ďThe Defense of Marriage ActĒ
Last week we saw how Mary chided
Jesus, her twelve-year-old Son, for causing her and Joseph to worry.
Jesus responded to His motherís motherly concern by reminding
her that He had to be about His Fatherís business.
Where else should she expect to find her Son than in the temple?
The temple was where God dwelt.
God promised to visit His people in the temple.
It was the meeting place where God and Godís people would come
together in peace.
Jesus teaches us that He is the
real temple of which the temples made with stones were only copies.
Since the temple is the meeting place between the holy God and
sinful humanity, it is in Jesus Christ alone that we can have a friendly
meeting with God. Apart
from the person of Christ, there can be no personal relationship with
God. Apart from Christ, God
remains a stranger, and a fearful one at that.
In Christís person, in Christís living, and in His dying, we
find our God. In Christís
person, the Father is revealed. In
Christís living, the Father is pleased.
In Christís dying, the Father is reconciled to us.
When we find ourselves clothed in Christ by Holy Baptism, we find
ourselves to be children of the heavenly Father.
He is our Father who loves us.
Only in Jesus can God be found, because only in Jesus is pure
obedience offered up to God and only in Jesus is all of our sin washed
away. Only in Jesus do we
stand before God as holy people, cleansed from all sin, and free from
This is not just a theoretical
doctrine to be filed away in our minds somewhere as we go on to ignore
it as we live our lives. This
teaching that Jesus alone is our righteousness before God is the central
teaching of the Christian faith apart from which Christianity is
essentially no different than any other religion.
It is a tragedy of so many Christian lives that this central
truth of the faith is ignored. Jesus
as Redeemer is relegated to the back of the bus as Christians try to
live out their Christian lives under Godís law.
They look to Jesus only to get them to heaven, but they live here
below as if the law is their master.
What do you think of when you
think of Jesus? Is He the
One who accuses us of sin or is He the One who takes our sins away?
What are you looking for when you look to Jesus?
Are you looking for instructions on how you can solve your own
problems or are you looking for the One who covers you with His grace so
that no problem you face in life can possibly defeat you?
Most of lifeís problems arise
very close to home. In
fact, it is at home where most of our troubles are centered. Children ignore what their parents say because they think
they know better than their parents do how they should their lives.
Husbands neglect their wives and treat them as servants, rather
than as their own flesh. Wives
try to rule their husbands instead of respecting them as head of the
home. And then there is the
arguing, the fighting, the unfaithfulness, and the unbridled selfishness
than rages through marriages and rips them to shreds.
As marriage falls on hard times,
more and more people are opting out of it altogether.
Of course, if they also opted out of the intimacy that belongs to
the marriage bed, that would be one thing.
Living a life of celibacy outside of marriage can give men and
women the opportunity to serve both God and neighbor in ways that are
not available to married couples. But it is often the case that people choose to live as if
they were husband and wife when they are not husband and wife.
The popular culture promotes every kind of sin against the Sixth
Commandment as if true happiness depends on finding new ways to defy
God. Cowardly politicians
bow down before political lobbies that insist on government protection
for such crimes as sodomy and abortion.
The ďabortion-rightsĒ movement in our country is responsible
for the slaughter of tens of millions of unborn children, yet
politicians who have no fear of God fear the political price they will
pay to stand up for the unborn. The
so-called right to abortion is necessary to protect the so-called right
of women and men to commit fornication without facing the consequences.
But the consequences of a seared national conscience are too real
to ignore as our country descends deeper and deeper into irrational
hedonism, the unthinking pursuit of unbridled pleasure.
The nadir of our national
descent is epitomized in recent efforts to get the State to defend the
rights of homosexuals to marry. The
absurdity of it all is lost in the midst of frantic efforts to defend
marriage by passing new laws. Folks
speak of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Will the government that defends the right to kill babies and the
right to commit sodomy defend the divine institution of marriage?
I doubt it. Certainly,
we should do our civic duty to support efforts to defend the institution
of marriage, but the real defense of marriage will not come from any
government instituted by men. Governments
of this world can only deal with the symptoms of the problem.
Christ alone can address the cause.
And it is Christís government,
His kingdom, which has come into this world to sanctify and bless
marriage. Look at His
kingdom as it is displayed at the wedding of Cana.
He is in charge. As
much as He loves and honors His mother, He makes it clear that she
should leave everything to Him and that He will not submit to her
schedule. The kingdom of
Christ is one in which the King doesnít derive His authority to govern
from those He governs. He
has all authority in heaven and on earth. His government is like no other.
He does not govern by laying down the law, but by fulfilling it.
The Son of God sanctified
virginity by being born into this world from a virgin mother.
He sanctified marriage by working His first miracle at a wedding.
Virginity before marriage and fidelity within marriage are
clearly required by Godís law. Since
our dying culture advertises its contempt for divine law it might be
tempting for us Christians to think that the solution to troubles
marriages today will come from laying down the law.
But when Jesus enters into the Christian marriage and family, it
is not to lay down the law.
This is symbolized by the
miracle. The New Testament
actually uses the word ďsign.Ē
The fact that it is a miracle shows us that Jesus is God.
He does what only God can do.
He creates good wine out of water.
As in the beginning God looked upon the world that He had made
and judged it to be very good, so in this first miracle of God become
flesh the master of the feast pronounces the wine very good.
The miracle proves that Jesus is the Creator.
But it is more than a miracle.
It is a sign. It
signifies the fulfillment of the law and the blessing of the gospel.
The law is symbolized by the water in the six stone waterpots
used for the outward purification of the body.
Six falls short of seven. Seven
is the number of Godís blessing upon this world.
Six is the number for labor that cannot get the job done. God rested on the seventh day because he got the job done in
six days. His rest was well
deserved. But we work and
we work and we work and the work is never finished because there is
something wrong with us. Our
rest on the seventh day is not deserved.
And we cannot rest until we find our rest in Christ.
As we labor in our marriages to
serve and honor the husband or wife we come face to face with our own
selfishness at a deeper level than we care to admit. Since we donít care to admit it, we put one another on
trial because it is easier for us to point the finger than it is to
confront our own failure. This
is especially so when our failure repeats itself over and over again.
It is in marriage especially
that this profound selfishness is so clearly seen. But it is not only in marriage.
As the father and mother live and act, so the children learn and
so the community learns and so the nation learns and so it goes.
But the root of the problem, which is our sinful hearts, grows in
the home. When Jesus
chooses in His own time and in His chosen manner to change water into
wine, He teaches us that He is the answer to every trouble facing
marriage and the family.
He chooses water that symbolizes
the law. He changes it.
The water is no more. There
is only wine. Jesus does
not come to lay down the law. He
replaces the law with the gospel. The
wedding feast was going to be a catastrophe.
The law brings to us catastrophic results.
It brings Godís curse. It
brings Godís judgment. It
condemns us all. But look
and see what Jesus does! The
water is gone. Only wine remains. When
Christ comes into your marriage, there is no condemnation anymore.
There is no judgment of your failure.
There is no catastrophe. There
is nothing but the pure and excellent wine of Godís good pleasure.
As wine symbolizes a happy heart and a joyful celebration, so
Christ comes and gives us happy hearts and a deep joy beyond human
description. He drinks to the bitter dregs the cup of divine retribution
against sinners. He
willingly submits to the Fatherís will that He drink up the cup of
wrath. In so drinking,
Jesus takes Godís wrath against us away.
We never have to drink that cup.
We drink instead from the wine
of Godís favor. When we
confess in the Creed that we believe in the forgiveness of sins we are
also confessing that we believe in the forgiveness of sinners.
God forgives us. It
is not as if He forgives the things that we do but still holds it
against us somehow that we did those things.
No, He is pleased with us. He
is favorable toward us. He
celebrates with us the joy of our being His children who are free from
all blame because Jesus drank the cup we couldnít drink and has given
us in its place the wine of divine gladness.
The pure, holy, and sinless
celebration is reserved for heaven when all sinful desires are forever
purged from our hearts. But
here on earth we are invited to see Jesus as the bridegroom who gave up
His life for His bride on the cross and then washed her in Holy Baptism
to make her His holy bride. We
are the bride of Christ, the Communion of Saints, the children of the
heavenly Father. The sins
that bring such suffering into our marriages, our homes, and our
personal lives are the very same sins that our Lord Jesus has washed
away by His blood. In
sanctifying our marriages and homes, Jesus provides us with a foretaste
of the marriage feast in heaven. There,
as we are confirmed in the holiness of God Himself, we will forget all
of the sins and failures of which we were guilty.
Today we trust in the forgiveness of sins while we live under the
shelter of the cross. In
heaven the grace of God will shine clearly and forever.
The joy of that eternal celebration will never diminish as Christ
and His holy bride will rejoice in each other throughout eternity.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus