Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Kyle and Sarah Peters wedding (Genesis 2:7, 18-24)

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Kyle and Sarah, friends and family gathered from near and far: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Our text on this day of joy is the Old Testament lesson you selected from Genesis chapter two, the creation of man, the creation of woman, the creation of marriage. Dear friends in Christ: like a cadence, like a drumbeat, on each and every day of creation we hear the refrain, “And God saw that it was good.” The moon and the sun are good, the animals are good, the land and the seas are good. But on the sixth day of creation, when God is at the very end of His work, he finds one thing, and one thing alone, that is not good, that is incomplete. His creation is not yet finished. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’” The entire universe has been put in place; the planets have been set in order, the laws of physics have been established, the ecosystem is in perfect balance. But yet creation is incomplete, it is not yet very good, because the man is alone.

Notice that it isn’t the man who voices this concern; it is God who sees this deficiency and promises to take action to rectify it. “I will make him a helper fit for him.” Man doesn’t know it, man doesn’t quite realize it, but he is alone, utterly alone. He is one half of a whole, he is fundamentally incomplete, he needs a “helper fit for him.” He needs companionship in this world, one like him, but yet different, to be an object of his love, his care and compassion. He needs a helper, a savior from his loneliness. He needs assistance in fulfilling the great command of the Lord, which will be given by God Himself, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” It makes little sense for God to give such a command, such a privilege, if the man is left alone. He cannot bring forth the next generation by himself; he, like most of God’s creation, needs a partner. And after the Fall into sin, there is another reason man needs woman: he needs her as an antidote to sin, to help him control sinful lust.

It is God who notices this deficiency, not the man, and it is God alone who provides for it. For some, He provides with a gift of grace, the gift of celibacy, the gift of remaining unmarried without being overcome by lust. But for most, He provides as He did for the first man, with the gift of a wife, a bride, a “helper fit for him.” This is a helper corresponding to him, like him, yet unlike, like two sides of a coin, two pieces of a puzzle. It is a helper that fits together with him, that complements him in every way. God brought all of the animals to Adam, one after another, so that he could make an exhaustive search for the helper that God said he needed. “But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.” No animal, no matter how beloved, could complete humanity, no animal could provide for all that the man needed. God must give to him a special creation, taken from him to be the perfect complement. “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man.” God gives the woman as a gift to the man; he does not take her in the passion of sinful lust, but he receives her as she is: a gift.

And the man receives her with joy, breaking forth into poetry: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of Man.” She is the perfect helper, the perfect complement, the perfect savior from loneliness, because she was taken from the man himself. They are one flesh, and in their life together, and the lives of all their children, they will proclaim that reality. Moses reflects on this great mystery as he concludes our text: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Even though sin has corrupted this relationship of husband and wife, it does not destroy it. Woman was taken from man to be the helper corresponding to him, and thus for the rest of creation women and men will be joined together as one flesh for mutual companionship, for the bringing forth of children, and for restraining sinful lust.

This day, you, Kyle and Sarah, intend to enter this blessed estate, established even before the Fall into sin. This day you leave father and mother, separating from their households to form your own, publically taking up new vocations, husband and wife. You, Kyle, take up the vocation of loving your wife as Christ has loved the Church, giving up your life for her, sacrificing yourself, with your selfish desires and sinful passions, for her good. You, Sarah, take up the vocation of submitting to your husband as the Church submits to Christ, in love and joy allowing him to lead your household, knowing that he sacrifices himself for you. Here before God and the world you publically declare that you will live together as husband and wife, making promises, taking vows. It is this public act, this objective fact, that remains true throughout all of the ups and downs of your marriage, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. God has joined you together, here, in this place, on September 19th, 2015, and what God has joined together, let not man separate.

This day you declare your love to one another, just as Moses teaches us that a man leaves his father and his mother and holds fast to his wife. You hold fast to one another in love, and not just any love, but the very love of Jesus Christ Himself. It is this love that sustains a marriage, for this love comes from outside of you, from the cross itself, from the wounds of Jesus. It is a love that is self-sacrificial, always placing the other and their needs ahead of your own. It is a love that is forgiving, founded on admitting sin and forgiving it. This is the love that all Christians are to show to their neighbors, and this day you are publically declaring that you have a new closest neighbor—each other. You will love each other by denying yourselves, by putting your pride to death. Don’t think you can do this on your own. You cannot give to each other what you haven’t first received. Therefore it is in this very place that you will receive from Christ the love and forgiveness which you then pour into your marriage, loving and forgiving each other.

Moses teaches us that after a man leaves his father and his mother and holds fast to his wife, “they shall become one flesh.” This day, you publically declare that you will live together as one flesh. Only once man and woman have publically left their father and mother and have been joined together in the sight of God and man, do they become one flesh. They do not come together in the passion of lust, in impurity, but only as those joined by God. A man does not take a woman whenever he wants, but he receives his bride as a gift from God’s hand. And together man and woman then bring forth new life, they give expression to the Lord’s commission in the Garden, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Saint Paul was right when he said of marriage, “this mystery is profound.” The mystery of woman taken from man, only to be joined back to him as one flesh, is profound. But then he quickly adds, “I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” The mystery is that from this day forward, Kyle and Sarah, you are publically showing forth in your own lives the very Gospel itself. Man was alone on the sixth day, but humanity was left alone after the Fall, estranged from the God who created us and subject to death and eternal damnation. But the Bridegroom sought His bride, God’s lonely people, and Jesus Christ took flesh to buy us back from the bondage of sin and death, paying this price with His own blood. Now risen from the dead, our Bridegroom washes us, pure as Sarah’s dress, in the waters of Holy Baptism, and He presents us to Himself as a radiant bride, invited to the marriage supper that will have no end. This promise is for you, Kyle and you, Sarah, and your marriage proclaims that reality to a world trapped in the darkness of sin. You love each other as Christ loved you, and gave Himself up for you, dying and rising again to abolish sin and death for you and for the entire world. In His Name, Amen.

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