Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sermon: 2nd Sunday after Epiphany

14 January 2007 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: John 2:1-11 (Amos 9:11-15, Rom 12:6-16) (One Year Series)

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

It is telling that “the beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee” was at a wedding between a man and a woman “and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”

Weddings have always been a big deal. We think nothing of spending thousands of dollars and traveling hundreds of miles to attend them. They are one of the few things where tradition and ceremony are kept, for the most part, even by people who detest formality and despise doing things by the book.

Our Lutheran confessions (not to mention centuries of Christian tradition) even permit marriage to be called a “sacrament” – for something miraculous and mystical happens. Two separate and distinct individuals of opposite sexes and different psychologies are welded together into one flesh – thus making a new being, and yet a new being that fulfills, rather than destroys, the old separate beings.

It is at such an event that Jesus manifests His glory and demonstrates that he is the New Being that is both God and man, that even though He is one Jesus, He is a Being of Two Natures. Marriage itself is a sign of God, of Christ, and of His Kingdom.

For in spite of what pop musicians, politicians, pundits, and even preachers say, men and women are fundamentally different. They have different places in the kingdom. They are not simply interchangeable human-units with different plumbing. And yet, these two distinct forms of humanity become united at marriage – the union of which becomes a means through which God creates new men and women. It is a miracle!

And notice how Satan tries to undo the miracle and disrupt God’s creative plan: he uses divorce to rend asunder what God has joined together; he uses abortion to take the life that God has given; he uses greed as a means to delay or stop reproduction; and he uses our modern notion of equality to disrupt the ordered family life that God has designed for the good of all people and of society.

Satan also teaches us to accept the parts of the Christian faith that are in accord with our political or personal agendas, while rejecting those parts of the faith we don’t like. This is sometimes called “cafeteria Christianity” – where you might put the doctrine of the Trinity on your plate while leaving the sacraments safely behind the sneeze guard. Or you’ll heap a high helping of justification on your second trip to the buffet, while opting not to indulge in any sanctification.

This “buffet approach” is how most Americans of our day and age deal with the Christian faith. This is why the Athanasian Creed says: “Whoever will be saved shall, above all else, hold the catholic faith. Which faith, except everyone keeps whole and undefiled, without doubt he will perish eternally.” The word “catholic” means the faith in its holistic entirety. The faith is “catholic” and must be kept “whole and undefiled” – which means the Christian faith is not served “a la carte,” but rather we obediently eat everything the Lord places before us. That little word “catholic” in describing the faith is the very essence of submission. So when it comes to Christianity, we don’t have the choice to refuse to eat our broccoli. This is a very difficult concept for us to accept, we the people who gave the world Burger King and told them: “have it your way” and also turned the word “choice” into a political sacrament.

Nineteen centuries before the social revolution of the 1960s, St. Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, was forced to remind men and women of their divinely-ordered roles in creation, their vocation in married and family life. For even without our modern notions of equality and democracy, even apart from our American aversion to hierarchy and authority, even before TV sitcoms hypnotically pushed a topsy-turvy, anything-goes structure to the family, men and women were rebelling.

Paul reminds women, then and now, to submit to their husbands – as if your husband was the Lord Himself. Jesus, speaking through Paul, is telling us today that the husband is the divinely-ordered head of the household – a notion much mocked by our culture today.

Marriage is not a democracy. The husband is in charge of the family – or else God is a liar and the Christian faith is a fraud.

If the wife “wears the pants in the family” – she is as much guilty of sin as if she were having an affair with her husband’s best friend. And if a husband allows his wife to run the family, he is abdicating his God-given responsibility just as surely as Lucifer did when he refused the role God assigned to him.

Wives, you don’t run the home in a Christian household. You are to obey your husband. You are not to speak ill of him to your girlfriends. You must not show disrespect to your husband, especially in front of your children. When you do any of these things, you are showing contempt for the Lord Jesus Himself, and are personally driving the nails into His very hands at the cross. What our culture encourages, or at least finds amusing, is a very serious sin that threatens God’s orderly creation. And, you are also teaching your children to rebel against all authority.

Husbands, you run the home in a Christian household. You are to love your wives, as Christ loves the Church. You are never to lay a hand on her except to show affection and profound respect. You must never to utter a negative word about her to your friends. In front of your children, you must treat your wife with the respect due a queen, unless you want your children to rebel against her authority and yours – not to mention all divinely-ordered authority. You, men, are the ones charged with teaching the children to pray, taking them to church, setting the example for them as citizens of the Kingdom. Don’t force your wives to do what you need to be doing. If you won’t lead the family in prayer and bring the family to church, your wives are to be praised for honorably doing what needs to be done. But husbands, you are the family priest. When you fail to lead your family spiritually, you are sinning against God, and you are now the ones driving the nails in our Lord’s hands.

Being in charge doesn’t mean being a bully. In fact, it is the very opposite. It means sacrificing your wants and desires for the sake of the family. Being the head of the family has nothing to do with being macho, but rather has everything to do with fulfilling your calling as the household priest and protector. “With great power comes great responsibility” – a rare gem of wisdom from our pop culture, a true commentary on Christian vocation from an unlikely source: Spider Man. Being the head of the house is a burden, and a cross, but gentlemen, it is the cross our Lord has given to us, not to our wives, and not to our children.

The roles of men and women in family life are hard things for us to hear today, just as they were when Paul wrote the Church at Ephesis. We are not free to do what some have done and simply cut the divine order of creation out of the Christian faith. In mainstream Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, you will never hear a sermon on Ephesians 5 – since it has been chopped out of the modern lectionary. In many churches, the wedding vows themselves, which come from Ephesians 5, have been altered to make them more acceptable to modern man.

We, as the Church, are the bride of Christ. That means we must submit to him as our husband and obey His Word. Christianity is not a partnership between us and God. The Christian faith is not a power-sharing arrangement or a democracy. Jesus is our Lord and our King. We are His subjects. We are His bride. And just as He is the perfect husband who loves us, never abandons us, even dies for us – we owe it to Him to be a faithful bride.

Of course, we are not a perfect bride. As individuals and as a Church, we fail mightily. And yet, the good Husband does not abandon His bride in her wretchedness. He stands by us, forgives us, and lifts us up.

He has taken water from the thirty-gallon stone jars of the law and fulfilled the destiny of that water of purification, sweetening it into wine that the prophet Amos testifies is a sign of the Kingdom of God. The wine that Jesus gives is sweet, because it is the wine of His blood, of forgiveness, of life, and of salvation – of the Gospel. It is the wine of God’s divine order, where one man and one woman are bonded together to become one flesh, to unite into a family over which God rules through the leadership of the husband, where children submit to parents, where wife submits to husband, and where husband submits to God.

And when we sin by bucking this order, by asserting our own desires to either lead when we are called to follow, or to follow when we are called to lead, we need to repent. We need to confess, and we need to pray for the grace to do better. When our spouses are not doing what they need to be doing, we need to pray for them and respectfully implore them to do their duty. We need to be patient and forgiving, but we must understand what is at stake. For Satan understands that God’s order of creation allows the Kingdom to grow and thrive. He understands that his greatest weapons against the Kingdom are not only our flesh, our greed, our sloth, our envy, etc. but also the tools of feminism, of hatred of authority, of cafeteria-style religion, of personal choice over divine submission, and of various institutional attacks against the divinely-ordered sacrament of one man and one woman being united for the propagation of the world and of God’s Kingdom.

And even though it seems we have messed things up beyond repair, let us not forget that our Lord changes water into wine, miraculously bonds men and women together, and brings harmony out of disorder - just as he promises through the prophet Amos: “‘I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ says the Lord who does this thing.” Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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