Monday, January 20, 2020

What Makes A Marriage?



Text: Ephesians 5:22-33

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

In our Epistle reading from Ephesians, St. Paul says that marriage is like a ‘profound mystery.” 

But what can be so profound about marriage? Boy meets girl, girl likes boy, boy gives girl ring, they get married and live happily ever after.  Right?  Well, no. 

You see, when a boy and girl get married, they do not form a marriage. Dear friends, I certainly do not intend to be rude, but when you and your spouse stood at an altar before a pastor and said, “I do,” a marriage was not created.  But rather, through the vows and the “I do’s,” you stepped into the estate of marriage.  Let me repeat that, every time there is a wedding, a marriage is not created.  But instead, a single man and a single woman take their place in this profound institution of marriage that God established at the beginning of time. 

And so, contrary what the wedding magazines and Hollywood Movies say, a wedding day is not solely about the bride – it isn’t the bride’s day.  The bride, with her fiancĂ©, is one small piece to a much bigger puzzle.  That is to say, a wedding day and ceremony are about marriage, and marriage is a profound picture of the Gospel. They profound picture of Christ and His relationship to the church 

And so, as a man and woman take their places within a marriage, they are stepping into new vocations. As they say their vows, a brand new role in life is created for them as a husband or a wife. However, we must keep in mind that as husband and wife, there is an already established way in how these roles function. For example, in marriage a husband and wife are certainly ‘not’ stepping into positions where they will fight for dominance, power, and control over each other, for this is not what the estate of marriage is about, and it is not how Christ treats His bride, the church. Indeed, the role of husband and wife in marriage is not combative, competitive, manipulative, or self-serving. But rather, the roles of a husband and wife in marriage are places where the husband and wife are sanctified in love and service to one another. 

Let me speak very specifically today to you married men and women.  You have taken place within the estate of marriage, where you are joined to one another. You are joined together spiritually, emotionally, and sexually. Therefore, as you are joined to one another, your roles in marriage are not where you strive to be the boss. Contrary to the comedy shows we often watch, the relationship between a man and woman is not a cage match fight to see who gets their way.  Marriage is not characterized by conflict to be supreme court manipulate the children to get your way, for this is not how it is with Christ and His church.  If there is any conflict in marriage, it should not be between you and your wife, or you and your husband. But rather, if there is any conflict, it should be against the sinful nature within you.  If there is any conflict in marriage, it should not be with each other but against your stubborn-selfish-inward-seeking-pathetic-sinful-nature that does not want to uphold your spouse.

Let me state this as plainly and clearly as possible: Men, as you step into the Lord’s estate of marriage, you become a husband.  And as a husband, you are called to deny your desire to callously assert yourself, like a rooster strutting in the henhouse. Instead of being the King of the Hill, you are called to die to your selfish desires, ambitions, and dreams. You are called to lay down your life – your thoughts, words, and deeds – for your wife.  However, when you put your wife number two, while watching reruns of The Simpsons and drinking Miller Light, you are not only demonstrating the exact opposite of what it means to be a husband, but are acting like a little boy. 

Husbands, Jesus today asks you to love your wives with the same sort of love that He has for His church.  It is a love that keeps no record of wrongs.  It is a love that forgives and serves and does so with joy and gladness. It is a love that is willing to sacrifice everything, even death if necessary.  Yes, it is a love that is willing to die for your wife – instead, if that death would perhaps occur in physically defending your bride on a battlefield or perhaps even death through shopping with your wife at Kohls. 

And today, Jesus not only asks you, husbands, to do this for your wives, but He also gives Himself to you in His body and blood so that His forgiveness and love might be in you and might be your love for your wife.  What a profound gift!

And wives, let me attempt to say this as plainly and clearly as possible.  As wives within the Lord’s estate of marriage, you are called to deny your desire to assert yourself through manipulating your husbands’ responses.  As a wife, you are called to love and submit to your husband, just as the Church herself delights in submitting to Christ, and Christ Himself submits to the Father.  However, when you sigh and roll your eyes behind your husband’s back, while complaining to other women about how he can’t do anything right, you are being the exact opposite of what it means to be a wife.  You are acting like a cliquey mean girl from high school. 

Wives, today, Jesus asks you to love your husbands with the same sort of love that Christ’s church is supposed to have for Jesus.  That love is a love that strives to please and to honor and be loyal to your husband in all things.  It is a love that seeks to put the best construction on your husband - even if that means excusing yourself from a group of women gossiping over yummy appetizers and cocktails at a local bar’n’grill.

And today, Jesus not only asks you to do this, but He also gives Himself to you in his body and blood so that His love might be in you and might be your love for your husband.  Again, what a profound gift!

It should be really clear right about now that marriage is not some magic pill that you take, and everything is made instantaneously great.  Furthermore, marriage is not some magic wand that is waved over you by the pastor at the altar to make your fairytale dreams come true.  But rather, marriage is real, it is gritty, and it grounds you in the good times and bad times.  To the point, marriage is that age-old institution that God first created to hold a bride and groom within.  Since marriage is the Lord’s design, a bride and groom not only belong to each other through love and trust but they belong to Christ amid the good times and bad.  Marriage is that estate that holds a husband and wife in sickness and health, poverty and riches, persecution and joy, repentance and faith. 

And so, husbands remember that you stand in the estate of marriage; therefore, learn to die for your wife in self-sacrifice.  And more, confess your sins boldly and more boldly hear the forgiveness of your sins in Christ, for He certainly died for you.

Wives remember that you stand in the estate of marriage; therefore, learn to grant respect and esteem to your husband.  And more, confess your sins boldly and more boldly hear the forgiveness of your sins in Christ, for Jesus submitted to your sin on the cross, claiming them as His own. 

And there you have it Baptized Saints!  You have just heard why marriage is like a profound mystery. Indeed, marriage is like the profound mystery of Christ and His love for the church.  Loving, dying, sacrificing, submitting, and respecting… not competing, fighting, dominating, and manipulating.  This is the profound-ness of marriage.

Husbands and future husbands walk in this high, and holy calling of marriage as a husband with your eyes fixed on the hope of Christ. 

Wives and future wives, walk in this high and holy calling of marriage as a husband with your eyes fixed on the hope of Christ.

What a high and holy calling, what a wonderful gift the Lord calls us into – a gift He gives to us all! 

The Lord bless and keep you within the places you have taken as husband and wife, in the profound mystery of marriage. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

Portions of this sermon are inspired by and indebted to Norman Nagel's sermon on Ephesians 5:21-33.

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Jesus: All The Way Down To The Bottom





Text: John 1:1-18

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

There was an old professor that once wrote today’s Gospel reading on a dusty old blackboard.  He wrote:

“And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.”

Once he got done writing John chapter one, verse 14, he paused and underlined the words, “the Word became flesh.”  But then he paused again and said, “No, that isn’t right.”  So, he erased the blackboard and walked away from the front toward the students in the classroom.  He walked between the desks to the middle of the classroom and got down on his hands and knees with his chalk.  Taking the chalk, he wrote on the floor, “The Word became flesh.” Yes, you heard that right; he wrote, “The Word became flesh,” on the floor by the student's feet.  Once he got done writing, he dusted his hands off, got up, and said, “That is much better.”

The professor then looked at the students while pointing to the floor, saying,

“The Word [Jesus] became what’s sitting in your chair [- He became a man].  Jesus came all the way down to where you are [by being born].  There is no distance for you to go to get to Him.  No ladders for you to travel up.  He's at the bottom with you.”

Dear friends, this is what John means when he says, “The Word [Jesus] became flesh.”  This is what Christmas is all about.  Christmas is about Jesus coming to the bottom to be with you and me.[1]  The Son of God put on human flesh to place Himself right alongside you and me. 

Now, we must be careful at this point to understand that when Jesus put on human flesh to come to the bottom to be with us that He did not somehow lose His Majesty.  To get to the bottom to be with humanity, Jesus did not have to empty Himself of what is called His divine nature.  He did not have to strip off his divinity to put on humanity.  He did not have to become ‘less’ God to become ‘more’ human.  No, Jesus is fully God; however, when He put on human flesh in the womb of Mary and was born in Bethlehem, He had to become humble.  Yes, humble.

If you think about it, Jesus putting on human flesh and being born in Bethlehem is the exact opposite of what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. 

Adam and Eve, they wanted to be like God so they turned inward to their desires and their wisdom. Adam and Eve looked inward to their greatness and upward because they  wanted to be as wise as God. However, Christ is the exact opposite. He turned away from His divine heavenly majesty and turned outward to humanity by putting on human flesh to come down to the bottom to be with us.

Dear friends, pride turns humanity – you and me – inward to our so-called greatness and causes us to want to climb to the heights of power and prestige. The humility of Christ does the opposite.  His humility turned Him outward in love to you and me and caused Him to descend to the depths of the weakness of our sin to be with us. 

And so, we must never forget that there in Bethlehem’s cave was no hopeless babe but the humble hope of the world.  There in Israel was no dim light, but the humble radiant dawn over a humanity shrouded in the darkness of sin. There in that manger was humble salvation and victory for sinners – hope and future for sinners.  Yes, in that dark cave was the God-Man Jesus Christ with all of His majestic powers, but powers He abstained from using due to His humility.

So, what this means is that no matter your circumstances and no matter how low and dark you are in your sins, you have the Son of God right there with you.  Even if you are experiencing grief or are sick or are lonely and depressed – if you feel like your stain of sin is too much – do not despair.   Do not despair but give glory to God.  Give glory because the message of Christmas is that the Son of God came and put Himself right into the depths of this messed up world to be your Savior to bear your sin.  The Lord Jesus Christ – the Word – became flesh so that He might be a brother to you so that you might approach Him without fear, but approach Him in faith.  Yes, He is not only your Creator and Redeemer but a brother to you – like you in flesh and blood. 

Dear Baptized Saints, Jesus is the exact kind of Savior that you need.  If Jesus did not have His divine nature, you would be stuck in your sins because only God can forgive sins. And if Jesus did not put on human flesh with humility, well, he would be an apathetic God and we would be stuck in our sins.

Jesus came in humility so that He might not terrify us but show mercy by nestling in a manger. This God-Man – Jesus Christ - is not our enemy. He is flesh and blood like you and me. He absorbs our sin and suffers and dies on the cross for you and me. He is God with us in our sin and shame.  .

This is the Good News of Christmas.  Christ did not come to be too high and lofty for sinners. Christ also did not lose His divine Majesty in putting on human flesh. But He came in humility to sink so low that none of your sins could escape His humble life and humble death on the cross for you.  There is no distance between Him and you. 

Merry Christmas, the Word became flesh to come all the way down to you.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 





[1] This story is about Norman Nagel.  It is indebted to William Weedon’s sermon on John 1:1-14. 


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