"Grafted as One into Christ"
Elizabeth Weigle/Donald Novacek Wedding
St. John 15:4-5, 9
September 18, 2008
Eighteenth Week after Pentecost
James Arthur Vineyards, Raymond, Nebraska
IN NOMINE JESU
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, especially Donnie and Liz, my dear sister,
This text is no ordinary wedding sermon text. Then, again, this is no ordinary wedding. The brother of the bride is celebrating the Rite of Holy Matrimony rather than your pastor. The wedding is taking place outdoors at a vineyard rather than in a church sanctuary. Even the couple is not ordinary; the groom is marrying after a half of a century of life, and the bride is being blessed by marrying for the second time. Please do not misunderstand me: these are not complaints but merely observations of the unusualness of this wedding this evening. In fact, I was about to remark about the unusualness of the bride, my oldest sister. What can I say? Among other things, I can gladly say that through you, Liz, the Lord has blessed me with the gifts of the greatest niece and nephew an uncle could ever want. It is good for us to remember that the Lord Himself acts in ways we do not expect, coming in human flesh, bleeding and dying on the cross in our place, for our forgiveness, which He gives to us in His Word as it is read and proclaimed, and attached to ordinary water and to ordinary bread and wine.
These words of our Lord in our text came at a most unusual time as well. He spoke these words to His disciples on Maundy Thursday evening, the night on which He instituted His Last Supper and was betrayed. He was about to leave His disciples for the cross. Their hearts were heavy, for the Lord had prophesied about His death. He gave them words of comfort, that He would abide in them; He would always be present with them, for He had given them His very Word, the same Word which created the world, the same Word which has given us the holy estate of matrimony, saying through Moses, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Our Lord comforts us in and through His Word. He gives us comfort that, as we abide in Him, He has promised to abide in us. He makes you this same promise this evening and always—not just for your wedding but also for your marriage.
You see, through Holy Matrimony the Lord is taking two branches and grafting them into one. He who created the branches by a word also grafts them by a word. He is grafting you two into one branch, grafting you into the Vine that is Christ the Lord. There is more to this grafting than just the two of you becoming one, one in each other and one in the Lord. There are two more branches that must be included—two branches smaller in stature but equal in importance—the branches that are Mikayla and David. Not only are you two being grafted into one couple, but the four of you are being grafted into one family…one family in Christ and under Christ. You four have all been branches of the Vine through Holy Baptism. Now you become members of the same branch, connected to the same Vine, Jesus Christ, through this holy estate.
For this marital and familial branch named Novacek to grow and prosper spiritually, it is important that the branch be and remain firmly rooted, rooted in Christ, the Root of Jesse. As St. Paul writes, "Remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you" (Rom. 11:18b). It is Christ who supports you, doing so in the Divine Service, giving you His Word and His body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, given in, with, and under the bread and wine. However, as a branch you wither away if you make it a point to stay away from the Lord's house. You wither on account of the sins you have committed and not yet repented, sins you have committed separately as well as collectively and for which you've not yet sought the Lord's forgiveness. These are signs of a branch not bearing fruits, fruits in keeping with repentance, as John the Baptizer would say. This is true of each and every one of us, for we all daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment, as long as we do not repent of our sins. So that we branches would bear fruit, God the Father, the Vinedresser, prunes us, using as His pruning shears His Holy Spirit, convicting us in our sins, convicting us by His Law. This is contrition. This is to bring us to repentance. This is to turn us away from our sins and toward our Lord, who earnestly and eagerly desires to grant us His forgiveness.
This is how we grow as branches of the Vine who is Christ: we grow in the forgiveness of sins. We grow as Christ forgives us and when we forgive each other. It is through the forgiveness that Christ won on the tree of the cross that gives us the opportunities to forgive each other, and you will have many, many opportunities to forgive one another, for you will surely sin against each other in thought, word, and deed, just as we all do against the Lord. You will do and say things that are not God-pleasing and do not lift up one another in Him. It is imperative, for your marriage and your family to remain firmly rooted in Christ, to forgive one another—not seven times but seventy times seven—to confess your sins to one another and to forgive one another…and to remain in a confessing and forgiving state of being, for our Lord desires to be forgiving of you…and of me…and of each of us gathered here this evening. It is also imperative that you be equally able and willing to extend this same forgiveness to these children grafted into the family branch, Mikayla and David. They are continually in need of your forgiveness and of your love for them. They, as well as each of you, as well as each of us, are continually in need of hearing that the Lord loves us as well. Therefore, it is truly good, right, and salutary that you as a family, and we all as branches of the Vine, come regularly to the Lord's house, to come each Lord's Day, to be pruned and fed on the Word of God, the Word read and proclaimed in your hearing, as it is this evening, as well as the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, taking our sins with Him to the cross, where He bled for you and where He died for you, where He won the forgiveness of your sins and now gives them to you in His Word, in Holy Baptism (lived daily in the confession and forgiveness of sins), and in the body and blood of the Lord. There in the Divine Service you—individually, as a couple, and as a family—are pruned, watered, and fed, so that He would abide in you, and you in Him, for as the Father has loved Him, Christ also loves you and desires that you abide in Him. To this end, He has given you the Holy Spirit to strengthen your faith as you hear the Word of the Lord.
All of this is most unusual…by the world's standards. But it is God who has set His standard higher than the world can attain, higher than you or I can attain. But let not your hearts be afraid. Christ has achieved and perfected this standard for us, for His Bride, the Church. So by His grace we get to rely on the merits of our heavenly Bridegroom who not only died for us but is risen, that we would live with Him in eternal wedded bliss in heaven. Let us close this meditation with the words of a very popular hymn sung by the bride of Christ, the Church:
Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me, Died that I might live on high, Lives that I might never die. As the branch is to the vine, I am His, and He is mine. [LSB 611:1]
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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