Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sermon -- 20th Sunday after Pentecost (October 14, 2012)

GENESIS 2:18-24

In the name + of Jesus.

     Throughout the week of creation, the Lord assessed his work.  Repeatedly, as the universe was being formed and filled, the Lord reviewed his creation and made his assessment, “And it was good.”  Yet, on the sixth day, after all of the land animals had been created and after Adam and been formed and given life, the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18), or corresponding to him.
     To illustrate this to Adam, the Lord brought all of the animals to Adam.  While the Lord used the opportunity to have Adam name all of the animals, he also highlighted to Adam that nothing from the animal kingdom corresponded to him.  While they were flesh and bone, they were neither flesh of his flesh nor bone of his bone.  The animals came before Adam as male and female, but Adam had no female to correspond to him. Adam was shown that it would be good for him to have a wife.
     The Lord, therefore, created a woman for the man.  The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:21-24)  The Lord established a blessed union, and it is the divinely established pattern for every marriage since then.
     Marriage, however, has been taking quite a beating in our society.  Jesus declared in our gospel that Moses permitted divorce because hearts were hard.  Moses’ instructions were for divorce to be done in an orderly way, not that the Lord or Moses sanctioned divorce.  The letter to the Hebrews declares, “Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure.” (Hebrews 13:4)  But couples usurp the blessings of the marriage bed before they get married, or even without any intentions of getting married.  Then there are people who insist that those of the same sex should enjoy marriage, turning the very definition of marriage upon its head.  With that gaining traction, you can bet that people will soon be promoting polygamy.  While you may not be guilty of fornication in practice, you are likely guilty of it in your thoughts.  All of this flies defiantly in the face of God who declared marriage to be a blessed union and very good.
     But sadly, it comes as no surprise.  Man has always perverted that which God calls “very good.”  We pervert the use of food and drink, the use of money, television, and internet, and the gifts of marriage and sex.  God gives us people to love and things to use, but we end up loving things and using people.  We will defend anything as long as it pleases us and serves us.  You may be satisfied with your excuses, but God is not buying them.  God will never accept the perverted use of his gifts, nor will he ever call them very good.  Repent.
     From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’  ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:6-9)
     The Lord desires that marriage be recognized and honored as a blessed union for more than the practical reasons that it is the most stable place to raise children, that it allows for men and women to fulfill their sexual desires, and that a man and a woman be committed to one another for mutual companionship, support, and strength.  All of these are good reasons to honor marriage.  But ultimately, marriage is to be honored because the blessed union of husband and wife is a reflection of Jesus Christ and his Church.
     Just as it was with Adam and Eve, so it is with Jesus and his Bride, the Church.  When the Lord split open Adam’s side, he brought forth Adam’s bride from it.  When Jesus’ side was split open at the cross, it brought forth a sudden flow of blood and water.  From Jesus’ side, he gives his Bride life.  You have been born again through water and the word, which means that you are now delivered from sin, from guilt, and from death.  From Jesus’ side, he sustains his Bride’s life.  Jesus strengthens and keeps you in the one true faith by his body and blood.  Jesus has granted you life through the word and sacraments, and Jesus keeps you alive through the word and sacraments.
     Jesus has done all things for the good of his Bride, the Church.  He has suffered all pain, all shame, all guilt, and all punishment for the benefit of the Church.  He removes every sin from you.  Though innocent, he suffered and died for every way in which we perverted or warped or abused his good gifts, for every self-gratifying act, for every self-deceiving excuse, and for every act of defiance against God’s word.  As a loving Groom, he assumed our debt and paid the price.  He gave up all he had so that we would all be his.  Though baptism, he has united us to himself for all eternity.  The Lord has established a blessed union for our eternal good.
     When a man and woman are married, it is common that the man gives his name to his bride.  In doing so, he also pledges to give all that is his to her.  He vows to do all things for her benefit, for her protection, and for her well-being.  The wife submits to her husband so that she would receive all good things from him.  In a world of sinners, this does not always work out as the Lord has designed it.  But when we consider how Jesus Christ has blessed his Bride, the Church, we see what a blessed union is to be.  Jesus has put his name on you and has bestowed on you all the benefits of being the Lord’s.  Isaiah declares, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness … as a bride adorns herself with jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)  In baptism, Jesus clothed you in the righteousness you need for eternal life.  He marks you for a place in the heavenly wedding banquet.  He grants you divine peace and an eternal, glorious inheritance.  Jesus establishes a blessed union.
     Since you are the Church, the Bride of Christ, you strive to be faithful to him in all things.  Therefore, put off the perverting of his gifts.  Flee from the seductions of the world and from the deceptions of the devil.  Fear and love God so that you lead a chaste and decent life in words and actions.  Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure (Hebrews 13:4, emphasis added), for these are God’s good gifts to you.  When they are enjoyed as God has designed, they are good, pure, and beneficial.  Families are stronger.  Marriages are stronger.  And society is better.  Marriage should be honored by all, for it is the blessed union which has been established by God.  And your Savior, Jesus Christ, should be cherished by you, for he is God’s greatest gift to you.  He keeps you and sustains you in the saving faith.  He forgives you of all sins and sets apart for all good.  He gives you all that is his, for he has united you to himself in a blessed union for all eternity.  God has seen it, and it is very good. 

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