Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Holy Matrimony of Elizabeth Kratzke and Andrew Twietmeyer

"The master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him" (John 2:9-11)

It seems like St. Paul wants to talk about marriage in the Ephesians text, but he seems to struggle.  You get the sense he wants to perhaps give some good counsel on marriage but he somehow can’t help but talk about Christ and His church.  He keeps returning to it.  Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.  

This is a sublime and beautiful text.  We like it not just because it annoys the feminists, but because it speaks a profound truth worth repeating about the very character and nature of holy marriage.  That marriage is an icon and reflection of the very relationship between Christ the Groom and His Bride the Church.

You see, Christ out of love for His church, suffers for her and dies for her.  He pours out his very life upon the cross.  He gives her everything that he has, his life, his name, his love, and his righteousness.  He dotes upon her, delights in her, sees nothing but pure beauty - he is excited in every detail of his bride.  He sees in her nothing that he does not like.  He is giddy about her.    

What St. Paul is describing is the perfect, sacrificial love of Christ and the perfect, reciprocal submission of the sanctified Church. The Christ has given Himself up for the Church, to make her holy. He has cleansed her with water through the Word and presented her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, holy and blameless. Thus the Church submits to Him who died for Her without fear. She knows that He loves her, will never abuse, neglect, or harm her, and that she need not take care of herself, but trusts in Him to take of her.  She submits to his sacrificial love, just as the church submits to Christ and receives good things from him.  This is what husbands and wives ought to be for one other: they ought to be like Christ and the Church.  This mystery is profound.

But what husbands ought to be for their wives, and what wives ought to be for their husbands is not always so.  Andrew and Elizabeth, you are both marrying a sinner, like yourself, but one from whom God died for.  This is not the time for me or anyone to give advice or lessons on marriage, we’ll save that for Dr. Phil or whomever you like.  But as a spiritual discipline learn to be more offended by your own sins, than the shortcomings of your spouse.  In the future give thanks to God, for no other reason than for the simple fact that your spouse puts up with a sinner like you.  This itself is actually a cause for great celebration.          

Andrew and Elizabeth, St. Paul is speaking of baptism of course in this text – the washing of rebirth – this is the foundation of your marriage – in the forgiveness of sins.

There is no problem in life, no trial, no suffering, no sickness, no martial strife, even death itself – there is nothing you will ever face which does not finds its answer and fulfillment in the forgiveness of sins.  

I teach my Sunday School students that if they don’t know an answer to a question they should yell out Jesus at the top of their lungs.  It doesn’t matter if they are really paying attention.  It doesn’t really even matter what the question is because it’s more than likely that will be the right answer.  It’s the same in marriage and the Christian life in general.  Jesus is your answer.  He creates and keep your marriage.  He is your amen.  He is your “I believe…help my unbelief.”  He is the answer to your kyrie.  He is your rest – your joy.    

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus first miracle is at a wedding at Cana.  The first thing God did for Adam, was bring him a beautiful wife, out of love.  And He seems to throw a little wedding party.  So here is God at it all over again in the New Testament, making Himself known at a wedding.  Our English translation of the text read this morning is a bit cautious and says the wedding party had ‘drunk freely’ by the time Jesus brought the new wine.  The King James, which some of our older folks might remember, says that the guests were “well drunk.”  The Greek text is a little less ambiguous.  It says that the wedding party was already intoxicated and drunk.  

Nevertheless, Mary the mother of our Lord, alerts Jesus to this problem of needing more wine.  Mary, as a symbol of the church says perhaps the most lovely and instructive words in all of Scripture to the disciples “Do whatever Jesus tells you.”  Jesus instructs the disciples to fill six stone water pots each holding up to 30 gallons a piece.  These massive pots are filled to the brim with water turned to the very best wine.  

And Jesus commits something of a faux pas or scandal by bring out the very best wine last.  By my own calculations this looks to be roughly 900 bottles of wine.  It seems very doubtful there would be close to that many guests at this wedding party.  The MC at the wedding at Cana takes on a satanic role here.  He thinks Jesus is stupid for bringing out the best wine last.  He is afraid people will waste the wine and not appreciate it.  Why should we give good things to those who will take it for granted and perhaps abuse it?               

It’s an obscene amount of booze – massive amounts of wine.  But if you are a good Lutheran, you should know that wine is never just wine.  Bread is never just bread.  There is always something much deeper going on.  On the 3rd day Jesus gives wine to drunks.  This is our Lord’s first sign.  The primary sign.  The first miracle.  This miracle that defines all the others miracles to come.  This sign reveals the character of our Lord’s ministry.  

But Jesus the bridegroom is not foolish.  He is showing his glory.  He Epiphanied his glory here.  God gives good wine to drunks.  God is in a way foolish, ridiculous and excessive in His giving.  He gives grace to those who will no doubt abuse it.  In a way God rewards sin.      

What’s the point?  God is wreckless in His love.  God is extravagant in his grace.  He leaves the 99 for the 1.  He sits with sinners and prostitutes and wants nothing to do with those who consider themselves good people.  God gives wine to drunks.  God gives grace to those who will no doubt abuse it. It is good to drink freely and become intoxicated at the wedding feast of the Lamb.    

Do not be confused about this Gospel text.  Clearly it’s about the Lord’s Supper.  And clearly it’s all about the marriage between Christ and His Church.  In the same way that Eve was taken from the rib of Adam – now the church, the Bride of Christ, the new Eve finds her life from the rib – the pierced side of Christ, the new and greater Adam, on the cross.  Out flows rivers of baptismal waters and deep red streams of Christ’s blood.  These rivers flood and pour over our fonts and chalices.  We are drenched in his love.  The church is made beautiful.  The blood marks our doors and death passes over.  Christ marries his church through his cross and in ecstasy cries out ‘it is finished.’  Communion with God is restored.  The heavens are torn open.  The divorce is over.  Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!  

Don’t try to tell me that marriage is not a sacrament.  I don’t care what the synodical catechism says in the appendix.  And who said what and how many.  Marriage is created in paradise and restored by the presence of Christ at the wedding at Cana and sanctified among us this morning in His glorious supper.  Christian marriage imparts grace and reflects the mystical and life-giving reality of Christ and His Bride the Church.

The scandal of the cross is this.  Jesus forgives sinners.  Christ gives wine to drunks.  God gives recklessly and extravagantly to sinners who will no doubt abuse his grace.  But Jesus loves them anyway.  He loves you anyway.      

Andrew and Elizabeth – I would like to speak plainly to you (but I suppose you are already used to that from our conversations and prayers together). You are incapable of fulfilling your vows to each other, as God rightfully desires.  You simply don’t have a leg to stand on.  As I said earlier, the answer is Jesus and Him alone.       

I urge you to be drunkards in Christ’s kingdom.  You can’t have too much Jesus.  Contrary to the opinions of many, the Lord’s Supper actually does not become more special the less frequently you have it.  If that were true Andrew you should only make love to your wife on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month.  And perhaps occasionally you’ll get lucky on the 5th.  That’s ridiculous and it’s silly.  Don’t do that.  

The way of the Christian is to indulge in the things of God.  To immerse one’s self in the gifts of Jesus – be it the sacraments – worship – confession and absolution - the preaching of the Gospel – Lutheran hymns – and the words of Jesus himself and prayer.  

It is good to be drunk on the Gospel.  And better to take it for granted than to not have it all.  Better to abuse the gift than neglect it.  

God prefers drunks rather than hoity toity pietists.  Whichever church you attend in your life together as a married couple, demand that your pastor offer you weekly communion, at the very least.  You have been charged to become drunk in the forgiveness of sins and the grace of God.  God is not in the business of being stingy.  

Andrew and Elizabeth, we will make it a point to tell you nothing new that you don’t already know.  No cute stories or anecdotal tidbits here.  Jesus loves you.  Pick up your cross and follow him.  Marriage is a station of the cross – an arena for suffering.  But suffering is good. Jesus loves you. He is faithful. He makes marriage. He will see you through.  Jesus is your answer.  

Come soon to the Sacrament, where God gives extravagantly to drunks.  That is where our faith is fed.  It is where marriage grows strong, where angels descend, and demons are destroyed.  Come quickly to the Sacrament - come the wedding feast. Jesus loves you. Go in peace.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Epiphany Meditation for the Brethren

Every faithful preacher should be like the bright shining star in the East – who simply guides and leads people to Jesus.  For the star, like every faithful preacher of Christ, came and stood over where the young child was.    

And the wise men saw the star they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.  They fell on their knees and worshipped this eternal Word made flesh – this little one in Mary’s arms.  They opened their treasures.  Gold because this child is a king.  Incense because he is our high priest and sacrifice who suffers hell for sins he did not commit. And myrrh to anoint this child for burial.  

Like stars we lead people in a great heavenly processional to Bethlehem – to the eternal city of bread.  Let us preach like Saint John, “Behold the Lamb of God!”  Let us too point to Jesus like a star and say He must increase, and we must decrease.  For all stars fade and die.  Let us become nothing that he might become everything. 

Let us receive God in the manger of our heart and under the roof of our mouth.  Let us be wise men.  Not fooled by the humble ways in which God comes.  Bread that comes down from heaven – and the drink of immortality – born and 'given for you' in a feed trough.  For animals like us.  

The King serves us.  The lowly are raised up.  The humble find honor.  We who have no righteousness are declared righteous. We who are poor are the richest of all men.    

The wise men came from East of Eden – where Cain was driven - a place of darkness.  But they have seen a great light – and so have you.  Their lives were forever changed after the dawn from on high broke upon them – and they received Christ.  Let us change our lives too for the sake of Him and never be the same again.  For we have seen His great light.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.