Christian Marriage

2021-08-22 – Year B – Proper 16 – The Rev. Carrie Klukas
Joshua 24:1-2a,14-25; Psalm 16; Ephesians 5:15-33; John 6:60-69

Lord Jesus help us to have ears to hear you today. Help us to open our hearts to your words of teaching and life. Help us to have the courage to change the things that need to be changed and the courage to seek out your ways. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen

When Canon Chris organizes the preaching schedule we do not look ahead at the scriptures and decide who will preach what instead we choose dates and the lessons are what they are. I find it ironic or rather the will of the Lord that I am preaching today on the Ephesians passage of instruction of wives and husbands. It can be tempting in life to modify or edit the scriptures to our likings. Many people do this, even very famous people. Benjamin Franklin went through the Bible with a pair of scissors cutting out the passages that He disagreed with. He modified it to suit his own dispositions. If you call yourself a Christian you can not do this with the word of God. You can not modify the meaning to suit yourself and to tame it into something that brings you what you want. All scripture needs to be honestly studied, upheld, and examined, never throwing any of it out in order to bring glory and honor to God. 

So let’s get into today’s Epistle reading in Ephesians. Paul is in the midst of teaching God’s people how to walk in love and how to interact with one another in godly ways. This passage opens instructing us to walk in wisdom and to make the best of our time during the day for it we do not the day can be evil. Our days are to be carefully thought about so that we are using our time on this earth to be about the things of God. Ever since becoming a young adult and going off to college I have tried to learn about managing my time during the day in such a way as to bring glory to God. Most of us, if not all of us, have vast amounts of time for leisure. We have running water, stoves to cook our food on, and grocery stores to buy food in. Our days are not filled with just survival but rather we are afforded time to just be. 

Even when I had four jobs and went to college I still had moments in my day to read my Bible or not, to have a cup of tea and take a moment to reflect or not, to go for a run or meet someone at the gym or not. As Chrisians we should think through our days and make sure we are making space for the things that nourish us, help us to flourish, and keep us doing the things of God. Otherwise our lives can easily be filled with watching endless hours of television. Of scrolling our social media sites, of constantly consuming the current moment by moment news. Our lives can easily turn towards jealousy of others’ perceived situations. We can easily find ourselves gossiping about others and spending hours and hours pondering their lives instead of getting on with our own. When we do not order our days and do not create boundaries in our lives making sure we give ourselves to the good godly pursuits then we will fill our time with other unhealthy habits and an unhealthy mindset. 

The scriptures go on to say we are not to get drunk with wine or alcohol for it is debauchery. In our culture today alcoholism is considered mostly socially acceptable. As long as someone doesn’t look too drunk or make too much of a scene we assume it is alright. We make statements like they are blowing off steam and they have had a hard day so they need something to help them come down a bit. However the scriptures say something completely different, the scriptures today point to being filled with the Holy Spirit and addressing one another with Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We are to make a melody to the Lord with all of our heart. 

Alcohol can sometimes feel like a quick fix to sadness, stress, and depression but really it doesn’t change anything. All the sadness, stress, or confusion in your head is still there, only you are masking it with false feelings of momentary elation. I am deeply thankful to have grown up in a family where I was taught about alcoholism since I come from a long line of people who struggle with alcohol. I am grateful that my parents taught me to be weary of alcohol and to be very aware of my genetic disposition towards it. Do I consume alcohol, yes but in very limited ways. When I feel stressed, anxious, angry, depressed, or overwhelmed with life I avoid drinking alcohol. That has meant that through this whole pandemic which is close to two years we have consumed very little alcohol so that we can be present in our minds and open wide our eyes and ears to the thoughts and feelings going on in our hearts and minds. If you find yourself reaching for alcohol to sooth your rattled nerves or cope with a normal day I would encourage you to slow down, stop buying alcohol and learn about better coping mechanisms. God wants us to live sober present lives.

The Lord’s solution in dealing with our days is to give thanks for everything that God has provided. It doesn’t just have to be huge things but most likely could and should be small things such as the sun shining, a warm cup of coffee in the morning, or a few minutes with a friend on the phone or the setting of the sun. If we open our eyes, quiet our minds, and lean forward a bit in our lives there is much to be grateful for. There is a woman named Ann Voskamp and she has written a book called One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. In her book she speaks to the act of giving thanks and using it to ground us in the reality of Jesus’ presence in our actual real lives. Not to run, numb, or wish away our lives but rather to be in the midst of them seeing Jesus. There is a part in the liturgy in which we sing Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him above heavenly host, praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. When this happens you can see the priest standing at the altar with their hands open and raised and we are there inviting you to do so as well. Christians are called to give thanks to God in the good, bad, and ugly. We are called to open our hands wide and to receive the great love of Jesus. When we do so the scriptures say we can easily submit yourselves one to another out of reverence for Christ. Paul sets up the conversations of wives and husbands with this in mind, both people turning to God and giving thanks. 

So as we move into verses 22, 23, and 24 let us have this in mind. “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” Paul is speaking to spirit filled men and women who choose God and who seek to live for the kingdom and the restoration of the kingdom on Earth. For many decades this passage has been used by many Christian leaders to justify the wrong treatment of women and wives. Just the other month I took a book out from the library that was a conservative Christian book of answers for mothers and women. It was divided into sections regarding marriage, parenting, and such. Within the marriage section I found many questions and answers that were encouraging women to submit to their husbands every whim and desire even if it made them uncomfortable and was immoral. This is not the heart of God. A Christian man is to be the head of his wife in that He protects her and provides for her. My husband and I have been married for 16 years and over that time he has repeatedly protected me, looked out for me to have opportunities, and sought to honor me. Not once has my husband asked me to do something immoral, indecent, or to cause me to feel uncomfortable, dirty, or being used as an object. 

The english word submit is defined as to accept or yield to a superior force or to the authority or will of another person. This definition can feel rather scary particularly as a woman and wife but might I suggest an image, an image of two people, a husband and wife, bending towards one another. Day to day lived out submission is one in which you as a wife are seeking to bend towards your husband. Seeking to understand him, seeking to love him, seeking to remind yourself of the good things of him. When I submit to Chris it is out of a reverence to Christ. It is in a posture of bending towards him because we are tied together and one flesh. This is not meant for people dating or even engaged. If you are not married yet but hope to be I implore you to take your time getting to know a person and marry only a person who is sold out for Jesus. And if you are not sold out to Jesus, spend time falling in love with the Lord and becoming like him that way you will attract someone in the same place.

The call to husbands is much more steep in my opinion then the wives. Men are called to sanctify their wives by cleansing her with the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Men have a high calling to treat the women in their lives with deep reverence never asking her to do anything that would defile her and put her into moral conundrum. Husbands are called to share what they hear in the word so that their wives might be encouraged, which means they must be in the word. Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies and care for them in a way that they would want to be cared for and cherish them as Christ does the church.

 Jesus Christ laid down His life, His hopes, and His comforts for the sake of others and bore extreme pain for the sake of love. Husbands are called to leave their father and mother and cleave to their wife. His wife is to become his best friend, closest companion, and the two shall become one flesh. What God actually desires is that men and women will grow and mature in their marriages in such a way as to proclaim the mysteries of the church to the world. Nothing is more shocking than two people tying themselves to each other for life and growing closer and closer together throughout the years.

Christian marriage is meant to be an outpost for the mystical reality of  marriage of Christ and the church. It is through the submitting or bending of one person to another and the covering of one person for another that the world see’s the love of God for His people. Paul says that husbands should love their wives as themselves and that wives should respect their husbands. So often in our culture now there is a significant belittling of men as being stupid, childish, and not nearly as good as women. This is not the voice of the One who made man and woman in His image. Learning how to respect someone takes time, skills, and often good counselors or advisors. 

To have a thriving marriage no matter how long you have been married you need to be reading books together on marriage, conflict, discernment, money, and care of children, and visioning for older age. Attending marriage classes whenever they are offered can help you revision your marriage and find joy and understanding amongst each other.  And it does not matter if you have been married for thirty years, five years, or two years, everyone can benefit from this. When we were getting married a couple close to us and further in years of marriage encouraged us to get counseling every five years or so to make sure we were learning new skills of communication.

 A good godly marriage takes tons of time, work, and seeking to bend towards each other serving each other in a way that brings honor to God. We would encourage those of you who are married to seek out ways to grow together. Seek out ways in which you can do things together, make memories together and be a team. And get help if you are not doing well. Go to trusted pastors, counselors, and people who seem to have a close respectful relationship and ask their advice. Throughout the years Chris and I have been blessed with many people who have invested in us over the years and who check up on us, asking if things in our marriage are going well. When we are struggling we let them know, they listen, and pray for us.

Respect is an attitude of love which seeks to understand and bends toward another person. Some practical ways to show respect is not correcting a person in front of others. Stepping aside and sharing your concerns or challenges with your spouse in privacy allows the other person a chance to engage in what you have to say without others watching. Guarding your mouth and thinking about how you speak about your spouse with your children is another way. In the heat of the moment it can be very easy to verbally process outloud your frustrations with your spouse in front of your children. Seek instead to keep your thoughts to yourself and not share all your frustrations with them since it only burdens them with adult matters. Practicing kindness and giving each other the benefit of the doubt goes a long way. Meaning do not assume they are out to get you but rather try to assume the best in people. 

Jesus wants us to have thriving marriages and to struggle for the good in each other. Jesus wants to be in the midst of us challenging us, changing us, and showing us how to live more kindly, more gently, and more lovingly. If you choose to walk in the spirit then your closest relationships in life are supposed to be filled with gentleness, love, kindness, and faithfulness. I would encourage you to take some time and reflect on how God might be wanting to help you in your life. How might God be wanting to give you a spirit of love, kindness, and respect for those you love? How might God be wanting to fill you up more fully for the work of His kingdom? It takes our whole lives to draw close to Jesus and we can always learn more, love more, and become more like him. So may God give you words of wisdom today on your marriage if you are married. And may God give you wisdom in your ability to extend respect, kindness, and love to those around you. To God be the glory now and forever. Amen

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