Zion Lutheran Church, Columbus, Ohio
August 18, 2018
My deepest thanks to Pastor Hromowyk and the people of Zion Lutheran for their hospitality and allowing us to worship today in this beautiful church.
Shawn and Molly, it’s an honor to be your pastor, your colleague, and your friend.
Grace to you and peace from God the Father, who by the Holy Spirit made mankind to be the bride for His Son Jesus.
“Lead us not into temptation,” we pray. Yet today the Lord does precisely that. Or rather, He leads you into the testing. For the word can mean either one: tempting, or testing.
For you pedagogs, Shawn and Molly, tests are part of your daily work. What are they for, these tests? To ascertain if the right facts have been learned, of course. But a good test will itself teach, leading the discipulus—the disciple—to an integration of the material.
The goal of a classical education is not to impart enough knowledge so the pupil can become successful. In our work as classical educators, we are training men to be free. Free to delight in what is true, what is beautiful, what is good as God declares goodness.
It is not good for the man to be alone. Therefore, Shawn, God gives you today bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh. And today, Molly, you receive a head. And in these gifts God becomes your pedagog. Today the testing begins. This testing is designed to make you free precisely by teaching you how to be a slave.
For the truth is, we are by nature slaves to our own desires. Filled with lust, pride, and a desire to be served, marriage calls you into the life of Christ, who did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for the many.
Today the testing begins. You will find delight in one another, to be sure. But you will also find in your heart the desire to conform your spouse not into God’s image but into a twisted image of yourself. That image, the image of self-glory, needs to die.
When I first heard about the possibility of a young lady named Molly Leithart coming to teach at our school, my first question was, “Is she related to Peter Leithart?” I’ve long admired his writing, especially about marriage. Already years ago he saw that marriage in our culture was dying. “Marriage is dying,” he says, “because we have forgotten that marriage is always about dying."
So the test is, can you die, Shawn and Molly, in this marriage? Can you die to yourself and live for the other?
This is the cross of marriage, regardless of what particular challenges face you. As important as it may be, there are crosses deeper than Ohio State football. Today, Molly, you will promise to submit to Shawn as the Church submits to Christ. And you, Shawn, will promise to love Molly as Christ loves the Church.
Our culture has served us ill by presenting a romantic, erotic vision of marriage that makes happiness god. You will feel this idol beckoning you to worship the moment your spouse makes you unhappy. The imagined right to happiness suddenly supersedes the solemn vows you make today. The vow you make before God today is to love, honor, and keep, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of how happy you are at the moment or how much you’ve been sinned against.
Here is where the petition, “Lead us not into temptation” comes into play, when that cross presses heavy upon you. It is preceded by the foundation of mercy: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Mercy is the answer, if you will, to the test. Absolution for your spouse’s sins, strength for your spouse’s weakness.
Molly and Shawn, you are doomed to failure ... if you try to achieve this on your own. But the prayer of the prayer is always first Jesus, by Whom His Father becomes “Our Father.” He says it with you and for you.
Lead us not into temptation, lead us not into the time of testing, is the cry you know well from your students. “Will the test be hard? Can we use our notes? Can I do some extra credit?” They’re hoping you’ll go easy on them. That’s what we’re saying in the Lord’s Prayer: “Go easy on us in the time of testing.”
The Jesus who gives us these words to pray was Himself driven into the time of testing by the Holy Spirit. He overcame the devil and passed the test to be dissatisfied with what the Father has given.
His test is now credited to you; that’s justification. His open side poured out blood and water for His bride. No sin in your marriage cannot be cleansed by His blood. Seeing that in your relationship is the testing that leads you, if you will, to the integration of the material, of joining doctrine to life.
The good student will see even the failed tests as beneficial. And precisely in the times when we’ve struggled, fought, yelled and been selfish, and we receive grace, we learn how very good God is, who uses our spouse to shower on us His undeserved kindness. In the time of testing, God will bless you not because you are good students, but because He is the good Pedagog. He leads His children beyond the idol of happiness to the joy of grace.
Through the testing, the Holy Spirit creates in you a holy love that passes the shallow romanticism and eroticism of our culture. This is a love that flows from being loved by God. This love lives each moment as a gift from God. In this marriage, Molly and Shawn, God makes you participants in His own work of creation, pro-creation, of unmerited love, and the joy of giving and receiving gifts.
So don’t be conformed to the foolish demands of this world. Laugh and play with each other and with your kids. Teach them to shoot bottle rockets, but maybe don’t aim them at each other. Talk in silly accents and root for the scarlet and gray. But above all, remember in the time of testing that you already have been given the answer key in the cross of Jesus. +INJ+