02 July 2011

From the Water to the Blood

The great joy and gladness of holy marriage, and of this day — in all its personal particulars and bodily specificity — is found in Christ Jesus: in His loving service to His Bride, the Church.

Which is why the Lord God Himself, the blessed Holy Trinity, rejoices and delights in this day and in this couple — in Nathaniel and Sarah, and in their Holy Matrimony, and in His Holy Church.

For God the Father takes you to Himself as a beloved daughter, even as He gives you to His only-begotten Son, to be His holy Bride. That is where the only true and lasting joy is found: in Christ.

Apart from Christ Jesus, it is all in vain; everything is finally in vain. Because there is, first of all, your natural finitude as a creature. Which is to say that you are not self-sufficient, but entirely dependent on your Creator for life and health and every good. But now, beyond that, there is also the mortal frailty of your fallen flesh, which withers and perishes; so that, not just “the wine,” but everything runs out. In yourself, and of yourself, there is no life nor love, but only sin and death.

Yet, you have been created by God to live by His grace. And you are called — by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel of Christ Jesus — to live by faith in His Word; that is, the Word of the Cross.

True, the Cross puts to death the Old Adam in you, with all your sinful lusts and desires; your self-idolatry and selfishness; your false belief, despair, and all your shameful vices. But the Cross also raises you up — in and with the New Adam, that is, Christ Jesus, who has suffered your death, and has submitted Himself to the dirt of the ground for you, in order to redeem you from sin and death.

The Cross does not destroy you, because it has been the Cross of Christ for you, first of all.

Indeed, for all its pain and agony, shame and humiliation, the Cross is the Hour of Christ’s great Glory; for by it, by His divine grace, mercy and love, He has atoned for the sins of all people, and He has reconciled the world to God.

So, too, it is from His side, as it has been opened up in His deep sleep of death upon the Tree of the Cross, that His Bride is formed and purified with His Glory — by the water and the blood.

And on the Third Day, the fruits of His Cross are borne forth in His Resurrection from the dead, and there is the beginning of the New Creation — in the glorified Body of this great New Adam.

All of creation — including God’s good gift of marriage (the union of one man and one woman) — it has all been redeemed and made brand new. In fact, it is completed, perfected, and better than ever — in the crucified and risen Body of this true and perfect Man, Christ Jesus. By His holy Cross, and in His Resurrection, He has become the new Head of a renewed humanity. He is the new King of a new Creation, and the Church is His beautiful Queen, His beloved Body and Bride.

So, then, you and your marriage, and your whole life, are sanctified by the Word of God in Christ, and by prayer in His holy Name. That is both how and why you invite Jesus and His disciples, and holy mother Church, to your wedding (today) and to your marriage (until death). For by His Word and prayer, His righteousness and holiness are granted to you.

He Himself cleaves to you, dear ones, as to His own beloved Bride, by the Ministry of His Gospel. He provides for you, in love, and He grants to you His good gifts for both body and soul, for now and forever — by the means of His good creation.

In the Divine Service, in particular, as also on this day, He brings you from the waters of Holy Baptism — which have purified your conscience before God, and have cleansed you as a Bride for her Husband — to that good Wine which is the New Testament in His Blood, and to that Bread of Life from heaven which is His own Body.

And in this you find that His good creation and good gifts are taken up by His Word, and given back to you all the better: like dirt into a man, a living creature; like a rib into a woman; like water into wine — and this good wine now points to something better.

For just as He is risen from the dust of the earth to live and reign forever (also as true Man!), you also are now flesh of His flesh, and blood of His blood, so that your body is raised up from death to life in His Glory. As it shall be at the last, so also is it now in your life and marriage here — although it is still hidden under the Cross, and for now it is visible only to the eyes of faith.

His Glory — His gracious gift of life — shall be manifested in your life together, Nathaniel and Sarah, as husband and wife: As you love each other in Christ, as He loves both of you. As you live by His forgiveness of all your sins, and so you forgive each other.

And as you also serve your neighbors within your vocations.

Your sufficiency and life are not in yourselves, but in Christ. Do not worry. Do not be afraid. And do not despair. But for your part, simply do whatever He tells you — and do so in the hope and confidence of His Resurrection, because it is Christ who works in you and for you. Therefore, do not be timid in that which He has called you to do, but love boldly and gladly.

When a husband loves and serves his wife faithfully and well, there’s almost nothing she can’t do or accomplish. So, then, take this to heart, dear ones, that Christ cares for His Bride; He nurtures and cherishes her; and so she is well able to care for others (by His grace, in His mercy and peace).

Beloved, He cares for you, and nurtures and cherishes you. You shall not be put to shame.

As He has grafted you into His Body and joined you to Himself as a member of His Bride, so do you find yourself at home with Him. And He shall likewise make His home with you forever.

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


Sage said...

I've got to thank your for such wonderful words. I went back and read sermons for past year or two and was fed as I've never been fed before. It was gospel most choice and sweet.

It IS all about the cross and what the Lord has done for sinners as we are.

Thank you for your hard work and efforts.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thank you, Sage, for your kind and encouraging words. I'm pleased that you have been fed by the Word of the Lord. Christ be praised.