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Holy Marriage 101

August 23, 2015


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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost                       Trinity Lutheran Church

23 August 2015                                                          Murdock, NE


+ Jesu Juva +


Ephesians 5:22-33


Fasten your seat belts everyone. We’re off and running. Along the way I pray that you will be repented and faithed.


So I’ll get right to it. No need to mess around. No pulling any punches today. I will say what needs to be said because you are baptized Christians. As such, you will repent of your sin and rejoice that Jesus has died FOR YOU the sinner. In addition, as a Christian you no longer want to live according to your will, your words and your desires but you want to do God’s will and to live according to His Word. Isn’t that right? That’s what I thought! Excellent! Most excellent!


Well, here goes. Let’s call this sermon Holy Marriage 101. Back to the basics. What’s fundamental. Holy Marriage is a two-way street. However, the two ways are the same. Check it out.


A word to the women: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”


A word to the men: “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”


Notice these words take it for granted that holy marriage is divinely intended only for a man and woman for life. That’s the way God created it. That’s Genesis 1 and 2. Read it sometime today or this week. You’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.


The husband is the head of the marriage. The wife is the body of the marriage. As head, the husband is responsible for the success or the failure of the marriage. As the body, the wife is given to help her husband fulfill his responsibility to be the head! THIS IS GOD’S WORD AND ORDER FOR HOLY MARRIAGE.


I know. I know. Pop culture, Hollywood, the Kardashians, Lady Gaga the TV talking heads, the unbelieving world and your old sinful natures are rocked to the core by these words from Ephesians 5. They all falsely believe that it is totally beneath a woman’s dignity to be ordered to a man in this way. They all firmly hold that it is the stupidest thing in the universe for a man to give up his life for his wife.


But you’re Christians! You have experienced God’s immense and tender mercies in the Good Friday Crucified and Graveyard Dead Jesus. His all-sufficient-sin-forgiving and sin-cleansing divine blood in Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution and Holy Communion has humbled you. Only you Christians have begun to comprehend and marvel at these words from the text: “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”


So, again, St. Paul speaks to all you believing women today: “Wives, out of reverence for Good Friday Who Died FOR YOU Jesus, submit to your husbands in all things as to the Lord.”


Well, guys, I’m going to tell you something that you’ve never ever heard from a preacher. It is this. I give you my complete permission to not pay attention. Those words to the wives are none of your business. They’re not addressed to you. And you better not use those words as a club to bludgeon your wives to be obedient-like slaves. Gentlemen, the Lord has words for you. You’ll have your turn in a few moments.


Wives, those words are for you alone. Submit (or order your life as wife) to your husband as the head of your household, just as the church submits (order her life as wife) to Christ as her head. Ladies, arranging and organizing your life as wife IS YOUR WEDDING GIFT to your husband. This is precisely the unique contribution that you bring into your marriage as a Christian wife.


Let’s face it. A ship with two captains wrecks on the rocks. A car with two drivers lurches into the ditch. A nation without leadership is anarchy. A household with two heads produces a splitting 24-7-365 migraine headache and the marriage won’t last very long.


The head of the marriage is the husband. The body of the marriage is the wife. The wife’s place is to help her husband be the head of the household. Satan knew exactly what he was doing when he approached Eve instead of Adam. Satan was all about overthrowing God’s very good order of creation – turning and flipping holy marriage upside down. Standing marriage literally on its head. Sadly, it worked. Ever since Genesis 3, holy marriage in the way God instituted it has been under Satan’s dizzying spell.


The woman that will not “respect” her husband as her head dishonors her head AND she dishonors Christ. So I’ve got news for all you unmarried gals. If you don’t want to “submit” to a man as a wife, then don’t get married. Seriously. You do have that choice. Marriage is not something that’s divinely mandated. Every person is not suited for this estate. The option that you have is single celibacy. Heavy emphasis on the word: CELIBACY.


But let’s get back to that word “submit.” What does that mean? It means this. It means to be ordered under someone. It is the same word that is used for Jesus’ relationship to His Father. God the Son Jesus is “ordered under” God the Father in the same way that the church is ordered under Jesus. Children are ordered under parents. Citizens are ordered under the governing authorities. Hearers are ordered under their preachers. Do you get it now? Ultimately everyone is ordered under someone. It’s the way God created relationships.


So, the Christian wife that is ordered under her husband is a picture of the church ordered under Jesus. A wife’s beauty runs deeper than designer clothes, the sculptings from plastic surgeries, fancy fingernails, extravagant hairstyles and jewelry, and exquisite makeup just as the church’s beauty is not in her stained glass windows, pipe organs and programs. The Christian wife shines from within with the light of Christ! She reflects the beauty of her baptism. She takes her place with the honored women of the Bible – with Sarah the mother of Israel. She brings honor to her household and her husband “out of reverence for Christ.” Se fears the Lord and serves Him by the faithful respect she gives to her husband. The wife’s business is to respect her husband as her head.


Now, it’s time for me to speak to the men. Listen up gentlemen. Open your ears and your hearts. Ladies, you can take a break.


Here is the Lord’s word for the men. Your responsibility. Your unique task that you bring to your marriage. “Husbands, out of reverence for Christ, love your wives in the same way that Christ loved the church.” All right guys, your business is to love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave His life in to death on Good Friday’s cross.


Yes, Jesus laid down His life for His bride. He literally took the bullet for her. Stripped and beaten, nailed to the tree, He loved her to death. He loved her when she wasn’t so loveable. That kind of sacrificial, unconditional love is what you bring to the wedding table, the wedding bed, and the wedding life. It’s your gift to your bride. Out of reverence for Christ!


From His Good Friday death on the Cross Jesus bathes His bride with water and the Word of Holy Baptism. He cleanses her from every spot, every blemish, every wrinkle, every fault, every sin. Jesus doesn’t remind His bride of her weaknesses and imperfections. He refuses to see them. In His eyes she is radiant. Spotless. Perfect. Like a bride on her wedding day. (By the way, that’s why brides wear white on their wedding days. Not because they’re pure in themselves but because Jesus has cleansed them with the washing of Baptism’s water and His forgiving word.) Wives in their wedding gowns are pictures of the church in Baptism.


As Jesus sees the church through Baptism, so you husbands are given to see your wives. To see them through the lens of Good Friday. To love your wife sacrificially. To cherish her. Care for her. Dote over her. After all, she is one flesh with you. She is the body of your family of which you are the head. Husband, you are responsible for the well being of your wife and your family. Your headship is for service. Headship is not a license to boss her or to hurt her. The husband that dominates and abuses his wife, that violates his headship for his own selfish interests, DISHONORS his own body. AND he dishonors God.


Guys, let me give you an example of what this Christ-like love for your wife looks like. Imagine that you’re watching this interaction on Netflix between a surgeon and a married couple in the hospital room. It goes like this. It comes from Richard Seltzer’s book, Mortal Lessons. The surgeon narrates the episode.


I stand by the bed where a young woman lies. Her face post-operative. Her mouth is twisted in a clownish, palsied look. A tiny twig of the facia nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth has been severed. She will be disfigured from now on. During surgery I followed with religious fervor the curve of her face. Nevertheless, in order to remove the tumor I had to cut the little nerve.


“Her young vibrant husband is by her side. Together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight. Isolated from me. Private. Who are they I ask myself? He and this wry-mouth I have made? Who gaze at and touch each other so generously? So greedily?


The young wife finally speaks. She asks me, “Will my mouth always be like this?”


“Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.”


She nods. She’s silent.


Then her husband smiles. “I like it,” he declares! “It’s kind of cute.”


All at once I know who he is. I understand. I lower my gaze. Unmindful, the husband bends to kiss her crooked mouth. I see how he tests his own lips to accommodate hers. To show her that their kiss still works. I held my breath and let the wonder in.  

“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” The Christian man who loves his wife unconditionally and sacrificially, who conforms his kiss to her contorted lips, is a picture of Christ, the one true God who conformed Himself to our human frailty to save us. That man is a picture of how Jesus deals with us — His wayward and wandering church. Think of the church in all her weakness – all the sinning, the sniping, bickering and backbiting that goes on. BUT JESUS STILL LOVES HER. He forgives her. He feeds her. He cares for her. He calls her His own body.


Brothers and sisters, let’s be honest. There is so much to confess with regard to holy marriage. As Christians we have set a horrible example for the world. In our marriages, we have shown them everything except Christ the Bridegroom and His bride the church. Wives have rejected the headship of their husbands. Husbands have not loved their wives sacrificially. Our sinful nature still gets between husbands and wives. Our old Adam and old Eve makes a mess of God’s very good gift of holy marriage. Christian marriages fail with an alarming frequency. Marriage counselors and divorce lawyers do a booming business with Christians as their primary clientele.


Well, we all need to look in the mirror of our own marriages. Wives, have you honored your husbands as the head of your household? No you haven’t. Husbands, have you loved your wives sacrificially and without conditions? Of course you haven’t. This is precisely what erodes and destroys the foundations of a marriage.


So, husbands and wives need to do something regularly. Habitually. Confess your sins to one another. And even more importantly, forgive each other as God has forgiven you of everything the bloody Good Friday death of Jesus. You need to be cleansed by the water and the Word. You need to lay all your failures at the foot of the cross in order to reflect Christ and the church. You need to have the sweet sound and good news of Christ’s forgiveness ringing in your ears through absolution, the gospel preached and at the Lord’s Table.


St. Paul says, “Look here folks. I’ll let you in on a little secret. A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh. You thought that was just about husbands and wives. But the big secret is that this is about Jesus Christ and His church.”


Yes, Jesus left the side of His Father in heaven. He left His mother Mary standing at the foot of the cross next to the beloved disciple John. Jesus hung on the cross and died with the entire sin of the world and all your sin resting on Him. That was His wedding day. It was the day He gave His life for His bride. Jesus is the second and last Adam, the head of new humanity. And from His wounded side, was formed His Eve, His bride, the church. She is washed and cleansed in the water and the Word. Yes, Jesus was joined to sinners on His cross and you are joined to Him through Holy Baptism. You are one-fleshed with Him in His death and resurrection.


Jesus restores you with His perfect, sacrificial love. He gives you His perfect obedience and submission. In this life you and I can never have marriage perfectly. We can never perfectly reflect Christ and His Church. Old Adams and Old Eves fight against this.


But here is what we in the meantime. We can receive holy marriage in the way the Lord gave it. We can repentantly live in holy marriage. We can live forgivingly in holy marriage – forgiving one another as Jesus has forgiven us. We can receive each other through Jesus who loved us and gave Himself into death for us all.


Husband and wife. Loving and submitting to each other out of reverence for Christ. Holy Marriage 101.


In the Name of Jesus.

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