SERMON FOR THE WEDDING OF EMMETT & JAIMIE, 8-18-2018
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. The arrival of the bridegroom will be sudden and unexpected. Therefore, you are to be watchful and ready like the five wise virgins. For you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man is to return. He will burst through the clouds with angel armies. The deafening blast of a trumpet will sound forth. He will sit on his glorious throne and judge the nations. He will separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. The wise virgins will enter into the joy of their bridegroom – into the wedding hall. And the Lord will say to those foolish virgins, with no malice, truly, I say to you, I do not know you. And they will be forever shut out.
The foolish virgins are foolish above all in spurning the gift of God’s grace. They neglect the treasures of salvation. They are the religious do-it-yourselfers – who boast and say “Oh, I have a strong faith!” Such things at meeting on the Lord’s Day, or hearing the Scriptures read and preached in the Divine Service, or receiving the holy body and blood of Christ, hey let’s not get too carried away here! Let’s not get too fanatical! In other words, what’s the least I have to do to be a Christian mentality. Dear people loved by God, it’s good to be fanatics in the kingdom of God. It is best to camp out and keep vigil by the rich vessels of grace, the means of grace, in the Holy Church.
The lamps are the Word of Christ. The oil in the lamps is the Holy Spirit, who works through the Word to create and sustain the flame of faith in Christ. The foolish virgins, they are those who do not give proper attention to the working of the Holy Spirit in baptism, preaching, and the supper, and so their faith does not endure – it flickers and is snuffed out.
The wise, however, they are those who diligently attend to these gifts of the Spirit, and who therefore have an abundance of oil. For them, the flame of faith endures to the end – and burns brightly - until the Bridegroom Christ returns. By God’s grace they are received into the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end - the new heavens and the new earth created by the Lord for the joy of His people.
Therefore, a Christian marriage in this life, must always looks beyond itself. And only in looking ahead toward the consummation – can one truly, as we say, “live in the moment.” This precious gift of marriage between a husband and wife, between Emmitt and Jaimie, ultimately signifies and points to the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and His holy Bride, the church. The kingdom of heaven is like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the Bridegroom. Husbands and wives, Christian parents and children, little babies even called to faith in the Gospel, live in the hope of the resurrection and in the eager expectation of the final judgment.
That a Christian marriage looks toward the Last Day is by no means some dreary over-the-top apocalyptic view. No. Christian marriage in this life is illuminated by the bright beams that shine into it through that open door of the wedding hall – by experiencing and participating in the Lord’s Supper – the consummation between Christ and His Bride the Church – the consummation between heaven and earth. This is the ultimate marriage that matters – that shapes and informs marriage among us – that teaches us all how to love one another.
So for Christian marriage, there is no higher relationship on this earth. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife – and the two shall become one flesh. No longer two but one. What God hath joined together, let not man rent asunder.
Emmitt, love your wife, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. Behold her, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, for she is after all baptized, holy, and without blemish. In Christ, she is perfect, and radiant – your wife.
Jaimie, submit to Emmett, 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.
Dear people loved by God, Christian women find delight in these words. Submit is a Gospel word. As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands. The church submits to Christ by trusting in Him, receiving His name in Holy Baptism, by coming to the altar to receive his good gifts and treasures from heaven – things like forgiveness, and life, and salvation. Christ of course, does not bully his bride. He does not withhold anything from her, he does not talk down to her or berate her. He welcomes her. He is patient, kind, and tenderhearted toward her. He is gentle. He looks past her faults, covers them. He in fact suffers for her and gives his life for her. He loves her. That’s what it means to submit – to receive those good things - to bask in undeserved love. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved you and gave himself up for you, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Emmett and Jamie, the vows you will soon make. And the promises that you will soon speak to one another. You, in and of yourselves, and not capable of fulfilling. Not even for a single hour. You are sinners. And each of you are marrying another sinner, a broken vessel, like yourself. So God be praised, the vows you will pledge toward one another are grounded fundamentally in the promise of the Gospel. That in Christ, God is gracious toward you. That he has forgiven you your sins and cleansed you through his atoning blood. Your God loved you by sending His Son to die for you, before you even knew your greatest need.
The wedding vows depend upon Christ and His Word. It’s Jesus who has promised to have and hold you from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Christ has promised to love and cherish you. By His innocent suffering and death – He pledges to you His faithfulness. By the wedding ring of faith you receive all that belongs to Him – His righteousness, his innocence, and his blessedness.
Emmett and Jaimie, groomsmen, and bridesmaids, and all you people loved by God, made wise by God’s Word and Spirit. He has not destined you for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for you so that whether you are awake or asleep you might live with him.
The Bridegroom soon shall come. Let him find you awake, and keeping vigil with your lamps burning with the light of Christ. Seek the blessed oil of the Lord, where it is found in His Word and Sacraments. And when he calls you, enter into his wedding feast with joy, no longer as bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, and guests, but as His beloved Bride, made ready for her husband, virgin pure, radiant, and absolutely beautiful. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of the Church for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, 19 August 2018
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
For all the baptized, and especially for the saints here at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, that our ears would be opened by the Spirit to the Gospel of peace and salvation, and that our lips would show forth our thanks and praise, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the Church throughout the world, especially for our Synod, that God would bless all congregations, pastors and agencies to serve faithfully and without fear; and for an increase in faithful servants sent out into the harvest, that Christ’s kingdom would be expanded, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all pastors, that they would be faithful and compassionate in the exercise of their duties, and that they would speak the truth in love as they catechize the young and old, bring mercy to the sick and shut-in, provide counsel and care to those in need, pray for all under their charge, and proclaim the Gospel as those who recognize how much they need it themselves, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all in authority by whose service God provides for us the gift of order, including parents and family, our government, our police and firemen, our military and our schools, that God would give them strength and endurance to carry out their duties for the good of those entrusted to their care, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For Emmett and Jaimie, united in the gift of holy marriage yesterday, that they would be richly blessed, draw close to God, and find strength in God’s Word and sacraments. let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For Holly and for Malcolm preparing for marriage, that they would fix their eyes on the sacrificial, self-giving love of Jesus Christ. Draw them to those words of absolution which provide joy and peace and inspire selfless service and compassion toward one another, let us pray to the Lord: Lord have mercy.
For all who partake this day of the Holy Supper of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that they would receive the very body and blood of Christ in true repentance and sincere faith, and to their abundant blessing, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the saints who have gone before us and now rest from their labors, let us give thanks to the Lord, that we would, by God’s grace, be kept in their holy communion unto eternal life in Christ’s kingdom, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.