Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Family is a blessing, not a curse. . .

Sermon for Pentecost 20, Proper 22B, preached on Sunday, October 7, 2018 by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

    It’s the way of our sinful world and our sinful nature to turn God’s blessings into curses.  We take what He’s called good and we call it bad.  The gifts He gives for our benefit, we abuse and destroy.  We twist them and make them fit our own selfish wants and desires.  Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in our family lives.  Our culture calls family, spouse and children, a curse...but God calls them good.  He calls them blessings. 
    There’s the common joke we all know of how men refer to their wife as a ball and chain.  And women, I’m sure there’s a joke that floats around in your circles that describe your husbands as immature boys. These ideas get played out in our culture.  Just look at popular TV.  How is the husband and dad portrayed?  He’s usually a bumbling idiot.  And how about the wife and mom?  She’s in control with a “my way or the highway” attitude.  These jokes, which we all chuckle at, actually hurt the way we look at marriage.  Husbands come to think of their wives as a dictator, someone to rebel against.  Wives come to see their husbands as grown children who can’t take care of themselves.  These views get passed on through the generations, and they end up destroying the good estate of marriage that God has created. 
    Marriage also gets turned into that storybook ending.  It’s all about finding your prince charming and beautiful princess; and once that soulmate is found, then you can live happily-ever-after.  This might sound like a positive view of marriage, encouraging young men and young women to seek out husbands and wives.  However, this idea of marriage becomes a curse, because what happens when it’s not happily-ever-after?  What happens when we find out prince charming isn’t so charming?  What happens when the beautiful princess isn’t as beautiful as the one at work? 
    Because of these views, we think marriage is a burden and curse.  It’s a burden because we have to care for others, putting their needs before our wants.  It’s a curse because of the lofty expectations we place on it.  So what do we do with this burden and curse?  We get rid of it; we destroy it.  We break God’s estate of marriage with divorce. 
    The Pharisees in our Gospel tested Jesus with divorce.  They wanted to see if He really knew the Law, so they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (Mk 10:2).  Christ pointed them back to Moses who delivered God’s law; and the Pharisees confirmed, yes, Moses did allow a man to divorce his wife.  However, this law of Moses didn’t permit or establish divorce, it was there to control it.  Jesus said, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.  But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’  ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mk 10:5-9).  Divorce was never part of God’s plan for marriage.  From the very beginning, God planned for marriage to be between one man and one woman until death parts them.  The only reason why Moses gave Israel this law at all was so that divorce wouldn’t run rampant.  It was meant to protect marriage, not destroy it. 
    In the beginning, God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone.  It wasn’t good for Adam to be by himself, so God created woman.  With Eve, Adam was complete, and God joined them in marriage.  He blessed them, just as He continues to bless all those men and women He joins in marriage. 
    One of the great blessings of marriage is children.  Kids are a living expression of the one flesh union between husbands and wives.  They’re the result of the coming together of their parents, a visible picture of mom and dad.  Through parents, God gives life.  This is a wonderful and miraculous thing, and yet, just as we think of marriage as a burden, we view children in the same way.
    It’s easy to understand how children can be a burden.  They can’t survive on their own.  Without care from mom and dad a newborn will die quickly.  Kids need constant care, care that continues for almost a two decades, if not longer.  They require food and clothing and shelter.  They need to be taught how to live, how to feed themselves, how to clothe themselves, how to speak and read.  They require a lot of time and energy, and money.  The older they get, the more money they consume from sports and club fees, to technology and clothing, to larger and larger grocery bills; the list could go on and on.
    Today, children are viewed not as a blessing, but an extreme curse.  They’re seen as a hindrance to a self-fulfilling life.  We think of them as a nuisance, much like how the disciples viewed them.  But instead of just shooing them away, we get rid of our kids.  Hundreds of thousands of babies are aborted every year.  They’re killed, torn from their mothers because they’re seen as an extreme burden and curse.  But again, the Lord has called children good.  They’re a blessing of the Lord. 
    Marriage and children are far from the curses we make them out to be.  They’re gifts from God, blessings.  To be certain, they’re work.  No marriage is ever happily-ever-after.  No parent and child get along every second of every day.  All of us brings our sin into our relationships.  This sin puts us first.  We’d rather do what we want then what our spouse needs.  We get tired of tending to our child’s every need.  Sometimes we just want a minute to ourselves.  We don’t want to listen to mom and dad because they said no, denying us happiness and joy in that moment.  All of this causes strife and conflict.  And unfortunately, sometimes our family life is the greatest cause of strife and conflict in our lives.  And yet, family is still a blessing, because it’s a gift from God, a place where we get to give and receive love. 
    This love isn’t just the warm fuzzy feelings that we often think about when we think of love.  This love is shown in action.  It’s a giving up of oneself for another.  When the Lord created Adam, He said it wasn’t good for him to be alone.  This was because he wasn’t complete without a helper fit for him.  God designed us to be in relationships.  He made us to live together, men, women, and children.  He made us to live in peace with one another, just as we were to live in peace with Him. 
    God not only created Adam and Eve to live together, He made them to live with Him.  God made us so that we’d be with Him, so that we could have everlasting life with Him.  The plan for creation was for us to live in peace with God and one another, to be a big happy family.  However, our sin destroyed that, and God knew that it would.  God knew before He ever formed Adam that we’d sin, that our first parents would give into Satan’s temptation, and break that peace.  God knew that the only way to overcome that sin, to bring us back into His family, was to sacrifice His only Son.  He knew all of this from the very beginning, and yet, because of His love for you, He still created us.
    We call God our Father, because His Son died on the cross for us.  Baptized into His name, we’re adopted by God, we’re His children, inheriting His everlasting life.  Baptized into Christ, we’re part of the Church, Christ’s Bride.  Because our Savior’s love for us, He gave Himself up, so that He might cleanse us of our sin and make us holy.  All this He did so that we might be His.  Never will Christ divorce His Bride.  Never will God abandon His children.  Forever, we’ll be His, receiving His love. 
This is the blessing of family, giving and receiving love.  God has loved us in Christ, and nothing will separate us from that.  Because of His love, He sacrificed His Son to forgive all our sin, even our sin that destroys and abuses the blessing of spouse and children, even our divorce and abortion.  The love of God forgives because Christ shed His blood.
This is the blessing of family, the blessing of being in God’s family.  Thank the Lord for His forgiveness.  Thank the Lord for His love.  Thank the Lord for His family.  Thank the Lord for your family.  They’re not curse.  They’re blessing, a blessing for giving and receiving Christ’s love.  In Jesus’ name...Amen. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Portraying men as bumbling idiots in the media feeds a soft bigotry of low expectations.

Disney movies are good for portraying children as wise beyond their years while their parents are clueless.

Feminism encourages young women to “break from the pack” (the order of family and community) and go it alone as an individual accountable only to themselves. For them, a traditional family and community equals patriarchy which equals subjugation.