Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sermon: Marriage Part 1: What is it?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

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I've been wanting a reason to preach about marriage because we've focused so heavily on deep theological stuff in class and in sermons and we've not dealt explicitly with matters of every day life. Marriage is definitely an every day life matter and God has a lot to say about it.

If you are not married, this topic is relevant to you. All scripture is God breathed and useful teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). All scripture is God breathed and useful. God discloses himself to us through his Word which means that even if a particular text or passage does not directly apply to your specific life situation, it is nevertheless always “relevant” to you and “useful” because it reveals something about the nature and character of the God who created, redeemed, and loves you. On a very practical level, if you're not married now, you may be in the future. If you have friends or relatives who are married and having problems it's important to give wise advice.

I preached my first sermon on marriage during my second year at Good Shepherd, my third year of marriage. I got the sense that people were thinking, “this guy's got a lot to learn.” And I did. Five years and 4 kids later I still do. But my task is not to give you Matt Kennedy's take on marriage. My task is to help you see what God says about marriage and since God's a lot wiser than me and since he's God and knows everything about every marriage that has ever or will ever be, its wise to listen to what he says even if his messenger is not perfect.

The sermon series will be divided into three sermons: 1. What is Marriage 2. What is the purpose of marriage and 3. How do you do marriage—how is it supposed to work.

“What is marriage?” seems like a simple question but people get confused all the time so let's take a look at Genesis 1:27-28 and Genesis 2:22-25. Genesis 1 and 2 reveal the world as God designed it before we sinned and ruined everything in Genesis 3. Genesis 1-2, there is no sin—creation is pristine, pure, good.

Chapter 1 is a broad overview of creation in general and, toward the end, the crown of creation, humanity. We don't see the details, who was created first, how God did it, the wedding—that comes in 2. We just get a basic overview. Let's read Genesis 1:27-28
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
Notice the shift from singular to plural verse 27. God created “man” in his own image, in the image of God he created “him”; male and female he created “them.” That shift will be important in this sermon and especially in the sermon for next Sunday.

The word “man” does not refer to the male of the species. It refers in singular form to humankind—to both male and female. God created human kind in his image. Both sexes, male and female, equally bear the image of God. It's not a physical likeness but a qualitative likeness. Humans can reason, can love, create, know things, remember the past and think about the future, we're self-conscious—these are reflections of God's own character and being and they're qualities men and women share.

And yet, though we are both “man” or “humankind”, there is a difference. God created Male and Female humans. This is important because the very first command God gives Adama, humankind, is to procreate—make babies and fill the earth with them. Let's move to chapter 2.

Chapter 2, is a detailed account of how God did what he did in Genesis 1. God creates Adam, the man, first out of the dust of the ground and breaths life into him, sets him in the Garden to work, gives him the fruit every tree in the Garden except the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and all is well. Notice that the first instructions God gives--work the land, don't eat from the fruit of this tree--he gives to the man before woman is created and he does not repeat instructions to the woman. The implication, which is made explicit elsewhere in scripture—is that God gives the man the responsibility to take leadership to guide the woman in doing what God has given them to do. And his failure to do so (Romans 5) is why we the world has fallen into its present state.

God declares that it is not good for the man to be alone he needs a helper suitable for him. The word for “helper” is not like “servant” or “maid” but means “complement”—someone to fill what is lacking in Adam. God shows Adam all the beasts and let's him name them, but Adam doesn't find a suitable companion. God wasn't surprised by this but he wanted Adam to see that despite his fulfilling work in the garden and the company of the beasts of the field—there's something missing.

God puts Adam to sleep, takes out a rib. Let's pick up in verse 22
“Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, ' for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
This is an account of the first wedding. God created the man and then he created woman from the man and then he brought the woman to the man. God joined them together and established a bond in the form of a covenant with terms in verse 24—a man will leave his parents and be united or “cling to” his wife. That is marriage. It's not a secular social construct. It's not a vehicle of the state. It's not something that humans invented. God established marriage at the beginning before sin, as part and parcel of his pristine created order.

When the pharisees ask Jesus about divorce in Matthew 19, Jesus goes directly to Genesis 2, quotes part of the passage we just read, and says. God is the maker of marriage. What God has brought together let man not separate—Jesus understood this bringing together in Genesis 2 as the model for his teaching about marriage.

So God created humankind in his image, both male and female. He created the man first, gave him a number of instructions, then the woman from the man and then he brought them together as one in marriage. Together, they were instructed to procreate and exercise dominion. I have seven general observations over and above those I've already made to help answer the question “what is marriage?”

1. Marriage is complementary. There's both a created difference between husband and wife and a created similarity. The woman is suitable because she is “like” the man: she equally bears God's image and she is made from his flesh and bone. And yet, she's different. Woman is not man and man is not woman. In marriage, man and the woman become one flesh but they remain two distinct and different individuals. Some marriages get into trouble by either obscuring the bond of unity or flattening out the differentiation. Some couples, for example, have two very different lives, two different bank accounts, two different sets of friends, two different bedrooms, two different sets of bills, two different career paths taking them in two different directions—two people on two different trajectories and it's a crisis waiting to happen. They need serious work on unity. Other marriages go to the opposite extreme. One person becomes a non-entity. His or her personality, desires, likes-dislikes, hopes, dreams, needs, are flattened out and defined by the dominant spouse. This also is a marriage headed for crisis. To become one flesh does not mean that one person becomes the other person. In a healthy marriage both husband and wife become more fully themselves over time not less.

2. God gives the husband the responsibility of leadership.

3. The Marriage bond takes precedence over other family relationships. The husband leaves his mommy and daddy. The wife leaves her mommy and daddy and they are united together. All other human relationships. Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, Grandchildren—all of these come after husband and wife, not before. The marriage bond takes precedent. No running to mom or dad No making a buddy out of children in order to form an alliance against the other spouse. No ignoring your spouses needs because of your own need to fulfill your children's every want and desire.

4.There are no spares. God did not create Adam and Eve and Jenifer and Cloe and Jane. And it was not Eve and Adam and John and Mike and Brad. There's nobody else in the garden but Adam and Eve and God. God did not give them alternative spouses in case things didn't work out. Marriage was intended as an exclusive permanent divinely established bond between one man and one woman. There was no divorce.

5. God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman, not two men and not two women.

6. Marriage involves sex and babies. Marriage is pro-creative by nature—it is the means God gave humankind to fulfill his command to increase and multiply. God loves babies. God created sex primarily because he wants more babies. That is the primary function of sex in marriage. Sex in marriage has a second function. Through it, the unity of the marriage bond is made manifest—the two literally become one flesh. Sex is the way the man and woman seal and signify the bond and covenant between them. It is the outward and physical expression of the single unity that was created when God brought the woman to the man. Notice God placed sex within the marriage relationship, after the marriage not before, inside the marriage, not outside.

7. Finally, marriage is naked. The two are naked and not ashamed. They are not just physically naked. That Adam and Eve were naked means that the husband and wife do not hide from one another. They bear their souls and hearts and minds, they lay them open freely to one another and toward God. It was after sin entered that they covered themselves. But in marriage as God designed it, there's nothing hidden. This is connected, I think, with the fact that God did not create spares...that God established marriage without the possibility of divorce. If both husband and wife are committed to never leaving one another, then there is a wide open field of freedom to be yourself, to share yourself, to express yourself, without fear of abandonment or rejection. You can be naked in marriage and not fear loss.

Summary: Marriage is a life-long covenant established by God between one man and one woman that makes two different people one in flesh and spirit and purpose while at the same time making both individually more completely and wholly themselves as they openly and freely bear their souls bodies hearts and minds to God and one another.

Application

Prayer

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you usually preach the lectionary, or topically?

Good Shepherd Weekly said...

I usually preach the lectionary unless there is a topic that needs to be addressed...as this one does

I will also occasionally preach through a book or an entire chapter of a book because I think the congregation benefits from expository preaching that exposes the continuity of texts...something the lectionary does not do well.