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The Mystery of Marriage

Ephesians 5:22-33

Rev. Kurt Hering

12th S. a. Pentecost
Trinity Lutheran Church  
Layton, Utah

Play MP3 of this sermon

Sun, Aug 23, 2009
12th S. a. Pentecost

Sermons from February 8, 2015 to October 16, 2016 preached to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.

Greetings dear members of the Bride of Christ!

If you would like to hear the sermon preached at Trinity Lutheran Church in Layton, Utah for the 12TH Sunday after Pentecost, click on the MP3 link provided above.

The audio recording includes the last two verses of the Hymn of the Day, "Gracious Savior, Grant Your Blessing," LSB #860. The sermon begins at the 2:05 mark.

Have a blessed week as the beloved bride of Christ.

Rev. Kurt Hering, Pastor

Trinity Lutheran Church

Layton, Utah

Here is the preaching manuscript.

22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body. 31"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:17-33

The mystery of Marriage! Now you've done it Pastor. Now you've gone too far--claiming to have the answer to one of those mysteries that has gone unsolved throughout the generations of history. How dare you!

Well, no. I haven't gone too far. And I am not being particularly daring, either.

I am only reporting and confessing to you what God has clearly proclaimed through the apostle He called and sent: 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

And there you have it! The mystery of marriage does not lie so much in the differences between the sexes, though certainly there is that. The mystery of marriage lies in that is refers to Christ and His Church, i.e. our relationship to God.

Since as sinners our relationship with God is broken, our view of marriage, each other, and even our own roles is broken.

The problem that underlies and is the source of spousal abuse, adultery, and divorce is that broken relationship with God.

And that broken relationship with God leads us to get things backwards. We measure and construct an image of Him based upon our sinful perceptions, thoughts, and desires.

This is what Paul is writing about in his letter to the Romans:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 2 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

So the Israelites decide to worship God according to their own image and imaginations of Him and they build a golden calf.

But it goes further than that.

24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Still today, sinners exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.

We have seen that this past week at the ELCA convention, wherein they have voted to accept practicing homosexuals as candidates for placement in the office of the holy ministry.

Dear people of God, this is an abomination before the Lord. Not just because it is an abuse of our earthly bodies, but most heinously it destroys the image of our relationship with God. Marriage of man to woman is one of those things that have been made God ever since the creation of the world by which the nature of God is to be perceived by men.

In the beginning, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:27

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Clearly Paul isn't speaking his own thoughts or opinions when he describes the marriage relationship and the roles of men and women in our Epistle lesson today. Notice the language of Paul's letter reflects the creation language of God in Genesis. That language is such that it does not allow for anything but one man and one woman when it comes to human marriage.

Make no mistake about it. What was endorsed by the ELCA in convention this past week, like other idolatrous people before them since the fall of man, is not only unLutheran. It is unChristian and an abomination before the Lord—and this on two levels, earth and heaven. It is destructive of the most essential relationship of men upon which all civilized, harmonious society is based. And it rejects God as the fountain and source of all things and turns Him into the partner that is dependent upon what we bring and give to Him when and where and how we want to—which, by the way is the definition of idolatry.

Changing the definition of marriage and the God created roles of men and women, especially within the visible church on earth, "exchange[s] the truth about God for a lie and [leads us into idolatrous] worship serving the creature rather than the Creator."

And that is not a problem limited to the ELCA, or non-Lutherans, or even non-Christians. We have plenty of marriage and worship problems in our own synod and our own congregation and our own lives, don't we? So rather than taking this ironic coincidence of the church calendar's Epistle lesson and the events of the ELCA convention as an opportunity to speak shame on them and gloat in our superiority, let us examine our own personal and church lives that we may repent of our self-centered, idolatrous ways and return to the relationships for which our Lord has created us.

Why? Because the relationships that God has created, the way He has created them, are the way of life here and to eternity. And to pervert or part from them is the way of death.

Since we have, and continue to do just that—pervert and part from God's created relationships—Paul reveals the mystery of Christ who restores those created relationships.

As we have touched upon, a major part of God's creation account in Genesis is His "let there be" command that created a partner and helper for man.

But that partner and helper was not to be another beast of burden created to be subdued and dominated. No, the partner and helper called woman was, and is "flesh of man's flesh and bone of his bone. Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife."

More than just the duty of a man to his wife, which is a duty of love and sacrifice for her sake and the sake of his children, this cleaving to his wife is the relationship of Christ to His church—to you and all believers in Him.

Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, left His Father's side in order to cleave to His dearly beloved bride, the Church, which was taken and formed from the water and blood that flowed from His side. Now risen and ascended back to the right hand of the Father, this Christ of God continues to cleave to His holy bride in the water of Holy Baptism and the blood of His new testament in the cup of Holy Communion. In these things he gives her strength in her own weakness and bestows upon all of her members the inheritance of eternal life. So our Lord has Peter back Paul up by exhorting husbands to "treat [their wives] with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, . . . (1 Peter 3:7b)

What? Weaker? How dare you! And that reminds me, I still don't like all that chauvinistic talk of wives submitting to their husbands. You've got to be kidding me! How stone-age can you get? Aren't women equal to men in God's sight? Haven't you ever heard of the Equal Rights Amendment?

Well, yes. Men and women are certainly equal in God's sight and under the law of the land. But Scripture, salvation, and eternal life—indeed, even faith—are not about equality or rights. They are about your relationship to God and to each other. In either case, these relationships are established by and held together by God, in Christ.

The primary relationship of the flesh, of our earthly life, is the relationship of man and wife. In this relationship, from which all bodily life proceeds, God has established that "the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands." (Ephesians 5:23-24) So, as we covered earlier, this relationship of husband and wife finds its perfection in the Mystery of Marriage, that is, the relationship of Christ to His church—to you and all believers in Him.

Why is a wife to submit to her husband? Because her husband has been given by God to cleave to her and it is his vocation, his call from God, to take care of his wife and their children even to the point of giving his own life for them. Of course, sinner that every husband is, no husband fulfills this vocation perfectly or selflessly. Yet, thanks be to God, the sin of man does not negate His gift. Every believer as a member of the bride of Christ, His church, fails to submit to her husband and Lord let Him be the husband He desires to be. Yet the Son of God never leaves her or forsakes her—never divorces her, or you—for lack of submission. He remains faithful in His relationship to you forever—in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.

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