Posted on October 24th, 2016
October 21, 2016
Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Apostles, Melrose Park, IL
Dear Saints loved by God, bride of the mystical bridegroom, our Lord JESUS Christ,
It was not good for Jonathan to be alone. So the Lord prepared for Jonathan a helper suitable for him.
To you, Jonathan, God gives Cari as bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh. Many gifts we receive and enjoy for ourselves. But in the gift of marriage comes the call to donate yourself, open up to and sacrifice yourself for the needs of your nearest neighbor.
We heard how Adam’s side was opened up, in a sleep like unto death. His rib became the constitutive element of the woman, signifying that the husband guards and protects her in the same way that the ribs shelter our vital organs. The LORD did not make her from the man’s head, lest she seek to rule over him. Neither did He make her from the man’s foot, lest he imagine that she is someone to be trampled upon. No, He made the woman from the man’s side to teach him to keep her always by his side as close companion.
But because of the hardness of your heart, the Lord JESUS says, you will not want to do this. The sinful nature makes us selfish creatures who prefer being served to serving, who prefer being loved to loving, who prefer receiving gifts to sacrificing ourselves.
Cari, you have the greater challenge ahead. Being a pastor’s wife is a challenging calling. It is often more difficult than being a pastor, because the calling of the pastor’s wife is hidden, confusing, and lonely. You go to live in a new place as a new wife without a support structure that most people have. Jonathan has a role to play, work to throw himself into: He is the shepherd of Oswego, the parson of Parsons – and who are you? What do they expect of you? Must you be on the altar guild? Are you expected to make something for a particular function? Will people judge you by what you wear, how your house looks, and a thousand other things, expectations they have of you that you never know about until it’s too late?
Cari, don’t take all the drama so seriously, and don’t worry too much about it. The best thing you can do, the one calling you have, is to be Jonathan’s wife, and as God grants it, the mother of your children. With that, there is enough work to do. If you want to do something in the church, join something, volunteer something, do it freely because you want to. Love your husband and live like a disciple of Jesus. If people see that, they will love you for you.
Jonathan, being a pastor is all-consuming. The work is never, ever done. You should work hard, and be prepared to work at any hour of any day. However, being husband to Cari is a greater calling than being pastor to your congregations. If you don’t take care of her, you won’t be able to take care of your congregations. So when she’s sick, when she’s lonely, when she’s sad, when she’s angry, stop what you’re doing and take care of her. If you learn how to love your wife, you’ll learn also how to be a pastor. You can see that implied in the reading from Ephesians.
And speaking of that, there’s a mistake in the service folder. Well, it’s not in the folder so much as it is in the Bible. Well, not the Bible either, but just our translations of it. We pick up reading in Ephesians 5 at verse 22, “Wives, submit to your husbands.” Right above those words in our English Bibles is a heading, usually something like, “Teaching on Marriage.” It’s hard to make a bigger mistake than that. It leaves out the preceding verse, where the idea of submission is introduced: All Christians, St. Paul says, are to live like this: “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” That’s the setup for wives submitting to husbands, so if we read it together, the way St. Paul wrote it, it goes like this: ‘Dear saints of God, give thanks always, ‘submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ, wives to your husbands, as to the Lord…’” So the wife has a unique calling to submit to her husband flowing from the general calling that all Christians have to be submissive to each other.
The man who says, “The problem here is that she just won’t submit!” misses the larger point that the husband submits also. He submits himself to the needs of his wife by sacrificing for her, giving up for her. We all have different roles, different offices, but the same general command applies to us all: submit to one another.
This ties in with another missing Bible verse, this time from Genesis 2. The rite stops with v24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” It stops just before it gets interesting! The last verse of the chapter reads, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
I suppose we skip that because we don’t want to talk about getting naked in church. But it means much more than the physical intimacy between husband and wife, which the marriage rite calls “finding joy and delight in one another.” The nakedness between our first parents before the fall was a complete openness. Nothing hidden, nothing withheld. No deception, no manipulation. We fear that if someone really knows us, really knows who we are, what we think, how we fell, we won’t be loved, we won’t be accepted. We’ll be put to shame. After this, throughout the Scriptures, nakedness and shame run together. The first thing our first parents did after setting aside the Word of God was to try to cover themselves. They hid both from God and each other. Still today, we hide our sins and seek to justify our actions.
The calling in holy marriage is to be naked and without shame, to be completely open, entirely honest, with a heart that forgives and forgets. You will fail in that, every day. Every day start anew, by looking to the heavenly Bridegroom.
For He who hung naked upon the cross was put to shame for you. And behold, like Adam, the side of the Second Adam opened up. The centurion thrust His spear, and the side of Christ was opened, pouring forth blood and water. This is the new genesis, the re-creation of man, and the life of your marriage. This is what a bridegroom does: the husband dies for the very bride who crowns Him with thorns and affixes Him upon a cross. Jonathan and Cari: in this Bridegroom is the life of your marriage. In Him will you live, in Him will you die, and His will you be forever.