The Perfect Relationship

The Perfect Relationship

The words from the Old Testament Reading and Holy Gospel appointed
for today have a very familiar ring to them. Perhaps better said, a double
ring. You see, these words that the Holy Spirit gave Moses to write in Genesis
2 and as He inspired St. Mark to pen in his Gospel account, together with a
passage from Ephesians 5, are among the recommended readings from Holy
Scripture used at weddings conducted in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church.

Why? In the readings for the wedding, we hear God's design
for marriage: A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his
wife, and they shall become one flesh. In addition, we hear this command
of our Lord in the Gospel appointed for today (and for weddings): "What
therefore God has joined together let not man separate" (v. 9). When
couples go through their premarital counseling sessions with their pastor, they
learn of God’s love in this verse—that the blessed union God has given husband
and wife is to not be broken, split, cut, torn, or ripped apart, for the union
of husband and wife God has commanded to be for life. Think of the temple
curtain at the time when our Lord died. It was torn, ripped asunder, from
top to bottom. When that curtain was torn apart, it brought us closer to
our heavenly Father through His Son.

To keep the wedding bonds together, and not be ripped, is
God-pleasing, and He bases this holy union on the perfect union of Christ and
His bride, the Church. Many of you were likely married in a church building,
perhaps even this one. It is truly good, right, and salutary that
weddings of God's people take place in His house, that we would see our
heavenly Bridegroom, Christ, take care of and give good gifts to His bride, the
Church, and that the Church, through her confession and practice remain
faithful to her Husband.

The life of the Christian cannot help but be intimately woven into
the life of the Church, and the life of the Church cannot help but be
intimately woven into the life of the Christian. A Christian is baptized,
confirmed, married, and buried in and from the Church. One becomes
baptized into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit so
that the Spirit may bring this person to saving faith in Jesus Christ unto life

Following a time of catechesis, which is to begin in the home, the
catechumen makes public confirmation of the faith into which he became
baptized, publicly professing that, by the Holy Spirit, he will remain faithful
to God and in continual worship of Him, faithfully and eagerly receiving Word
and Sacrament unto life everlasting.

After a few years, many Christians will express a desire to get
married and to have the marriage rite celebrated in the church, as a man and a
woman pledge their love and faithfulness to each other in the sight of God for
live everlasting. We hear these words in the marriage rite:

We are gathered here in the sight of God and before His Church to
witness the union of this man and this woman in holy matrimony. This is an
honorable estate, instituted and blessed by God in Paradise, before humanity's
fall into sin.

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 the holy estate that [the
bride] and [groom] wish to enter. They desire our prayers as they begin
their marriage in the Lord's Name and with His blessing.
[LSB, p. 275]

We then hear what our Lord has purposed for marriage as we hear
the Word of the Lord. In the marriage rite, the Old Testament reading is
the reading we heard this morning, from Genesis 2, where the Lord says,
"It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for
him" (Gen. 2:18). Moses records at the end of this reading,
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his
wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24),
words repeated by St. Paul in the Epistle reading in the marriage rite, words
repeated by the Lord in the Holy Gospel for the marriage rite, in our text for

But Jesus expands upon what Moses wrote, saying, "What
therefore God has joined together, let man not separate" (v. 9).
Jesus added these words in response to a question put to Him by the
Pharisees. They did not ask Him because they were confused; they sought
to trap Him, asking Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his
wife?" (v. 2b). You see, there were two rabbinic schools of thought
that prevailed, one in accord with God's Word and the other not. The more
liberal school of thought held that a man could divorce his wife for any reason
whatsoever, even if she failed to do as little as one thing to her husband's
satisfaction. The Lord asked them, "What did Moses command
you?" (v. 3). They did not tell Him what Moses commanded, but rather
what he allowed: "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce
and to send her away" (v. 4).

"And Jesus said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart he
wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, "God
created them male and female." "Therefore a man shall leave his
father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one
flesh." So they are no longer two but one flesh. What
therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (vv. 5-9), or rip
asunder. The Lord quoted from Genesis to show these hard-hearted,
so-called religious leaders that God Himself instituted marriage, a holy bond
that sinful man is not to break. But at that time divorce decrees were
being issued left and right, for any reason whatsoever, and even for no reason
at all. The people of God were sinning against him by divorcing at
will. The Lord Himself says, "I hate divorce." He
grudgingly allows rare instances in which a divorce may be granted: adultery
and desertion. But we are not to go looking for loopholes. We are
here to hear what the Lord says about what He has instituted.

Holy Scripture clearly speaks to marriage and how God has intended
it, and there is no better passage than in Ephesians 5, where Paul compares the
marriage of husband and wife to the marriage of Christ to His Bride, the
Church. In the marriage rite, the groom and the bride each vow in the
presence of God to live with each other in holy marriage according to the Word
of God, to love, comfort, and honor each other, to keep each other in sickness
and in health and forsaking all others, be wedded to each other as long as they
both shall live, to love and to cherish, until death parts them, and they
pledge each other their faithfulness.

Again, marriage is not to be entered into inadvisedly or
lightly. But it is increasingly more common that this is the case.
Words are to mean things, but when one has no regard for what is being said,
even by oneself, vows become nothing more than empty words.

We live in a time of pre-nuptial arrangements, a contract which
states who gets what and how much in the event the couple divorces. Such
a contract does little more than to tell the world that this couple does not
truly love each other as they are already anticipating divorcing. Look at
how many times celebrities marry and divorce, only to remarry and re-divorce,
and further repeating this empty, loveless cycle. These people may
profess their love for each other, but it is often little more than an erotic,
a sexual love. Once someone better looking or more popular, or even
younger, comes along, the past relationship is just that—in the past.
Many do not even wait to become married before engaging in sexual relations
with each other, an intimacy which God has commanded to be reserved for a
husband and his wife alone. But we need not look to blame the Hollywood culture (or lack thereof).

Such adultery is prevalent in our society and can even be found in
various branches of our own family trees. We can look to our own family
trees and see which of our relatives is living with someone in a manner God has
forbidden or who has sired, conceived and borne children out of wedlock, out of
the holy bounds that God has established. And yet we need not look any
farther than our own hearts to know that we ourselves have not always honored
our marriage vows. Maybe there was an affair, maybe not. The issue
goes much deeper than that. Think of the times that your eyes have
wandered and gazed lustfully upon someone not your spouse. Go
deeper. Remember the times you and your spouse have argued with each
other, saying hurtful and spiteful things to each other, looking to cut each
other down verbally. We have not honored each other as we have
promised. We do not honor each other as we ought because we do not love
each other as we ought.

We do not love each other as we ought because we do not love God
as we ought. We do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things
because we are poor, miserable sinners. And, since we do not love God as
we ought, we do not love others as we ought: spouses, neighbors, children, and
grandchildren, friends and strangers alike. We do not say the things we
ought to say, approaching one another in the love of the Lord and seeking to
bring an erring brother or sister to repentance. Yet we say things that
we should not say to each other or about each other. The tongue loves to
wag; it is the devil's favorite instrument of war. He loves to use our
wicked tongues to cut down each other, and we are all too willing to help him.
So we then say, "Peace, peace," where there is no peace, for the
peace of Christ does not rule our hearts.

And as the cause and effect of this we do not defend each other,
speak well of each other, nor do we put the best construction on anything; we
do not encourage our wayward children to return to the Lord's house to receive
the gifts He so dearly wants to give to them, as long as they repent. We
do not love our spouses, children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors, and
strangers as we should. We love ourselves, and we are guilty not merely
adultery but idolatry. We, in our supposedly adult wisdom, do not receive
the kingdom of God like a little child. That is to say, we do not eagerly
cling to each word that comes from the mouth of the Lord as He speaks to us in
readings, catechesis, and sermon. We despise preaching and God's Word and
do not gladly hear and learn it. We are not being childlike in our faith,
but childish and risk eternity outside the kingdom of God.

Our Lord still calls us children, not only because we are childish
spiritually, but because we continually need to be fed. Our Lord feeds us
on His Word, that we may know and firmly believe, teach, confess, and practice
the faith He has given us through Holy Baptism, preaching, and lifelong
catechesis, through liturgy, psalms, and hymnody. He comes to us, calling
us to repentance, calling us to be children of the heavenly Father. He
calls us to be fed on His Word and on His body and blood. Through these
Means of Grace our Lord takes us in His arms, just as a mother takes a baby in
her arms and feeds him. The relationship our Lord desires with us is more
personal and intimate than a mother has with her infant child, than a husband
and wife have with each other, for God has joined us together with His Son
through Jesus' death and resurrection. Martin Luther said in a wedding
sermon back in 1531:

"God's word is actually inscribed on one's spouse. When
a man looks at his wife as if she were the only woman on earth, and when a
woman looks at her husband if he were the only man on earth; yes, if no king or
queen, not even the sun itself sparkles any more brightly and lights up your
eyes more than your own husband or wife, then right there you are face to face
with God speaking. God promises to you your wife or husband, actually
gives your spouse to you saying, '[This one] shall be yours. I am pleased
beyond measure! Creatures earthly and heavenly are jumping for joy.' For
there is no jewelry more precious than God's Word; through it you come to
regard your spouse as a gift of God and, as long as you do that, you have no

We are joined together, for Christ, the Bridegroom, has loved His
bride, the Church and "gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify
her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He
might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any
such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph.
5:25-27), for "we see Him who for a little while was made lower than
the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering
and death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone"
2:9). The Lord has tasted death for you, and you will soon taste and
see that the Lord is good. As our Lord has joined you together with your
heavenly Father through Jesus' death and resurrection, He draws you closer to
Himself at His Table. He draws you closer in His Holy Absolution, where
He announces that you are forgiven for His sake.

He draws you closer by speaking to you as He is now in the sermon,
as He did moments ago in the public reading of His Word, and as He does through
ongoing catechesis and Bible study.

It is our Lord's desire that all children—children of all ages and
at all times and in all places—be counted as children of God, for God loves
us. This is what God is all about: love. God is love. He
loves children. He desires that we receive the kingdom of God like a little
child, that we eagerly cling to the words and promises of God, for it is in
these words that our Lord grants forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and
salvation to us. Through His Means of Grace our Lord establishes His
perfect relationship with us. Our relationship with Him is not perfect,
for we are not perfect.

But our Lord continues to draw us closer to this perfect
relationship as the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His
gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith. He makes us
perfect, perfect in heaven, where we, through faith, will join the saints into
all eternity, enjoying the perfect relationship our Lord has wanted for us from
all eternity and into all eternity.

Our Lord has established for us the perfect relationship. He
has given us the model for our relationships with one another: with our
spouses, our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors and friends, and even
total strangers. Our Lord has moved us to act out of love for one
another, out the love He has first shown us. We love because He loves us
and gave His life for us. Will our relationships with each other be
perfect? Absolutely not, because our relationship with God is not
perfect. But we are able to forgive each other since God has first
forgiven us.

Forgiveness: that is the key to any relationship, forgiving those
who trespass against us even as God has forgiven us our trespasses. We
are able, by the love of Christ, to forgive one another, for the Lord has
forgiven you. He forgave you in Holy Baptism. He forgave you this
morning in Holy Absolution. He forgives you in the preaching of His Word
this day. He will in a moment forgive you once again in the Lord's
Supper. He takes you in His arms, too. Amen.