Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sermon: Epiphany 2 – 2014

19 January 2014

Text: John 2:1-11 (Ex 33:12-23, Eph 5:22-33)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Lord’s first miracle happened at a wedding feast in the city of Cana.  Then, just as they are today, weddings were a big deal.  They unite two people and they unite two families.  Weddings bless the union through which the Lord creates children.  There is tradition and protocol to be followed.  There are many details to attend to.  And weddings are a big deal because marriage is a big deal. 

On this day, a detail was forgotten.  Somebody messed up.  There was not enough wine.  This is a huge deal, as wine is crucial for the celebration.  What a terrible embarrassment for the couple!  An argument might even erupt between the families.  This could jeopardize everyone’s happiness.

But Jesus steps in, takes the burden upon Himself, covers the transgression, and in the end, using His divine power, “manifested His glory” by serving the good wine when all that was left was water and all that was expected was mediocrity.

The image of the wedding feast is all over Scripture.  Eternity is described as just such a feast.  Jesus is described as the Church’s husband, and the Church is described as our Lord’s bride.  We are to respect Him unconditionally, and He is to love us unconditionally, laying down His life for us.  And we are to respect Jesus even when He doesn’t do things the way we want, even when we are in a bad mood, and even when we wonder whether He still loves us.  And Jesus is to love us even when we are unlovable, even when we spit on Him, crucify Him, and murder Him out of selfishness and spite.

Unconditional love and unconditional respect are demanded and expected in the marriage between Christ and the Church.

St. Paul teaches us that the human institution of marriage is a profound mystery, and that “it refers to Christ and the church.”  And indeed, St, Paul gives us careful instructions from God Himself about how married people are to live.  And there is nothing more controversial at this time in history than marriage.

Everything is up for grabs as governments and societies seek to redefine marriage: who can be married?  How many can be married?  When may it end?  The biblical view that a marriage is between a man and a woman and is a lifelong union has given way to all sorts of legal definitions of marriage.  And even among Christians, feminism has redefined marriage into something quite different than the biblical model that St. Paul reveals to us by means of the Holy Spirit.

Some churches that claim the name Lutheran even go so far as to say that we can ignore this because society doesn’t approve.  Some pastors actually remove the word “submit” from the wedding vows because women don’t like that word. 

Who does like the word “submit”?  Certainly not our sinful flesh.  Wives do not like to submit to their husbands, and men do not like to submit to God by placing their wives first.  And maybe this explains why marriage is such a touchy subject for Christians and non-Christians alike.

On one occasion, I conducted a wedding, and when this text was read, people laughed out loud.  They laughed at God’s Word, dear friends.  Could the Bride of Christ be any more disrespectful to her Bridegroom than to laugh at His Word and to mock the very thing that He, who died for us, has revealed to us in His love and mercy?

The Lord tells us that men and women are different.  It isn’t politically correct, but neither is the entire Bible.  It doesn’t conform to our modern and postmodern worldview, but then again, neither does the Gospel.  If you want a religion that reinvents itself with every human fad and philosophy, then become something other than a Christian.  If you want to be a Christian man or woman, you must submit to His Word, dear friends.  And that Word simply has different instructions for husbands and wives.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church…. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her….  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”

So, husbands, you must be willing to give up everything for the sake of your wife – up to and including your very life.  You are to love her unconditionally, even when she is not so loveable.  For you husbands aren’t always very loveable yourselves sometimes.  You husbands should never badmouth your wife to your friends.  You husbands should not treat your wife the way men do on TV shows.  Do you honestly love your wife the way Christ loves the Church?  If not, you must repent. 

And wives, you must submit in everything to your husbands.  You are to respect him unconditionally, even when he isn’t so respectable.  For you wives aren’t very respectable yourselves sometimes.  You wives should never badmouth your husbands to your friends.  You wives should not treat your husbands the way women do on TV shows.  Do you honestly respect your husband the way the church respects Christ?  If not, you must repent. 

And in case you missed it, St. Paul repeats himself: “Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”  St. Paul lays out different requirements for husbands and wives.  Husbands, you are to love; wives you are to respect.  Husbands, you do not have the freedom to do whatever you want without first and always considering whether it is the most loving thing to your wife.  And wives, you do not wear the pants in the family.  If the husband does not love and the wife does not respect, this will cause marital strife that will ultimately destroy a marriage.  And that is a far worse fate than running out of wine on the wedding day.

Again, this is not politically correct.  We don’t want to hear this.  We all think we know better than God.  We all think it applies to the other spouse.  And some people will say that this is only Paul’s word, not God’s Word.  And again, dear friends, if you have a problem with this passage, your issue is with God.   You and God are not both right.  One of you is wrong.

But the good news, dear friends, is that even though we all fail miserably, as human beings, as Christians, as spouses, remember that our Bridegroom is perfect (unlike all of us husbands, we poor miserable sinners), and that He has died for us, though we fail to give him proper respect (as do all wives, every poor miserable sinner).  When we fail to love and respect, we have a Savior who loves us, who respects the Father, and who was obedient and submissive even to the cross, who gave Himself up for us, “that He might sanctify [us], having cleansed [us] by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that [we] might be holy and without blemish.”

And this promise is for you, dear husbands, when you fail to love your wife, when you are childish and selfish, when you forget that you are to be like Christ, unselfish and living for the sake of her who pledged her very life for you.  And this promise is for you, dear wives, when you are disrespectful and domineering, when you forget that you are to be like the Church, submissive and building up the one who pledged to lay down his very life for you.

And just as a “man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh,” so does Christ leave His Father to die for us, dear friends, for all sinful men and sinful women: married, single, divorced, or widowed.  Jesus has bound Himself to all of us in our sinfulness and His righteousness, and He has saved the best wine of all until now, as we forgiven sinners become one flesh with Him in the wine of His blood and in union with His body.  Let us respect the Lord who loves us.  Let us submit to His Word.  For He has promised His people, His bride: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Amen.


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