Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Family values. . .

Sermon for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 22, preached on Sunday, October 3, 2021.

    We love to talk.  We love the talk.  We talk about family values all the time.  But for all the talk, the family has suffered more in the last few decades than ever before.  All around us, the family has been under assault and Christians have not exactly helped in this war of words.  Those within the household of God do not look much different than those around them in culture and society.  Children are murdered in the womb.  Men and women live together as husband and wife but without being married.  Every kind of perversity has been legitimized.  Marriage itself has been redefined as a relationship of convenience for as long as it makes people happy.  Children are surrendered to the instruction of the screen, to institutional care givers, and schools are made to teach the new morality along with teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Men and women are presumed to be the same without any essential differences.  Fewer are marrying and those who do are choosing to have fewer or no children.

    Churches have forgotten what the Lord has said and pastors have shied away from preaching the truth.  The voice of God has either not been heard or it has been refused.  But  the denial of the truth does not make the truth a lie.  We some times forget this.  Our silence does not negate the truth of God’s Word.  Moreover, the Lord’s purpose is not to deny us anything but to give us that which is the gift of marriage and family.  When He calls us to be godly men and women, He is calling us to the very vocation that gives our lives meaning and purpose.  What we receive from God’s hand is a gift to be treasured and used for His purpose.  This does not constrain us but ennobles who we are and why we are here.

    God created them male and female, not as interchangeable parts but as complementary partners.  He raised up man to be the king of his creation and woman to be its queen, exercising dominion over all things in the Lord’s name and using what God created for His purpose.  In their union lies the glimpse of God’s own love and being, the love that does not demand but gives, does not expect but serves, does not take but gives.  Sin set our hearts against such love and turned this gift into a burden.  It made love hard and made us hard to love.  Christ came to release the power of love.  It begins with forgiveness and from that forgiveness, His love teaches us to forgive.  Within this context, love is restored and man and woman given the power so that their love may endure the tests, trials, and temptations from without and within.

    It is too easy for us to try to balance family and career as if the family were a burden and a cost to us instead of the very place where our identities are most clear.  We act as if spouse and children would deprive us of our dreams or get in the way of our happiness.  God designed marriage to be our central identity and the place where contentment is realized.  Where sin distorted and confused this, our Lord came to shed His light upon the life that is our most important calling.  Our lives are not about balance but about order – the order God has created for us.

    The particular problem of divorce we heard addressed in the Gospel for today is the poisoned fruit of all that has gone wrong.  Everyone who has gone through the pain of divorce or consoled those who did know that this is not how things were supposed to be.  With divorce is the casual way we treat marriage in the first place and sexually saturated culture that sees everything through the lens of the erotic.  It is not a new problem.  But the Lord has not come to debate what is right or wrong.  He has come to confront us with the will and intention of God in creating us and to call us to strive for God’s gift and plan not simply to keep a rule but for the benefit of ourselves as well as all those around us.

    We were created not for the pursuit of our whims or desires but so that our lives might be lived according to the deeper purpose of God.  That is why we value life and why we come in confession and repentance to find a clear conscience.  None of us is without sin here.  And the remedy for sin is not justifying what we have done or not done but confessing this sin and pleading the blood of Christ that cleanses us from all our sin.  Divorce is not simply wrong but it epitomizes exactly what God did NOT do.  He did not divorce Himself from creation and He did not reject mankind because of sin.  God became our Savior.  When we trivialize marriage or treat divorce casually or condone cohabitation, we are assaulting the most important marriage of Christ and His bride, the Church.  We are not bound by what is legal but by what is of God and what reflects His loving purpose.  

    What God intended for us in creation has been realized, perfected, and understood now in Christ Jesus.  Even after sin came into the world, marriage has not been forgotten or left to us to figure out.  It has been rescued and redeemed and is the image of God’s holy, pure, forgiving, and saving love for His Church.  God did not put you away but rescued you, restored you, and made his own through forgiveness.  The answer to divorce is not another rule but to apply the power of Christ’s forgiveness to the most important human connection God has provided. 

    We take this seriously because marriage is about more than two people.  Central tothe gift of marriage is the gift of children.  God’s own Son was born a child, placed within a family, and it was here that Jesus was raised from youth into manhood.  Mary and Joseph taught Him to pray and took Him to the House of the Lord.  Again, this is not about rules or legality but the experience of the fullness of what God has intended and provided to us in the love manifested to us in Jesus Christ our Savior.  No life earns its value but every life has its own inherent value because all life comes from God and every child is a gift of God – not simply to the parents but to all of us and especially to the Church.

    The most sacred duty of parenthood is to teach the child to know God as He has revealed Himself, to know Him as the loving Father who made everyone, to know Him as the loving Savior who died for all, and to know Him by the faith which the Holy Spirit plants as His Word enters our minds and hearts.  From conception we are who we are to be.  Yes, sin has distorted this and even caused some children to be born with defects and ills that test our ability to love and care for them.  But just as we did not earn God’s love nor merit a value placed upon our lives, neither can we force the child to earn our love or merit a value place upon his or her life.  Love is not earned.  Love is always a gift. 

    My friends, it is surely true that we have made a shambles of God’s intention and confused His gift in creating us, in making us man and woman for each other, and in blessing us with the gift of children.  But Christ has not simply redeemed us as individuals; He has rescued the family.  He has framed our redemption within the context of marriage, Christ the bridegroom and the Church His bride.  He has called us to bring our children to Jesus that He might touch them and promised that the Kingdom of God comes as gift to them as to everyone in baptismal water. He has redeemed our lives from the grave and purchased and won us and the family for which we were created, that what was lost to us might be given to us again.

    That is why the Church has something to say about marriage, why we protect the lives of the unborn, why we guard life from its natural beginning to its natural end, and why we cannot give up God’s intention for any cause.  Dear friends, this is not a choice offered to us but a sacred duty given to us so that the gift might always be a blessing.  This is not about a balance we might strive for but the order that defines who we are and what is our purpose by God’s design.  God help us to receive it this way.  Amen.

1 comment:

Archimandrite Gregory said...

When the family relinquishes its goal to enable its members to enter into the Kingdom of God then it has failed miserably. Same with our local churches.