God is with us in Word and Sacrament

The Holy Marriage of Gunnar Campbell & Bethany Glock

 The Holy Marriage of Gunnar Campbell & Bethany Glock

Ephesians 5:21–33


Today you rejoice, the church sings, and the company of heaven mingle their voices with ours. But even while we rejoice and sing, the world scoffs, and the demons rage. The world scoffs because it no longer understands the wisdom of patriarchy and submission. It is ignorant of the goodness of the patriarchy of our Father in heaven, and does not know the beauty of the submission of the Church to her head, Christ. But the demons rage because they do know. They rage for the same reason that you rejoice, the church and all heaven sings. They know it, but they hate it.

In Ephesians 5, St. Paul shows us that Holy Marriage is a reflection of, and the chief metaphor for, our relationship with God in Christ. After a whole list of duties that leave all of us squirming, he says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” So every marriage is a living and breathing, walking and talking proclamation of Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church.

What St. Paul is describing is the perfect, sacrificial love of Christ and the perfect, reciprocal submission of the sanctified Church. The Christ has given Himself up for the Church, to make her holy. He has cleansed her with water through the Word and presented her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, holy and blameless. Thus the Church submits to Him who died for Her without fear. She knows that He loves her, will never abuse, neglect, or harm her, and that she need not take care of herself, but trusts in Him to take care of her. This is what husbands and wives ought to be for each other: they ought to be like Christ and the Church. The husband loves by willingly laying down his life for his bride to present her holy and blameless, and the wife loves by submitting in respect to her husband as the one who lays his life down for her.

Sometimes love is easy. Sometimes our spouses are easy to love, when they’ve just done something nice for us, made our favorite meal, when they aren’t asking anything of us, when they make us look good. Sometimes they are kind to us, supportive, helpful, and our hearts swell with joy. When our spouses do these things for us, they’re easy to love.

But not always. Because sometimes they are lazy or grumpy. Sometimes wives don’t want to be wives and husbands don’t want to be husbands. Old wounds are re-opened. The demons who rage come running in. Families and marriages are at risk. How then can we stay the course, when one forgets and goes running back again to Egypt, looking for cucumbers and garlic and meat pots?

Christ cleanses His Bride with water through the Word to be radiant and blameless before Him. Mere mortals do this, that is, mere mortals love like God Himself on the cross, when they are filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is bestowed in Holy Baptism. It is not as though St. Paul just threw that water bit in there by accident. Baptism is foundational to faith, to salvation, and therefore Baptism is foundational to marriage. For such authority God has given on earth to men: the authority to forgive sins.

Christian marriage must be built upon, and live constantly in, the forgiveness of sins. If not, then it won’t simply cease to be a Christian marriage, but it will cease to be marriage altogether. We all live by grace. There is no other way we can live together with any semblance of health or happiness apart from forgiveness.

St. Paul tries to talk about marriage and ends up talking about Christ and His Sacrifice. Here is hope, not just for newlyweds but also for divorced and hurt and forgotten people. Here is hope for failures and cheats, for sinners. And if you are to have a holy marriage, a marriage that not only has been made by God, but that belongs to God, then there is nothing else. There is only Christ and Him crucified, risen from the dead to make you His radiant Bride by the forgiveness of sins.

There are bits wisdom here or there about how to make a man happy, or how to discipline your children, little tricks and strategies to keep romance alive and keep the conversation going and the like. No doubt, much of that is useful. If nothing else, there are ways we can make things worse. But that which enables men and women to actually consider sacrificing themselves for one another is the love of God in Christ, or else marriage is not holy. Yet, while there are ways we can be foolish and selfish, cultivating ignorances that invite temptation, there is only one thing that heals, encourages, strengthens, and forgives – and that, of course, is what St. Paul cares about: Christ and His sacrifice for the Church, Jesus alive, back from the dead, out of Joseph’s tomb, not angry, not vengeful, but breathing out His Holy Spirit infused Word, “Peace be with you. Your sins are forgiven.”

All of that is to say that I have no great advice, no words of wisdom, no suggestions or statistics or admonitions. I don’t know when pastors began starting every wedding sermon with divorce statistics, but I wish they’d stop. I don’t even have any pointless, half funny stories to give the false impression that I’m relevant and thus somehow less boring. Sorry. I am not that sort of pastor. But you didn’t come here for that. So I don’t really feel too bad. In any case, you’ve listened all this long while, and I have nothing more than what you already know, believe, hope, love, and trust: Jesus loves you. He is faithful. He makes marriage. He will see you through.

Come soon to the Sacrament. That is where our faith is fed, where marriage grows strong and hearts grow brave, where lips are opened to sing God’s praise and true joy is born. That is where the scoffing world is silenced and the demons that rage are driven away. Come soon to the Sacrament. Jesus loves you. Amen.


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