Marriage is...


Dear Scott and Lauren: Marriage is not what you say it is; I say it is; the Supreme Court says it is; or Google says it is. The last now says marriage is "The legally or formally recognized union of two people." Google then adds, "Historically and in some jurisdictions specifically a union between a man and a woman." Imagine that; you two aren't 30 yet and already you're an anachronism. Not to God you're not. You 2 are the very definition of what He says marriage is.

The God in flesh and blood, Jesus, says marriage is from the beginning of all things. As part of the 6-days of creation, God gifted humanity with marriage. When creation was still perfect, when Adam and Eve were without sin, they still weren't complete without each other. God makes Eve from Adam and then as a gift brings her to him. The Bible doesn't say of animals that God brings the female to the male but only of man. "He brings her to him, he gives her to him, and Adam agrees to accept her. Therefore, that is what marriage is" (LW, 44, 8). The world balks at the idea of the bride being given away. They say this regards her as property. Nope, this recognizes her as gift. God the Father gives away his daughter Eve to institute the first marriage, and Lauren's father and mother gift her to Scott to continue the institution.

Marriage is God's institution. It was started by Him; it is defined by Him, and it is gifted to mankind. Notice 3 times Scripture tells us "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife." For what reason? Genesis tells you but Jesus makes it clear: Because "From the beginning the Creator made them male and female.'" "For this reason" because from the one lump He made two they are naturally attracted to each other. They complete each other. Each completes the other in a way someone of the same sex cannot (Man and Woman, von Hildebrand, 90). God in paradise has to teach the man this by showing him there was no other living creature that could be his helper. God brings all the animals before perfect Adam who finally gets it: "Duh, none of these can be a companion." Then God puts Adam into a deep sleep it says something about men that to gift us God has to first knock us out. And from Adam's side God makes a woman. And upon seeing her Adam says what many sons of Adam have said ever since upon seeing God's gift of a wife: "At last! This is the one."

From the beginning of all creation, God gifted humanity with His institution of marriage. But I know where you're stuck. Scripture says "no suitable helper was found for Adam." Cue the drudge music; the misogyny riffs, Ralph Kramden and Archie Bunker stereotypes, and feminist theology. Marriage is an institution made by a male God for the benefit of males. It's nothing but a Christianized version of the caveman dragging home a wife. Nope, the word translated suitable helper' is found 19 times in the Old Testament. 15 of those times the word applies to God, so it certainly doesn't imply a devaluation of women (Hauke, Women in Priesthood, 201).

Marriage is God's gift to men and women from the beginning of creation. Marriage is God's action. When I declare you husband and wife, I will not say, "What I've joined together." Or, "What you two have joined together." Or, "What the Church or State has joined together." No, I'll say, "What God has joined together." God has never joined together two men, two women, or two species, and popular culture saying they can be doesn't make it so. Only God can do this miracle. True, as Jesus says, men have the power to break this sacred union, but we can't make it; only God can.

I don't know if you 2 like mysteries but you're involved in one now. That's what St. Paul says, "The two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery." From the Latin translation of this phrase is where the idea of marriage as a sacrament comes from. The Greek word mysterion was translated into the Latin sacramentum.[i] The problem with this is that sacramentum was the oath of a Roman soldier. It was an action a man did. Marriage is God acting, and when you're in the area of God acting you're in the area of the mysterious. A mystery in the Bible is not something you have to figure out; it's something no man or woman could know or figure out unless God revealed it to them.

You can see this in the other things God declares to be a mystery. In addition to marriage, there are the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 13:11). There is the mystery of the God-Man, Jesus Christ (Ro. 16:25; Co. 2:2). And there are the mysteries of God of which pastors are stewards (1 Co. 4:1). Without God revealing it to us we could not know there are eternal things beyond realm of our five senses. Without God telling us that He sent His only beloved Son into the womb of a virgin named Mary, we could never reason our way to a virgin conceiving and giving birth to God.

And the mysteries continue. Without God telling us that He sent His Son into our flesh and blood to keep the laws God had declared men must keep or die eternally, we would live all our days under the unbearable guilt of laws we couldn't keep no matter how hard we tried. Without God telling us that He satisfied His eternal wrath against our breaking of those laws by the sacrifice of His Son on a Friday Christians call Good, we would have to live with a God who is constantly angry at us. Without God revealing to us that He gives what Jesus won by His holy life and guilty death in the Waters of Baptism, in the Words of Absolution, in Jesus' Body and Blood in Communion, we would never reason out that anything other than plain water, just words, and only bread and wine are here.

Will you look at that? Here I've lapsed into a theological treatise on the God-Man Jesus Christ, His atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, and the resurrected Jesus giving the fruits of that sacrifice to fallen men and women like us. What happened to marriage? What happened to we are gathered here today in the sight of God and His Church to join this man and woman in Holy Matrimony? That's what we're still talking about. At least that's what Paul says: After reciting the words of institution for marriage from Genesis 2: "For this reason a man etc." Paul says: "This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the Church." How can he say that? Because how Christ relates to His bride the church is the paradigm for how husband and wife relate. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body, of which He is the Savior. As the Church stands under Christ, so also wives stand under their husbands. As Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, so also husbands love their wives as their own bodies.

Of course the world balks at this mystery of marriage that mirrors that of Christ and the Church. But it rarely balks at the idea of the husband's love but of the wife's standing under him. Let me tell you a story: In the midst of a big argument the husband jumps up from the table, grabs two sheets of paper, and says, "Let's make a list of everything we don't like about the other." Both wrote for minutes. Finally finishing, the husband said, "Let's exchange complaints." As soon as they did, the wife pleaded for hers to be given back. All down the page her husband had written, "I love you, I love you, I love you" (Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, 433). If husbands loved just to the extent of that sinful husband, let alone their Savior, standing under that sort of love would be like standing with Jim Croce in the lemon-scented rain. But that love song is like many; it's of loved lost, dreamt of, unrequited, or regretted.

Some of the most popular love songs across all genres are of a longing for an otherworldly, mysterious, love. Shenandoah, an all-male country group, interestingly enough, sings of wanting to be loved like that. Like Natalie Wood gave her heart to James Dean, like a promise you can't take back, like a bond that can't be torn apart, a love that survives death. I want to be loved like that, don't you two? You are in Christ. His love for you will never, ever disappoint and will empower, enliven, enrich your love for each other. Would to God that we fallen husbands would be like the guy who wrote nothing but "I love you" in regard to his wife's faults, but God in Christ does just that. Every drop of your Baptismal water says, "I love you" not "you're a sinner." Every syllable of Absolution sends your sins away from you not joins them to you. Every drop of Jesus' Blood, every morsel of His Body says, "I will never leave you or forsake you."

Once more we come to the fact that marriage is a mystery. The smartest man in the world, Solomon, said that there were 4 things too wonderful, too marvelous, too mysterious for him to get his head around: one was the course of life between a man and his new bride (Pv. 30:19). I don't know if either of you are the kind who read the last page of a book before you read the first. Don't even try with your marriage. Every married person here will testify to the turns, the peaks, the valleys, the mystery that is their marriage. But what I can tell you, no promise you, is that because you are together in Christ, you are to see a watermark on every page of your marriage. It says: "I love you." Regardless of what your marriage will be, God says it is an expression of His love for you in Christ. Amen

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Wedding Sermon (20190330)

[i] Marriage as sacrament of grace is not yet found in Augustine. It's still was denied in Peter Lombard. It's first defined as a sacrament at Council of Verona in 1184 (Ten Commandments, Peters, fn. 164). Against those "who would spiritualize marriage into a Christian sacrament, Luther protests that marriage belongs essentially to the realm of creation and not redemption. It is therefore ruled by God's law and not his gospel, and, as such, is one of God's temporal remedies against sin and not a sanctifying means of grace" (LW, 44, xv).