Sermon for August 23, 2015

Sermon for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 16

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Ephesians 5:22-33

Sermon Theme:  “And the Two Shall Become One”

 (Sources:  Brokhoff, Series B, Preaching Workbook; “Church Attendance,” Wikipedia Online;; “Percentages of Divorce” Online; “Love” and “Equality,” Christian Post; Online Marriage Jokes;  original ideas; Online Christian Jokes about Marriage; Charlie Brown and Lucy’s Relationship Online)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

           In one episode of “Peanuts,” Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “You know what I don’t understand?  I don’t understand love!”

Charlie Brown replies, “Who does?”

Lucy continues, “Explain it to me, Charlie Brown.”

He says, “You can’t explain love.  I can recommend a book or a poem or a painting, but I can’t explain love.”

Lucy then adds, “Well, try, Charlie Brown, try!”

Charlie responds, “Well, let’s say I see this beautiful, cute little girl walk by, and . . .”

Indignant, Lucy interrupts, “Why does she have to be cute?  Huh?  Why can’t someone fall in love with someone with freckles and a big nose?  Explain that!”

Charlie says, “Well, maybe you are right.  Let’s just say I see this girl walk by with this great big nose, and . . .”

Lucy raises her voice, “I didn’t say GREAT BIG NOSE!”

Exasperated, Charlie concludes, “You not only can’t explain love, you can’t even talk about it!”

In various episodes of “Peanuts,” Lucy bullies Charlie Brown for no reason at all, always takes the football away before he kicks, calls him names like “Stupid,” does mean things to Linus, and blames Charlie for everything, even things that are her fault.  In spite of this, Charlie Brown cares about Lucy, likes her, and trusts her.  It’s a relationship that reminds us of some marriages.

A man said to his wife one day, “I don’t know how you can be so stupid and so beautiful all at the same time.”

The wife responded, “Allow me to explain.  God made me beautiful so you would be attracted to me; God made me stupid so I would be attracted to you.”

Another man exclaimed to his friend, “I just had another fight with my wife!”

“Oh, yeah?,”  the friend said, “and how did this one end?”

“When it was over,” he replied, “she came to me on her hands and knees.”

“His friend looked puzzled.  “Really?  Now that’s a switch!  What did she say?”

“I think she said something like this, ‘Come out from under that bed, you gutless weasel!’”

You know, the sad thing about most contemporary jokes about marriage is that there is such an element of reality in each one.  Marriage is part of God’s plan for human beings, and like so many of God’s plans for us, it is often derailed.  Thirty-nine percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce.  God does not expect everyone to get married.  To be sure, Paul was not married.  Jesus was not married.

For those who are married, God sent wise men like the Apostle Paul to give us some counseling.  In today’s text, Paul says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. . . . Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

This passage, which deals with the right attitude and conduct of husbands and wives, has sometimes caused skeptics to accuse Paul of being a Male Chauvinist, or, even a misogynist (a man who hates women); but that is certainly not true of Paul, and calls for a more careful reading of the passage.

The relationship Paul promotes is modeled by the relationship of Christ and the Church.  As Christ is the head of the Church, a husband is head of his wife.  Therefore she is to be subject to him as the husband is subject to God and as the Church is subject to Christ.  Unfortunately, our text begins after an introductory statement by Paul which says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  In that statement preceding our text, Paul is saying that all of us Christians, men and women, are to submit to one another.  That puts the statement in a slightly different light.

The wife should have no objections to being subject to her husband, because he loves her as Christ loved the Church and as his own body.  Christ loved the Church enough to die for all its members, and, in marriage, the two become one flesh.

How far the world has gotten away from this concept today!  The era we are living in has to be the strangest time in history!  In America, huge numbers of heterosexual couples live together without marriage, apparently seeing no need for it.  Yet, a majority of Americans wanted same-sex marriage, and the Supreme Court gave it to them, while at the same time, the world-wide divorce rate is growing.  Troubling times.

And too few people today are concerned with what God’s plan regarding marriage really is, and they’re not into the Word and going to church to find out.  In studying the most recent Gallup polls and other such polls, I found what looks like a connection between church attendance and divorce.  No doubt some marriages have to end in divorce, but why so many?

Hungary has the tenth highest divorce rate in the world; church attendance in Hungary is 12 percent.  Sweden has the ninth highest divorce rate in the world; church attendance in Sweden is 5 percent.  The Czech Republic has the eighth highest divorce rate in the world; church attendance is 11 percent.  Statistics are not available for church attendance for the first and second highest divorce rate in the world, but Belgium has the third highest divorce rate and church attendance is 7 percent.

At 89 percent, Nigeria has the highest church attendance in the world, but no divorce rate for them is available.

The United States has the fifth highest divorce rate in the world, but our church attendance is given as 39 percent, one of the highest in the world.  39 percent divorce rate, and 39 percent church attendance.  Maybe there is hope for us.

Although what the Bible says about same-sex marriage is politically incorrect, a sermon on Christian marriage needs to include the subject.  The Bible of course never mentions the words, “same-sex marriage,” but it does have something to say about same-sex sex.

Leviticus 18:22 identifies homosexual sex as a detestable sin.  Romans 1:26-27 declares homosexual desires and actions to be shameful, unnatural, lustful and indecent.  1 Corinthians 6:9 states that homosexuals are unrighteous and will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Whenever the Bible mentions marriage, it is between a male and a female.  I show you what the Bible says without judging anyone, because the Lord says, “Judgment is mine.”

To be sure, the question Paul is trying to answer for us is, “What is a Christian marriage?  Is there a perfect marriage?  Paul tells us that Christ is the model even though Jesus never married.  What He was and did for the Church is what spouses should be and do for each other.  The principles Paul gives us in the text will guarantee success in marriage:

As Christ is the head of the Church, the husband is head of the family.  As Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so should the husband love the wife to the point of self-sacrifice; and so should husband and wife love one another; that’s why our wedding song says, “O perfect love, all human thought transcending.”  Finally, as Christ and the Church are one body, husband and wife are one.  That’s what a Christian marriage ought to be.  Amen.