Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22)
4 October 2009
Today: a heart to heart. A frank conversation about what God says about marriage and about divorce. This may be the last sermon you allow me to preach here. Maybe not. But you did call me to preach God’s Word. And I will do so today and I pray that you will be edified and comforted. So here goes.
In His Word God speaks. He tells us what is on His mind. What is His good and gracious will for all of us regarding marriage. We are given to listen. To hear. To receive what God says and gives in His Word.
Again. God speaks. And we, His died for and redeemed people, are given to receive what He says in childlike faith. In childlike faith. Childlike faith. Like the little ones who gladly hear and learn what God says.
Marriage goes all the way back the beginning. Before sin. Before death. On the sixth day God instituted marriage. An estate from Him. A gift from the Lord for a man and a woman. For life.
All the animals had a mate. But not Adam. He was alone. Can’t be fruitful and multiply on your own. And that’s not good. So the Lord rolls up His sleeves and goes to work. For Adam. Puts Adam to sleep. A deep sleep. And from his side the Lord fashions/builds a woman. A wife. A mate. A helper suitable for Adam.
The Lord gives her to Adam to be his wife. “Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” Adam’s delighted with the Lord’s gift. And so is Eve. The first marriage. Not a marriage made in heaven. A marriage made within the Lord’s good creation. From the beginning.
God gives. Adam and Eve receive. In childlike faith. Trust. God knows what He’s doing. We love what He gives. God blesses what He gives.
And so, because of the Lord’s institution of marriage from the beginning a “man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.”
Marriage has been instituted by the Lord Himself. It is adorned with God’s most holy Word. We are to receive marriage from Him as His gift and live in it according to His Word. The estate of holy marriage originated with the Lord when He gave Eve to Adam and Adam to Eve in the Garden.
If you believe that marriage belongs to you, then what? Then you can do anything you want with it. Like a car, a house, a dress, a pair of shoes – when you get tired of it – when you fall out of love with it– you get rid of it. Get out of it. Even by mutual consent. No fault divorce as it’s called today. Or if marriage belongs to you then you can decide who marries who. A man can “marry” a man. A woman can “marry” a woman. Or you can pull a David Letterman.
But the holy estate of marriage doesn’t belong to you, to me, a state legislature, a supreme court, or a church wide assembly. It is not ours to tinker around with as we please. It’s the Lord’s. He gives it in the way He gives it for our benefit. A man and a woman (Adam & Even) for life.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.”
The two become “one flesh.” That’s God’s doing according to His own Word. The Lord calls the husband and wife “one flesh.” That’s why Jesus says: “What God has joined together let no one separate.”
Husband and wife are one flesh. God says so. And His Word does what it says. When you’re “one” fleshed the husband is given to live for his wife. When you’re “one” fleshed the wife is given to live for her husband. The husband is not live for himself. The wife is not to live for herself. They are one flesh. They live for each other’s benefit.
That’s why the wedding vows go like this: “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part . . . and I pledge you my faithfulness.”
God hates divorce. It is not His will. Divorce separates what God has joined together. Divorce is a radical surgery done with a very dull and blunt blade. It’s never pretty. Never clean. No matter how copasetic we try to make it. Divorce for whatever reason leaves gaping wounds and ugly scars. It is very, very painful. I liken divorce to a death because the one flesh union between the husband and wife is ripped apart.
And yet divorce happens. Even among us Lutheran Christians. We don’t live in the Garden of Eden. We are post Garden of Eden sinners. And we’re good at it. Skilled experts at coming up with all kinds of loopholes and even religious reasons to justify our actions. We live in a divorce happy / crazy society.
No wonder the liturgy for holy marriage tells us that marriage should not be entered into inadvisedly or lightly. But reverently, deliberately, and in the way God instituted it. In other words, if you’re thinking about getting married, you should know the person you want to marry very well. You should know the family into which you’re marrying. The person you marry should have the same faith in Jesus, be able to pray, worship, and commune at the same altar as you do. You ought to be rather picky about whom you plan to marry. For divorce is just too easy. And it is not God pleasing.
But instead of blaming others or complaining about our wicked society, we should rather do what is God pleasing. And that is to confess our sin and to humbly, as beggars, plead for God’s complete and total pardon for the sake of Jesus His Son.
If you life has been broken from a divorce or divorces, bring your brokenness, your sin and all your heartache to Jesus. No excuses. No loopholes. No blame games. Just lay it all before Jesus and say: “I’m so sorry Jesus. I broke it.”
And Jesus is big enough to handle it. To carry it. To answer for it. To heal your life. In John 4 the Samaritan woman whose life had been devastated by five divorces and who was living with a man not her husband, learned this to her immense joy. So did the adulterous woman drug before Jesus in John 5 when He said to her: “I do not condemn you. Go your way. From now on sin no more.”
With Jesus there is forgiveness. Pardon. And through absolution: healing. His Blood cleanses you from all sin. The sins you’ve committed. The sins that have been committed against you. His Blood gives you a clean conscience before God. You can confidently say: “Yes, I’ve sinned. Yes, I’ve been sinned against. But Jesus has rendered a verdict. And He says that He’s died for me. That He doesn’t count my sin against me any longer.”
Such forgiveness from Jesus sets you free. To live in faith toward Him and love for others. Love for your spouse if you’re married or remarried. Living for your spouse and not for yourself.
Christ’s forgiveness even frees you to speak “I forgive you,” to an ex-spouse. Even if that ex insists on living as your enemy. After all, Jesus is in the middle of everything. In the middle of all our relationships. Reigning among sinners with His abundant and all sufficient forgiveness from His bloody death. He lords His Good Friday death over all your sin today in the Sacrament of the Altar with His promise: “This cup is the new testament in My blood which is shed for the forgiveness of your sin.”
In the Name of Jesus.