The 20th Sunday after Pentecost October 22, 2006
16, 351, 790 (TLH alt. 625), 786 (TLH alt. 400)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
In Jesus’ name, dear fellow Christians:
We are accustomed to living in a disposable world. We expect to use most things for only a short time and then throw them away. When a watch breaks it is usually easier and cheaper to throw it away and buy a new one, rather than take it to a jewelry shop and have it repaired. When a shoe has a hole in it it’s easier to buy a new pair than to have new soles put on.
Sometimes people look at marriage in the same way. Everyone loves the excitement and beauty of the ceremony, the reception, and the gifts, but the marriage is often entered into with the assumption that it may not last. The “newness” wears off, problems arise, and many are then ready to throw it away. If you watch TV you get the impression that marriage is more trouble than it’s worth. If you listen to people around you, you will likely hear complaints about a husband or wife. And if we look at our own lives and families, we see problems as well. It can lead us to wonder if marriage is really worth saving.
The Lord invites us to look at marriage from a fresh perspective, from His viewpoint instead of the world’s. When we do, we see marriage as the precious blessing God intends it to be.
Where did marriage come from? If it is just a human arrangement, a social custom that developed over the centuries, perhaps it could be worn out. But God takes us back to the very first days of the world’s history and shows us that marriage comes from Him. When God created the universe out of nothing by the power of His Word, it was an act of divine love from start to finish. We see His love in the variety of plant and animal life which He made for mankind’s enjoyment. Even today, while so much of that original beauty has been lost, we are still overwhelmed by the earth on which we live.
God gave Adam the Garden of Eden as a wonderful home in which to live and work. It must have been like a magnificent national park with a perfect climate and endless places to discover and explore. God’s love was evident in how He made Adam. He gave him a wonderful body with a full set of senses to appreciate the creation. He gave him a sharp mind which could look at and analyze the characteristics of each living thing and give it a name.
It was an incredible world, perfect and good in every respect….and yet, not quite. Amid all this beauty and glory, there was something which was not good. There was something missing which was needed for Adam’s complete happiness. The Lord said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” [v.18] Adam may have been able to do what he wanted when he wanted without having to consider anyone else, but that kind of freedom is not the key to happiness. Adam needed someone with whom he could share his life and garden home.
And so the Lord again put His love into action in making a helper comparable to Adam. He took one of the man’s ribs and formed a woman from it. One of the great moments in history occurred when He brought this gift of love to Adam. Imagine what it must have been like when Adam and Eve saw each other for the first time. It was truly a match made in heaven! Eve was the perfect complement to Adam in the sense that she completed his life and provided all the things needed for happiness. She corresponded to him physically, mentally, and spiritually. They were united as one in their aims and interests, like two gears in a machine which mesh perfectly. They became the first husband and wife and through their marriage God blessed them with companionship, children, and sexual satisfaction.
It is easy to see God’s hand in Adam and Eve’s marriage, but what about our marriages today? God is still active in bringing people together and establishing marriages. Some husbands and wives could tell some pretty remarkable stories of how the Lord brought them together. When Christians look to the Lord for help and guidance, they can trust that He will lead them to the right spouse at the right time. Those of us who already have a marriage partner can depend on the Lord to bless our marriages too, according to His gracious will.
The gifts are still there. Marriage offers the most intimate companionship a person can experience this side of heaven. In a husband or wife we have someone with whom we can share our whole life, someone who will make the joyful times even happier, and someone upon whom we can lean for support in times of trouble. God still blesses marriages with children. The joy of bringing up a child and leading him to know the Savior is a gift of God’s love. And, contrary to what the world would have us believe, the greatest sexual satisfaction does not come from illicit sex outside of marriage, but from the sexual union of a man and woman in marriage.
Is marriage worth it? Never doubt it! It is a gift of love from the Lord God: the God who created the world and gave us life, the God who loved us enough to send His Son to die on the cross, so that we could enjoy eternal life!
But what makes a marriage? It is more than a flawless ceremony attended by family and friends. It is even more than getting a license from the Clerk of Court. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman established by God through the couple’s unconditional, mutual commitment. God did not force Eve upon Adam. He brought her to him so he could choose her. There is no stronger or more permanent bond. The Lord says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” [v.24] And Jesus added later, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). God establishes marriage and He reserves for Himself alone the right to end a marriage through death. Anytime a marriage is broken by some other means there is sin involved. Divorce was never a part of God’s plan. The marriage vow which says, “…till death us do part” is not merely a suggestion of the church, it is the will of God.
The Lord also defines the roles husbands and wives are to have within marriage. Each has an equally important function, but the roles are different. Explaining that the man was created first, the Lord says that the husband is to be the head or leader in the home; and that the wife is to take on the helping role, just as Eve was created to be Adam’s companion and help him manage the Garden of Eden. Some call this arrangement outdated. Some are embarrassed that Scripture says this. Many marriages do not follow the Lord’s direction. We may feel uncomfortable at times trying to defend the teaching. But the truth still stands that marriages work most smoothly when husbands and wives follow their God-intended roles. After all, who would know better what makes for a happy, successful marriage than the One who invented it?
Is marriage worth saving? Absolutely, because it is a loving commitment established by God for the mutual blessing of husbands and wives.
Christ’s love for us is a model for our love within marriage. Christ’s love was not a quick infatuation which disappeared in tough times. It is not a love which is contingent on something good in us. It is not a self-centered love which only loves as long as it can see some benefit for itself.
The Lord’s love for us is total, unconditional, and unchanging. It was that love which made Him willing to do whatever it would take to set us free from sin and Hell. Jesus did not come to earth because He saw that mankind was so deserving. He saw a perfect world completely ruined by mankind’s sin. He did not come to show people how they could save themselves. We were too far gone for that. Rather, He came to live and die in our place. He loved us enough to put Himself under the requirements of the Law. He loved us so much that He was willing to suffer Hell’s punishment on the cross so that we could have forgiveness, peace, and life. “Greater love has no one than this; that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Let Christ-like love for one another be the theme of your marriage and the glue that holds it together. Wives are to follow their husbands’ leadership, not because they have to, but because they want to out of love for the Lord and their husbands just as we want to follow Christ as our spiritual Head. Husbands are to love their wives just as completely and unselfishly as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed Himself for her. Where there is that kind of mutual love, a marriage is a beautiful blessing!
But what about those times when the marriage is not perfect? There is no such thing as a perfect husband or wife. We are all sinners. Tempers flare. Selfishness shows itself. We lose appreciation for a spouse. What then? Again, our help is in Christ Jesus. He shed His blood so that sin would no longer rule in our hearts. We can go to Him with our burden of guilt and receive full pardon for it all. That moves us to confess our faults to one another and to forgive one another just as unconditionally as the Lord has forgiven us. Loved by God in Christ, we learn how to love one another. As we grow in our love for God, our love for one another will also increase. We will see our marriage partner not only as a husband or wife, but as a fellow member of God’s family. Luther once remarked: “Christians get married in order to help each other to heaven.”
Is marriage worth saving? It is not only worth saving but treasuring as one of the Lord’s greatest earthly gifts.
Lord, forgive our lack of appreciation for Your gift of marriage. Help us in the future to see it in the light of Your Word as a wonderful blessing of Your love. Amen
Your love, O God, has called us here,
For all love finds its source in You,
The perfect love that casts out fear,
The love that Christ makes ever new.
O God of love, inspire our life;
Reveal Your will in all we do.
Join every husband, every wife
In mutual love and love for You.
Worship Supplement 2000: 790 (1, 3)
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