Rev. Paul J Cain
The Estate of Marriage
Wedding Sermon for Gerald Messick and Maria Travis
Saturday of Lent II, 06 March 2010 A.D.
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of Jesus. Amen
Note from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions on The Sixth Commandment, You shall not commit adultery:
“Martin Luther had been married for almost four years when he wrote the Large Catechism. His former life as a monk makes his comments on the Sixth Commandment all the more interesting and powerful. Luther keenly discerns that chastity is not a matter of vowing to live a celibate life, but of honoring God and one’s spouse with one’s whole being: thoughts, words, and actions. Marriage should be cherished and honored as a divine estate. God created this institution before all others and blessed it above all the rest; and since He brings children into the world through it, He provides all other estates for its support and benefit. Luther condemns forced celibacy within the Roman Church, but recognizes that God does exempt some from married life, either because they are unsuited to it or because they possess the supernatural gift of chastity. The Sixth Commandment releases those who have taken a vow of chastity but who have not been given this supernatural gift. For Luther, God intended marriage not only to prevent sin, but also as a means by which husbands and wives love and cherish each other. Marriage is a precious good work far superior to the contrived spiritual estates of monks and nuns.”
Exodus 20:14, The Sixth Commandment, is probably not the most romantic text to be read at a wedding. But, for the rite of Holy Matrimony for two active, practicing Christians, it is a proper foundation for a couple to be united in Christ, yet living in a fallen world.
Adam and Eve were married before the Fall. We don’t have that blessing now. We sin and others sin against us. And we all have to live with the consequences. When a Christian pastor speaks of sin, he must also speak of grace, for Christ came to atone for the sin of the whole world. He richly forgives repentant sinners like us. He believes in new beginnings, like this marriage today.
In anticipation of this day, we have prepared you for a life together as husband and wife, living under the grace of God, forgiving each other as God has richly forgiven you in Christ. We have studied the Scriptures together in that regard, and also in preparation for a household united in a common confession of Christ and His Word.
Commenting upon the Word of God that is our text today, Luther wrote,
208 “Therefore, God has also most richly blessed this estate [holy matrimony] above all others. In addition, He has bestowed on it and wrapped up in it everything in the world, so that this estate might be well and richly provided for. Married life is, therefore, no joke or presumption. It is an excellent thing and a matter of divine seriousness. For marriage has the highest importance to God so that people are raised up who may serve the world and promote the knowledge of God, godly living, and all virtues, to fight against wickedness and the devil.”
Marriage is important to the Lord. You have reverently and deliberately planned for this day and all the days to come. You have come to adorn this relationship in purity and holiness. Luther continued,
209 “I have always taught that this estate should not be despised nor held in disrepute... Marriage should be regarded as it is in God’s Word, where it is adorned and sanctified. It is not only placed on an equality with other estates, but it comes first and surpasses them all...
211 “In the second place, you must know also that marriage is not only an honorable but also a necessary state. In general and in all conditions it is solemnly commanded by God that men and women, who were created for marriage, shall be found in this estate...”
With Luther, as in all of Scripture, you hear the common themes of command and promise, sin and grace, commonly spoken of as Law and Gospel in our congregation and church body. Both go together. Each pair is uniquely suited as a whole. So it is with husband and wife. Your lives thus far have made you the person you are. God in Christ is re-creating you to be whom He would have you be in this life and in preparation for eternity.
Five hundred years ago, marriage was attacked as a lesser estate than being a monk or a nun. Today, the assault on marriage comes from a secular culture wanting to change the very definition of the word. Scripture, as Dr. Luther asserts, calls us to lives of holiness and good works. Works do not earn us salvation, forgiveness, or life eternal, but serve as the fruit of faith born within us by the work of God’s Word and the work of God the Holy Spirit. And so we live in the estate of marriage as God ordained it.
219 “Let me now say in conclusion what this commandment demands: Everyone should live chaste in thought, word, and deed in his condition—that is, especially in the estate of marriage. But also everyone should love and value the spouse God gave to him [Ephesians 5:33]. For where marital chastity is to be maintained, man and wife must by all means live together in love and harmony. Then one may cherish the other from the heart and with complete faithfulness. For harmony is one of the principal points that enkindles love and desire for chastity, so that, where this is found, chastity will follow without any command. 220 Therefore, St. Paul diligently encourages husband and wife to love and honor one another. 221 Here you have again precious, indeed, many and great good works. You can joyfully boast about them, against all churchly estates chosen without God’s Word and commandment”.
Gerald and Maria, God bless this new beginning of yours as husband and wife to the end that you may love and honor each other in Christ as long as you both shall live.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.