Friday, May 22, 2009

Help For What God Intended

Ah, yes, the month of May! Such beautiful weather! Love is in the air! A line from an old poem declares:
In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.
So we've got weddings coming up. We've also got, in our church's denomination, a major discussion underway that is intimately connected with marriage and family. Yesterday I found out about a Saturday, June 6 event at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Redwood Falls that will give us a chance to hear and talk with some Lutheran professors, teachers and students about the proposed statement on sexuality and possible changes in ELCA ministry policies. A pdf notice about the June 6 event is available by clicking here.

(Those who have been around awhile or who have talked with me about sexuality know where I stand on these things. If you're curious, you can read my February 2009 blog post on the proposal and the links you will find there. The colored words in this blog are links.)

The first of this year's weddings is coming up this weekend. The couple has chosen scripture readings (First John 4:9-12 and Colossians 3:12-17) but, usually, in one way or another, I end up going back to Matthew 19. In that passage, Jesus, responding to Jewish religious leader's question about divorce, said:
“Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
This is such a change from the normal Jewish practice that the disciples respond: “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” I love the disciples honesty! (Maybe things weren't going so well in their marriages!)

Jesus pushes them and us to more faithfulness than is normal or natural in our fallen, broken, sinful world. If you want to be challenged, see this controversial article by David Barash -- he says monogamy is the exception rather than the rule in all of our broken world! If you don't want to go that far, look around! Unhappy marriages and divorces are (sadly) so "ordinary." But Jesus is always pushing toward what God intended in the beginning, before sin entered the world! In the case of marriage and family, that IDEAL is this: one man and one woman faithful and together for life.

But how in heaven's name do we attain that? Only with the help of God. Only by knowing the love of Jesus. (This is where I go to the other scriptures chosen by this weekend's wedding couple.)
First John 4 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God... 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Colossians 3 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion... 13 ...Forgive as the Lord forgave you... 17 it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Jesus, and his sacrificial love for us, is where we go for help and hope, even in our marriages and families. That's where we find the forgiveness, the patience, the generosity, the kindness and the "self-giving" love we need to stay together for life. God knows Toni and I need that every day!

That's why we pray at weddings:
Faithful Lord, source of love, pour down your grace upon name and name, that they may fulfill the vows they have made and reflect your steadfast love in their lifelong faithfulness to each other.
Christian men and women are called to pledge lifelong faithfulness to each other because of their Christian faith, because of their relationship with our loving God. It's really not fair to demand such sacrifice of those who do not know the Lord! But, when we do come to know the love of God, and know that He forgives sinners no matter what, the love of God is poured into our hearts (Romans 5:4). And that love can even extend toward those we are with the most, our husbands, our wives, our families. Jesus can give us what we need.

Faithfulness in marriage is so good, so necessary, so precious. So, every day, we go to the cross of Jesus, to know God's faithfulness. Every time we come to Jesus, God will work among us to give us everything we need for our good, and especially for the good of our children and the world God loves so much.

I'm looking forward to the weddings we're celebrating. Please be in prayer and for Lora and Jeremy! Since I'll be up north for this Sunday afternoon wedding, Paul Gustafson will be preaching. Please be in prayer for him too.

*Yes, I do believe in forgiveness. Those who have experienced broken vows can be completely forgiven, though scars usually remain. And, yes, I do support many Christian people as begin again with a new marriage after a previous marriage has died. But divorce should never be simple. We are to do everything within our power, with lots of prayer and counseling help, to keep the family together. Come and chat with me if you need some help! But when it's clear that there is nothing more that can be done, we can go to the Lord, prayerfully, with help and lots of tears, and begin again.

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