Proper 22b, (October 4, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Mark 10:2–16; Genesis 2:18–25
TITLE: “What God Has Joined Together”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Mark chapter ten. We focus on the words of our Lord: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”” (Mark 10:9 ESV)
I think it is fair to say that there has been a lot of talk this year about marriage. With the decision of the Supreme Court this past June, so-called same-sex marriage is now the Law of the land, at least according to many. In order for Christians to get with the times and become the tolerant members of society that everyone wants, we need to change our views on marriage, on human sexuality, and perhaps even on how we look at questions about how we come to understand truth itself.
Now I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like it when society forces us to examine our practices. My instinct in the face of that pressure is always going to be to push back, to become defensive, and even to get angry. Maybe it is the same with you. But our Lord holds up something for us today about what it means to be human that no court, no poll, and no amount of cajoling or pleading or shaming on the part of our culture can change. So the question of the day is, what does God have to say about marriage in HIs Word?
But before we answer this question, I have to make one more thing really clear. This sermon isn’t written to married couples. It’s not written to singles, divorcées, or to children, or to widows or widowers. It’s not a how-to sermon or targeting anybody. The purpose of this sermon is to get at the basic question of what it means to be human and how is it that God puts us into family.
When we hear how God created man and woman in Genesis chapter two, a couple of things really stand out. First of all is who is doing the work. God creates Adam. God puts Him in the Garden of Eden and gives it to him to work it and keep it. And God sees, from the very beginning, that man cannot do this work alone. Caring for the earth, guarding it and tending it, well, that is not the job of one person. It requires many hands to make light work. Furthermore, the commission to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, that is impossible to do alone. God Himself recognizes that Adam needs help, he needs someone who can complete him and finish the work. So the God who formed Adam from the dust of the ground, forms Adam’s wife from his side. Adam himself recognizes this, that his relationship to Eve is fundamentally different than it is to anything else on earth. Adam exclaims:
““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.”” (Genesis 2:23 ESV)
The man and the woman are one, because they come from the One who created them for each other.
Now fast forward to Jesus. The Pharisees come to Jesus with a dicey question: ““Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”” (Mark 10:2 ESV) I don’t know anybody that likes to talk about divorce, least of all pastors. People who have suffered through a divorce are wounded and shamed when you talk about it; and people who haven’t gone through a divorce tend to act self-righteous and holy because they haven’t been “lowered” to such problems.
Jesus answers the Pharisees that the reason that they have divorce at all is because of the hardness of their hearts. In other words, the reason divorce is real is because of sin. We are broken and fallen, and that is true for relationships as much as it is for the sin that lurks within the heart.
Now Jesus knows all this, and so while He answers them according to the Law, He really does get to the heart of the matter. Who is it that makes two people into one? It is God. Only God. The God who created us is the self-same God who draws us to each other. He is the one who joins two people together into one through holy matrimony.
But who cares? Why does this matters? It matters because this holds up a great and wonderful mystery. The mystery is that two people with two very different ways of looking at the world, with their own sins and sorrows and hardships, that these two people become one flesh why? Because God is the one who makes it so by His Word. You can’t do it. I can’t do it. Only God our Father can make this into a reality. It is, I would argue, one of the fundamental things that make us different than the animals. God makes us as one flesh because He chooses to do so in love, not because we are just like the wolves or beavers or gorillas or whatever other monogamous animals there are in nature.
This is one of the very simple and obvious reason why we as Christians care about marriage between a man and a woman for life. If marriage becomes whatever two people or things want to make it be, then we’re no longer talking about how God created the world. We’re talking about how we can make up anything we want to because we feel like it.
But there is an even more fundamental reason why this matters to us as children of Adam and Eve. As St. Paul puts it, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32 ESV) You see, beloved, all of this man and woman one-flesh talk is about marriage, but it is really about the marriage of Christ and His Church. Jesus Christ leaves His Father, clings to His bride, the Church, and they become one flesh. And it is through that marriage, that life-long union, that you and me and the whole world is redeemed.
Jesus Christ lays down His life for His Bride. He sacrifices Himself for a bride that is not worthy, and makes her worthy by the blood of His death. She is, that is, you are spotless and holy because of this Bridegroom, the One one who comes to seek and to save the lost.
Marriage is about the life-long union of a man and woman here on earth, where they submit to each other and sacrifice for one another and for their children in ways that frankly make no sense. Our marriages today are imperfect, even broken sometimes. But the God who created us uses that union to point to the great reality that He loves this world, that He longs to be with her every day, and that we feast together in Him in the Lord’s Supper each and every Sunday.
So rejoice, beloved! Christ your bridegroom has come to save you, to make you His own, and to present you spotless and holy before God our blessed Father. That is who you are, because that is who He is: the Groom who became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Rejoice! This is your identity, and it is a glorious one indeed.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.