The Second Sunday a. the Epiphany of our Lord (2014)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
January 19, 2014
Central Passage
John 2:1-11

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and His church.” (Eph. 5:32)

I read a post the other day on facebook or somewhere that was meant to elicit hope in a difficult or rocky relationship. It was one of those things I’d classify as one-liner wisdom, which are usually not too wise in the long run. It went something like this:

“The couples that are ‘meant to be’ are the ones who go through everything that is meant to tear them apart and come out even stronger than they were before.”

It’s a nice sentiment. But it doesn’t actually help. It doesn’t help because those who are going through a rough spot in their marriage are afraid that this is the one thing that actually will tear them apart. And there’s no way to know that you will make it through this tough and difficult time to see that you are, in fact, meant to be together.

And even if you do make it through and the sun shines a little brighter in a week and flowers are given and intimacy is exchanged, what’s to say that the next big fight won’t be the deal breaker? What’s to say that this rough spot has made you stronger? Maybe it’s just the opposite. Maybe it’s worn you down even further. Despite its appeal to man, the saying is not true that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Friedrich Nietzsche said that. He was a nihilist and as immoral as they come. He said to it to justify his wonton lust and to justify his debauchery. Sometimes that which doesn’t kill you makes you weaker so that something small and seemingly insignificant will kill you, or your marriage. “Death by a thousand paper cuts” is more apt than Nietzche’s nonsense.

Now there is actually something that does tell you that you and your spouse are ‘meant to be together’; that your husband or wife is truly the one for you and no one else. They are your marriage vows. I promise to love and to cherish, to have and to hold, to care for through sickness and in health, in poverty or riches, in good times and bad, we might say, until death separates us. This is God’s icon of the Christ and His Church.

What God has joined together, man ought not separate. Though man, does, indeed separate. The divorce rate inside the church is a prevalent as it is outside her hallowed walls. But that doesn’t make it okay or really even optional. Divorce is a sin. Even if you got divorced, it’s still a sin. Even if it’s your son or daughter who got divorced from that no good piece of … whatever. It’s still a sin. It violates what God has done and said.

So, people ask me, pastor, what do I do, then, if I am divorced? Confess your sin and seek a clean conscience before God.

We want to justify our sins, and divorce is perhaps the most justified by us. But you can’t justify your sins. You can’t make up for them. You can’t make your sins go away by piling up good works or by flashy one-liner wisdom posts on the internet. How arrogant we are when we sin and think that we can justify it because of the sins of others. Sin is sin, and there’s no way around it.

But there is a way through it.

Marriage is an icon of Christ and His church. That’s what the Bible teaches. That’s one of the reasons divorce is sinful. Christ doesn’t abandon His bride, even when His bride is worth abandoning. He sticks it out. He stays with her. That is what love truly is. It’s not emotion or likeability. Love is duty to God and neighbor. And Christ loves His Father so that He willingly bore the cross, the shame of all our sin. And the cross is His love for you, His neighbor.

Christ will not abandon His Church. He will not divorce her. They are meant to be together, not because they’ve made it through some rough times, but because He has taken vows; He has made promises. He has promised to lead her through the valley of the shadow of death. He has promised to remove her sins from her and give her the wedding garments of righteousness. He has promised to rid her of her guilt and shame, earned by her wonton and wayward living before and even after becoming His bride. The Christ is the new man and the Church His new bride.

The promises of God in Christ are your way through your sin and guilt and shame, whether caused by divorce or gossip or whatever. There is no sin so big or so dark that your Christ has not overcome it by His blood; the blood you are washed in. Your clean conscience before God is not born of your good works making up for your sins, but is born of the resurrection of Christ (1 Peter 3:21ff) so that you needn’t worry if this sin and trouble you’re going through today will be the one to end your relationship with Him. It won’t be.

Christ doesn’t know He is supposed to be with you because you’ve gone through things meant to tear you apart and have come the stronger for it. No, we are as weak as we ever were: you and me. Christ is the strong one. He means what He says and does what He is supposed to do. He forgives our sins. He gives us life, eternal life, abundant life. He takes His vows in holy Baptism and renews them in holy absolution. And He changes lowly wine into His life-giving body and blood, given and shed for you, His beautiful bride.

+ In Nomine Iesu +