14 July 2018

Called to the Wedding Feast of Christ and His Bride

The Lord has built His House, and He does watch over His City.  Indeed, the whole of creation is His good work and His gracious good gift to the Man and the Woman and all their children.  It is beautiful in its design and delightful in its good order, so that all things in heaven and on earth praise Him and point to Him, according to His purpose and His Word.

With all of that, holy marriage is the culmination and the crowning glory of God’s good creation, the Man and the Woman made for each other in His own divine Image and Likeness, to love and to cherish each other in His Name, to the praise of His glorious grace.

It is a relationship of mutual love.  And that is not a matter of fickle feelings and emotions, but of solid commitment, steadfast integrity, faithfulness, and self-sacrificing care, each one for the other.  It is a partnership in doing the good work that God has given, in cultivating and keeping the garden He has planted, in the particular place where He locates the man and his wife.  And holy marriage is the means by which the Lord creates, brings forth, and cares for new life in body and soul.

By fatherly divine goodness and mercy, for the sake of His own divine and holy love, the Creator of the heavens and the earth exalts man from nothing, from the dust and the dirt of the earth, to be a living being.  And in holy marriage He gives the woman to the man, and He gives them both to have dominion over the earth in His Name.  To exercise, not a power play, but providential care for His creation, while yet living always by His grace, by faith in His Word and promises.

They are given to eat the Food that God provides, to drink freely His water of life, and to worship Him by the obedience of faith, by the keeping of His good commandments.

It is to and for these high and holy purposes that a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and it is for these high and holy purposes that a father gives his daughter to another man in holy marriage.  And so it is that, today, Matt and Oly, you are bound together in a life-long union of heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit, in a divine vocation that redefines your entire identity in the world and in relation to all of your neighbors, until death parts you from this body and life.

Be sure and certain of this: No matter how old, sophisticated, experienced, intelligent, or savvy anyone may be, it is impossible to comprehend, much less to practice, the true importance and genuine significance of holy marriage, except by the Word and Wisdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is obvious enough, now more than ever, that the world and fallen flesh assail holy marriage on all sides with all manner of perversity, confusion, and falsehood.  But there is also the more crafty temptation, all the more so among well meaning Christians, to make an idol out of marriage and family, that is, to worship these good things as false gods and saviors.  Not because of any fault in marriage and family, which are the Lord’s own creation and His good work, but on account of the sinfulness of our fallen hearts and minds and our perishing flesh and blood.

Leave it to the Lord, therefore, to clarify priorities and to put all things into their own proper place.  For here we are instructed by His Word concerning holy marriage, which points beyond itself to the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom.

The holy Matrimony of Christ and His Bride, the Church, is the true fulfillment of the first creation and the crowning glory of the New Creation, of the new heavens and the new earth, where God and man abide together in righteousness and peace.  For all of creation is redeemed, made brand new, and sanctified in the Body of Christ Jesus, which is the Tabernacle of God among men.

He is the Light of the World, the Love of God, and the Life of all the living, who has become true Man, flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood, conceived and born of St. Mary by His Word and Holy Spirit.  He is the Stronger Man who has come and bound the strong man, Satan, that He might rescue all the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve from the bondage of sin and death.  And He is the Bridegroom, who has come down from the Father in heaven to seek you out, to woo you and betroth you to Himself, and to make of you a member of His own holy Bride.

So it is that you are called to fear, love, and trust in Him, to hope in His Resurrection, and to live by faith in His Word.  To be crucified, put to death, and buried with Him, by way of repentance, in order to be raised up with Him to newness of life, and to live with Him in His Kingdom in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.  To live forever in His House, within His City, as a member of His Household and Family, as a beloved son or daughter of His own God and Father.

To live within holy marriage as a Christian, to live as a Christian husband or wife, is no different (broadly speaking) than it is to live as a Christian at all, whether married or unmarried.  It is to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, with which He has adorned in you in Holy Baptism, and so also to clothe yourself in the righteous deeds of His saints, that is, by holy faith and holy love.

Do not seek or strive to seat yourself above and beyond your own proper station in life, but serve faithfully and be content wherever you are, and wait upon the Lord to exalt you in due season.

Work together in faith and love as husband and wife, as partners yoked together in the keeping of the garden where God stations you, exercising the stewardship of His world in your own place and time.  Work together in common cause: not your own, but the Lord’s, which He shares with you.

Matt, care for Oly and give yourself for her, as Christ does for His Bride, the Church.  Oly, love and serve Matthew as a helpmate perfectly suited for him, in the confidence of Christ, who is your Savior and his.  And together serve your neighbors and provide hospitality, even to the least of them, as the Lord so enables you to do, knowing that you also are poor and needy, crippled, lame, and blind, according to your fallen flesh; and yet, you are fed and clothed by the Lord your God.

It is by grace alone, by the charity of God, that you are invited to share the Master’s Feast, though you are unworthy of yourself to enter His House or to be seated at His Table.  It is in Love that Christ has given Himself for you, in order to exalt you, and to feed you with Himself, with His own Flesh and Blood: Here within His Church on earth, and hereafter in His holy City, New Jerusalem.

“Come, eat and drink freely,” He calls.  His Dinner is prepared, and everything is ready.  For Christ has died, and He is risen indeed, never to die again.  Here, then, at His Table, from the dust and the dirt of sin, death, and the grave, the humbled are exalted and fed by the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord’s Altar is the center of creation.  For the Tabernacle of God is here with you in the Flesh and Blood of Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son.  He dwells with you, and by His Gospel He calls you to be His own, to be and to live as a member of His Body and Bride, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, on earth as it is in heaven.  He comes in flesh and blood like yours to save you, and He abides here with you in love, in order to serve you in grace, mercy, and peace.

In the eyes of the world, and in your own fallen flesh, in your fickle heart and foolish mind, the Lord’s Supper, His Big Dinner, may seem pointless, an intrusion and a nuisance, which you would just as soon skip and not bother with.  But do not trade His Feast for a bowl of porridge.  To reject the Lord’s great Feast in favor of your own pursuits is to choose death over life, and to cut yourself off from the Kingdom of God.  Even to prioritize your own marriage and family over the Marriage of the Lamb and the Household and Family of God — however pious that (pretense) may seem — is to forego and renounce what matters most and is eternal for what is perishing and passing away.

Beloved of the Lord, the Marriage of the Lamb has come.  For He has come as the true Man and atoned for the sins of the world by His own Blood; and by His Resurrection from the dead He has reconciled the world to His God and Father in Himself, in His own Body of real flesh and bones.

He has given Himself for you and for all people in divine and holy love.  Not because you were so beautiful or lovely, but in order to make you beautiful by His love for you, and by His sacrifice on your behalf; that He might cleanse you by the washing of the water with His Word and Holy Spirit, and adorn you with His Righteousness, as a Bride made ready for her Husband.

Thus has He done for you in your Holy Baptism, and so does He love you, and serve you, and care for you in all things, not only for this body and life, but for the Life everlasting.

He who did not spare Himself, but gave Himself for you, even unto death, He will not withhold any good thing from you.  Rather, with Himself, He freely gives you all things by and from His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead.  That is the sure and certain hope in which you live, in which you love and serve each other, and in which you sacrifice yourself and give generously with grace and mercy for your neighbors, even the least of them in the eyes of the world.

You live, now, by faith and not by sight, bearing the Cross in the confidence of the Resurrection.  For Christ, your Bridegroom, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, has gone before you through death into life.  He was crucified, died, and was buried, but God has raised this same Christ Jesus from the dust of the ground, and has exalted Him at His own right hand.

The challenges and difficulties of married life in this fallen and perishing world, at every age and stage of life, though they may seem to be crushing you, defeating you, and utterly overwhelming you, are yet an opportunity to be catechized and trained in the faith and love of Christ Jesus.

Like your parents and older siblings before you, the two of you do have lots to learn, and lots of growing up to do together in the years and decades ahead of you.  Do not doubt that is true.  I pray to God that you never stop growing and learning in this body and life on earth.

Above all, your holy marriage under the Cross is an opportunity to be trained in daily repentance and forgiveness, to live by grace through faith in Christ, and to love each other as He loves you.

You are in love today, no doubt, as all of your family and friends are well able to see.  But you will learn to love each other more deeply and profoundly as you bear and suffer the Cross together as husband and wife.  And in learning to love each other in the way of Christ and His Church, you will also learn to love and serve your many other neighbors in the world, as well.

The Cross of Christ will teach you that holy marriage is not about selfishness or self-advancement.  It’s not about power or prestige, competition, or the accumulation of wealth.  It is about love.  Not the world’s fictitious fairy tale of fickle feelings and fleeting romance, but the Love of God in Christ, which stands fast and remains steady at all times and in all places, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health; divine Love, from which even death shall not part you.

You will vow your faithfulness to one another on this day, and God grant you by His Word and Holy Spirit to remain faithful in those promises and commitments, for He is the One who binds you together.  Do not betray that sacred trust.  But whatever frailties and weaknesses you shall discover in yourselves and in each other, know that your Lord remains faithful in all things and forever.  He cannot deny Himself, and He will not renege on any of His promises to you.

As He is with you here and now, today, so shall He be with you always.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Rather, day by day, by His Cross and Resurrection, by repentance and faith in His free and full forgiveness of all your sins, by His Holy Baptism and His Holy Supper, He shall ever be making you and your marriage and all things new, according to His tender mercies and His steadfast loving-kindness.  For He kills and makes alive by His Word of the Cross.  He wounds in order to heal by the medicine of His Gospel.  He humbles you in yourself, but He exalts you in Himself, in His own Body, in the presence of His God and Father.

And having fed you here at His Altar, faithfully throughout your days on earth, at the last He shall seat you at His Table in His Kingdom, in His own House forever and ever.  “Friends, come up higher,” He shall say.  And He will wipe away every tear from your eyes, and there will no longer be any death, nor sickness, nor sorrow, nor pain, but only the everlasting joy and delight of the Lamb with His Bride in the neverending Feast of His great Salvation.

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

No comments: