The Second Sunday after Epiphany
“This Holy Estate”
Philip G. Meyer, Pastor Emeritus
St. John 2.1-11
15 January 2023
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
Last week I was attending my granddaughter’s wedding in Toledo. Pastor Scott began with the words from the Lutheran Rite of Holy Marriage:
In the name of the Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God and before His Church to witness the union of this man and this woman in holy matrimony. This is an honorable estate instituted and blessed by God in Paradise, before humanity’s fall into sin.
In marriage we see a picture of the communion between Christ and His bride, the Church. Our Lord blessed and honored marriage with His presence and first miracle at Cana in Galilee. This estate is also commended to us by the apostle Paul as good and honorable. Therefore, marriage is not to be entered into inadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.
The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for the mutual companionship, help, and support that each person ought to receive from the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Marriage was also ordained so that man and woman may find delight in one another. Therefore, all persons who marry shall take a spouse in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust, for God has not called us to impurity but in holiness. God also established marriage for the procreation of children who are to be brought up in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that they may offer Him their praise.
For these reasons God has established the holy estate that [name] and [name] wish to enter. They desire our prayers as they begin their marriage in the Lord’s name and with His blessing. [LSB Agenda. Used by permission]
In the Lutheran Churches of Germany and Scandinavia this Sunday was often called “Home Sunday” because the Gospel and Epistle deal with the very foundation of all societies, the home. It begins with marriage, a holy, honorable estate established by God for the good of humanity.
This wedding at Cana provided the occasion for our Lord’s first miracle, the changing of water into wine. His miracles are called “signs,” which point beyond itself to something greater, signs which point to heaven. This first miracle of Jesus points to the fact that he is the Son of God and that he has command over the forces of nature and that he approves of marriage.
This Gospel reading as well as the Epistle from Ephesians 5 focus on marriages, both human and divine. Jesus confirms that marriage is God’s work and arrangement, therefore it is holy and honorable. In spite of the Fall into sin, God did not abandon this holy, honorable estate. Read the first and second chapters of Genesis and you see that God loves marriage. Jesus spoke up against the Pharisees who were quite willing to tear marriage apart through divorce. In the marriage rite these words are also spoken:
He [Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. [Matt. 19.4-6]
Pastor Scott did a fine job weaving them together last Saturday.
Marriage is under attack in our society. The attack has become particularly malignant in these latter days. The Progressive Left which has deep roots in atheism and Marxism, has taken aim at marriage with the purpose of wiping it out, or at the very least, changing it into something other than what God has instituted, namely, something unholy. Those who defend marriage as defined by God’s Word, are ridiculed and persecuted because they will not support same sex marriage or its more shameful variations. No doubt you’ve heard and seen these Leftists chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western culture’s got to go.” They are taking aim at Christianity in particular, yet at the heart of all cultures lies the family, the basic unity of society, husband and wife. The animus is real and it is growing.
It has always been Satan’s aim to destroy the good works of God. Philipp Melanchthon, one of the Lutheran Reformers, wrote a hymn for St. Michael and All Angels. In it he writes:
The ancient dragon is their foe;
His envy and his wrath they know.
It always is his aim and pride
Thy Christian people to divide.
As he of old deceived the world
And into sin and death has hurled,
So now he subtly lies in wait
To undermine both Church and state. LSB 522.4-5 Text: Public domain
“To undermine both Church and state” sums it up completely! Make no mistake about it, the undermining of marriage is Satan’s work! Nearly every social ill that faces our nation can be traced to the attacks on marriage. A columnist wrote just this past Monday:
“America is suffering from a pandemic that is not a virus, it ‘is a pandemic of fatherlessness.’”
As I have noted in issues of the Esprit, the statistics tell the story. 51% of all American children are born out of wedlock. In 1950, only 4% of Americans were born out of wedlock. The results are sobering 75% of prison inmates grew up without a father present. 63% of all youth suicides come from fatherless homes, the report goes on to say. The columnist continues by quoting a recent book, that the rise of transgenderism and gay marriage is a side effect of fatherlessness. Mothers and fathers become interchangeable in public thinking Domestic violence its higher among homosexual couples than among heterosexual couples, between two and eight times higher! Studies at the University of Hong Kong and similar studies in Latin America prove this. Listen to this quote:
For nearly every one of the 47 types of intimate partner violence reported in the surveys, marriage was associated with a lower incidence of Intimate Partner Violence [IPV] suffered by women. In fact, marriage is not associated with more violence than in any of those 47 categories but less. [AFA-IN Benefit of Marriage, 12/21/22.]
It certainly appears that Satan is succeeding in America! And we are told that “diversity” in marriage is healthy for everyone! Satan, as our Lord said, was a liar and a murderer from the beginning!
He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. [John 8.44-45]
Satan has lied to people that the estate of marriage is a burden, something to be avoided. Yet, without marriage as God defines it there is no real happiness. Single parenthood leads many into permanent poverty. Without father and mother children easily fall into tragic situations for which there is often no remedy.
We have been speaking about our marriages but our Epistle points us to something higher—the picture of Christ and his Bride, the Church.
This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Some people hear Paul’s words about marriage and rebel against them because they think that marriage is all about dominance and control, and those statistics cited earlier prove that violence is often the end product.. Sadly, that’s why many marriages fail—because it’s a fight for control. Both will lose because that is not the relationship our Lord has with his Bride. He came to serve her and give his life as a ransom for her, to make her holy. It is not what God ordained in Eden.
All of our Lord’s signs—miracles—point forward to what he does for us. After this account John tells us that Jesus went to Jerusalem and cleansed the temple of its abuses, chasing out the money changers and merchants. He overturned their tables, scattering coins all over the floor. When the leaders demanded a sign from Jesus as to what authority he had to do what he did, he pointed to the last and greatest sign he would perform, his resurrection from the dead.
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [John 2.19]
Jesus would make the true temple his body. It would be eternal and all who worship him will worship correctly. All the sins of the world, including our sins against his holy estate of marriage, have been paid for by his innocent suffering and death on the cross.
God has never abandoned “This Holy Estate” and he never will! Perhaps it seems odd to call marriage “holy,” but it is because our Lord sanctifies it, that is, he makes the people in it holy through his blood-bought atonement. When Christ is present in a marriage there is blessing even though we continue to sin. Christ brings his forgiveness so that we can live together in holy union with our spouses. God has placed you together. God himself brought Eve to Adam [Gen. 2.22]. It is God’s good pleasure that you remain together. Pushing Christ out of marriage will not make it better; it will only destroy it.
Therefore husbands and wives must deal with sin through mutual repentance and forgiveness. If troubles arise—and they surely will!—he will help, just as he did as this marriage in Cana. He will supply what you need so that you continue to have his blessing. He provided very good wine in superabundance at Cana, and he will provide more than you need in your marriages. Jesus was invited to this marriage at Cana. Be sure to invite Jesus to your marriage and family. He will provide a superabundance of blessings.
These are evil days when God’s greatest earthly gift of family remains under attack. It is hard work to keep our marriages within God’s boundaries, but he will help. He will supply what you need. As God’s redeemed people it is our duty to defend God’s holy estate so that our own good and that of our society is not squandered and lost. To do that look to our Lord who supplied abundant wine. This is a picture of the Sacrament of the Altar, where our Lord provides his own body and blood for our forgiveness and strengthening in the faith.
Then look to God’s instructions as Luther has recorded them in the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism, words which we read throughout the year. Live out your Christian confession so that others may see the blessings God puts in marriage!
The most excellent wine remains yet to be poured. On the last day Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom, will return and take us to the never-ending feast of eternal life. He is good and gracious. He will help in your hour of need. He will not abandon “This Holy Estate.”
In the Name of the Father and of the ✠Son and of the Holy Spirit.