage and weddings, we were nice a long time before Obergefell Day, June 26, anno Domini 2,015.  The Pill was the answer to coitus non fecundus and so coitus non interruptus.[i]  Divorce and remarriage in the 70s was accepted. “Living together” meant that a couple could really find out if they were meant for each other.  We called it ala Henry: “charity, meekness, moderation, and a largeness of soul”, that is, we were nice. Fr. Peter Toon,

“Since much modern mainstream “orthodoxy” feels the need to be nice, this means that it only can be bold to make a stand and to speak out for the Lord when this action comes within (what most conservatives in the pews perceive as) the spectrum of being nice. So, for example, homosexual practice may be condemned but not the modern contraceptive culture in which both homosexual and much heterosexual sex thrive. Apparently, this is because many conservatives do not like the former and, in the main, exist within the latter.

Our largeness of soul accepted much that was small and dark and dirty, as if it were charity on our part.

The solution is not to be nice but nasty?  No, for being purposely nasty and mean is not in keeping with the Decalogue. We are not go out of our way to be nasty but we are in the Way to preach, teach and live in the Word of God, spoken, written and Incarnate and it won’t be at times ‘nice’. The goal is goodness. Even “ET” got that much right, when he said, “Be good” to the children, it wasn’t “be nice”. It is about the “hard and narrow way” and in the Way, it is about daily repentance and contrition and His costly forgiveness, putting to death the sin of niceness.

I close with Fr. Peter Toon’s last paragraph of his article.

“Maybe all who claim to be conservative and orthodox ought to try not to use the word nice for a month and see whether or not this helps us to think and to act as faithful Christians in the modern troubled Church.”


[i] An aside regarding contraception:  From Pope Paul IV’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, Of Human Life, (the one about The Pill), the section, Consequences of Contraception and in my opinion this is prophetic:

“Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.”

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: