7th Sunday after Pentecost July 16, 2023
624, 620, Worship Supplement 2000 #790, 625
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Editor’s Note: Wedding Address on Matthew 19:5-6 for Zachary Sippert and Danielle Gamble on May 26, 2023 at Berea Lutheran Church, Inver Grove Heights, MN.
Sermon Audio: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/ministrybymail
Prayer of the Day: Most gracious God, we give thanks for the joy and blessings that You grant to husbands and wives. Assist them always by Your grace that with true faithfulness and steadfast love they may honor and keep their marriage vows, grow in love toward You and for each other, and come at last to the eternal joys that You have promised; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
In the name of the triune God, who truly is creator and provider of every marriage on earth, dear friends and family members gathered here today, and especially the two of you, Zack and Dannie. The Word of God for this occasion of your wedding are the words of Jesus spoken in defense of marriage nearly 2000 years ago and recorded for us in Matthew 19:5-6:
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
If you read the manufacturing labels on the clothing items people wear, you come to the conclusion that much of it is not made in the USA. My shoes, for example, were made in China. My belt was made in Guatemala, and my black suitcoat came from Mexico. My preacher’s gown, as it turns out, was made in Florida. Regardless of the geographical point of origin, it’s only a matter of time before the garments, the shoes, and lots of other things that we buy and use will be replaced because they’ve worn out or become obsolete.
Human manufacturing rarely turns out something designed to last for generations. God, on the other hand, doesn’t have such limitations. When something is made in heaven, it really is made to last. Think of the Bible as a prime example. It started in heaven with the Holy Spirit sent to bring God’s revealed truth for the prophet or the apostle to record as part of the Word of the Lord that endures forever. Well, that enduring Word of God has something profound to say about what is happening here today. Jesus wants both of you to know that even though it takes place only here on earth as far as you’re concerned, as far as God is concerned, your marriage is made in heaven. That is to say, 1) made by God when He joins you together as one, but also 2) made to last until heaven becomes your home.
I know you’ve gone over the Scriptures more intently on the subject of marriage, but let’s review briefly some limitations that marriage has. Christian marriage is not a sacrament. It does not qualify as a means of grace, although it should always be a conduit through which the means of grace can happen. Christian marriage does not save a person from sin and death, nor does it extend beyond this earth into eternity, even as we say “till death us do part.” On the other hand, it is also true that marriage is not a human institution subject to changing cultural norms. Marriage in general and your marriage specifically are, first and foremost, God’s property governed by Him to bring you incredible blessings. It’s a union made in heaven when God Himself joins you together as one.
When confronted about divorce in Matthew 19, Jesus defended marriage in a stunning way. He emphasized the marriage Maker’s math as a 1 + 1 = 1 equation. One man plus one woman becomes “one flesh,” Jesus said … twice in the two verses of our text. It’s an astounding concept that the apostle Paul has called a mystery in Ephesians 5, as we heard in one of the readings today. In a God-given marriage the two people become uniquely one with each other as they leave the homes of their parents and begin a new home of their own. But the joining together, Jesus says, is done by God. Literally the words “joined together” mean “yoked together,” like a pair of oxen joined at the shoulders with a wooden yoke to pull a cart or a plow. The farm metaphor is not a dismal way to say you’re stuck with each other, although by design you are stuck to each other so that together you can pull the weight as a team. The Lord knows that the burdens of life, of which there are many, are easier to carry when the two work together as one.
“What God has joined together,” Jesus says, “let not man separate.” When God makes a marriage, He makes it to last your entire time together on earth. He determines the end point when one or the other spouse is no longer here. That’s when the union comes to an end; and in the case of two believers, the spouse who leaves in Christian death has gained the victory of eternal life while the spouse who remains has the same hope of gaining the same victory one day.
With that in mind, we should take a very long view. As you go the distance of a life together, united as one, guided by the Word, relying on the Lord, there will be difficulties along the way. This is to be expected when two people, who continue to struggle with sin and weakness, spend that much time together. In fact, it’s a mistake to say “Hey, we got this; we got this marriage thing,” as though our efforts and commitment are going to make all the difference. The Bible warns against such thinking: “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) Thankfully, when God sticks you together as one, He also provides a form of extra-strength super glue in the promises and the presence of Jesus. In Him, in Christ, we have more than a marriage maker. We also have a marriage preserver.
The Lord, as you know, has incredible strength and power. He’s got it covered. “He’s got this,” we should say, since He protects us from danger and temptation. He answers your prayers. And He alone shows you the greatest kind of love there is. No matter how much you love each other, Jesus loves you more. Jesus loves you the most, and He proved it by making a sacrifice no one else could make. His death on the cross happened for every person in attendance here and every human in this world. Jesus took all our sins on Himself, carried them to the cross, and so removed them from God’s sight. Jesus also rose from the grave so that the two of you can look down the path of your married life to your final destination of eternal life and walk that path together as fellow Christians.
In the promises of Christ that you find in His Word, in the love of Christ displayed in the Gospel, you have the right foundation for your life together. As you focus on His love for you, you find the key to loving each other in that higher form of love called agape, as described in 1 Corinthians 13. When you understand the forgiveness that you have in Christ, there you find the power to forgive each other. With Jesus in the middle of your marriage, He’s the super glue to keep you together as one and make this union last with blessings coming from Him to you. You can trust His commitment to you as you make your commitments to each other. Into His reliable hands, then, we commend here on earth this marriage, your marriage made in heaven. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.