The Rev. Paul J Cain
Proper 22B, 07 October 2012, LWML Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Today Mark 10 gives us an opportunity to talk about two foundations of our life together in this world, Holy Matrimony and Holy Baptism.
LSB: Holy matrimony is an honorable estate instituted and blessed by God in Paradise, before humanity's fall into sin.
[Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote in a wedding sermon, “It is not your love which sustains the marriage, but from now on the marriage that sustains your love.”]
In marriage we see a picture of the communion between Christ and His bride, the Church. Our Lord blessed and honored marriage with his presence and first miracle at Cana in Galilee. This estate is also commended to us by the apostle Paul as good and honorable. Therefore, marriage is not to be entered into inadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.
The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for the mutual companionship, help, and support that each person ought to receive from the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Marriage was also ordained so that man and woman may find delight in one another. Therefore, all persons who marry shall take a spouse in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust, for God has not called us to impurity but in holiness. God also established marriage for the procreation of children who are to be brought up in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that they may offer Him their praise.
For these reasons God has established this holy estate. [Christian couples often] desire our prayers as they begin their marriage in the Lord's name and with His blessing.
Mark 10 is probably one of the most unromantic texts to hear on one’s wedding day.
2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test (him) [Jesus] asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Not everyone can receive this saying. That is true to our experience, too. We live in a culture of divorce, of revised or compose-your-own wedding vows. When the words “submit,” “forever,” and “Jesus” are being revised out of wedding services held within some “Christian” churches, you know something is going wrong in the culture. If the Bible is being ignored within the Church, no wonder the traditional, Biblical, historical understanding of marriage consisting of one man and one woman until death do they part is under attack.
You are people to whom these sayings are given. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. As Christians, each of us is at the same time a sinner and a forgiven saint. Both husband and wife promise to remain faithful and committed to the marriage in sickness and in health, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer. You never know what might happen. God has joined one man and one woman together in Holy Matrimony to support one another through it all, given as good gifts to each other from Our Father in Heaven.
Some Christians count Holy Matrimony as a sacrament. I’m sensitive to that fact. Christian traditions have different definitions of that churchly term, sacrament. A Lutheran sacrament has to have the Lord’s institution, mandate, and visible means, and it must offer and deliver the forgiveness of sins. Holy Matrimony certainly has the Lord’s institution and mandate back in the Garden of Eden before humanity’s fall into sin. The Lord Jesus also blessed the sacred institution by His presence and first miracle at Cana in Galilee. Marriage does not promise or give you the forgiveness of sins.
Holy Matrimony cannot survive without the forgiveness of sins. Therefore, be ready to confess your own sins to each other—and be always ready to forgive. If you do not forgive those who sin against you, Jesus says, then neither will the Lord forgive you. Therefore, forgive as you have already been forgiven. Love as you have been loved by God in Christ. On Calvary’s cross He proclaimed, “It is finished.” He has forgiven every one of your sins—His work of salvation is completed. Forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation are your present possession. You have been forgiven completely. Forgive completely. Bury the hatchet—including the handle. Hear Bonhoeffer again: “It is not your love which sustains the marriage, but from now on the marriage that sustains your love.”
We now turn to a brief discussion of Holy Baptism, based on the Gospel text from the rite of Holy Baptism, Mark 10.
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
Unlike Holy Matrimony, Holy Baptism promises and delivers the forgiveness of sins. The translation “like a little child” is clearer and more faithful to the Greek than “as a little child.” We baptize people of all ages who need what Holy Baptism gives, forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation for all who believe, not because Luther said so, but because Matthew 28, Mark 16, Acts 2, Romans 6, Titus 3, and 1 Peter 3 say so.
The children Jesus embraces in Mark 10 includes the very youngest. Theirs is the kingdom of God. Christ wants infants to be saved and gives them faith. Holy Baptism is Jesus’ means for all to be saved apart from works, apart from reason, apart from decision, solely by grace and God’s gift. Infants need what baptism gives because they, too, are conceived and born in sins. And He blesses those little children brought to Him. According to Colossians 2, Holy Baptism is the successor to Old Testament circumcision. If that was administered to an eight day old boy, this circumcision of Christ made without hands can and should be administered to infant boys and girls. Indeed, the apostles baptized entire households, not once but twice in Acts 16.
Adapted from LSB: In Holy Baptism, God graciously preserves and enlarges His family, making men and women and boys and girls members of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and heirs with us and all the saints of all the treasures of heaven in the one holy Christian an apostolic church. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ, with whom we hear His Word, receive His gifts, and proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
This day we thank the Lord for our wives, our mothers, and faithful Christian women, as well as for the LWML.
The world needs Holy Matrimony and Holy Baptism as the Lord established them. And so does our nation, our state, our community, and our congregation. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.