Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pulpit Freedom Sunday: "Male and Female He Created Them"

Pulpit Freedom Sunday
Oct 4, 2015
Fr. Philip Eberhart

Gen 2:18-24 ;  Eph 5: 29-32

I want to set the stage for this sermon a bit this morning. Today is Pulpit Freedom Sunday.

There is a complaint against "The Pulpit" in America that has been raised that we who preach never say anything of import on the hot political issues of the day.  And I believe in large measure that complaint is valid. 

The famed 19th Century revivalist and major contributor to America’s “Second Great Awakening,” Charles Finney, said the following: “If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discernment, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in Christianity, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.”

Likewise, in the days of the American Revolution, actually the decade or so before it and on during the conflict the pulpits of the American colonies were referred to by England as "The Black Robe Regiment."  Why?  Because if you look at the content of the sermons for a decade or more before the "tea party" or the first shots at Lexington and Concord were fired, you will see that the preachers had taken up the cause of Liberty, and that much of the fodder - the phraseology of Liberty, even of the Declaration of Independence itself - much of the fodder of Freedom was the stuff of the pulpit in New England among the puritan preachers.

Today we have a new tyranny to deal with from the pulpits of America - the judicial tyranny that seeks to redefine marriage and a cultural tyranny that seeks to redefine even our most basic concepts of sexuality and gender.

And so the question this morning for our consideration is "What is so special about male and female?"  And subsequently, "Why marriage of one man and one woman for the whole of life?"   "Indeed, why marriage at all?"

Why is the church now becoming the target of a culture which is hell bent on changing the most ancient of foundations for society - of tearing down the most foundational of institutions for a nation or society, the institution of the family.

Some will say that we are just recognizing a new institution, a new way of doing the old institution - but I am here this morning to show from scripture, the value and the irreplaceable nature - the purpose and the intrinsic nature of the institution of marriage for humankind, especially as they (as we) relate ourselves to the God of Creation.

I need to give credit to a brother, Ross Guthrie, who we had yesterday for a diocesan discernment weekend.  Much of the original thought and the depth, even some of the turns of phrase, of this sermon today came from his inspirational work in a sermon he produced for us yesterday.  I've taken it and reworked it for this morning, but thank you Ross. I am deeply in your debt.


Turn with me to Ephesians 5. Paul here is speaking to the church, which is a family of families.  Reading from vs. 29 we hear Paul's instructions:

"... so husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies;  he who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."  This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Eph 5:29-32)

The apostle uses the word "musterion", from which we get our English word "mystery", here to refer to what he is speaking of.  What is it that Paul is calling "mystery"?

What he is saying is that there is more here than meets the eye!  What you see is NOT all you get!  You get much more than you see!  We read the instructions from Paul here for husbands and wives and we think its for husbands and wives!  If we are not careful, we will miss the "real" that stands behind that which is only visible!

Anyone here remember the BCP definition of a sacrament?

"A outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace!"

Did you know that the Latin word that translates the Greek word "musterion" (mystery) is "sacramentum."  What does that sound like.  Mystery = Sacrament.

And Paul tells us that what we are looking at here is A GREAT MYSTERY!  In Latin a SACRAMENTUM HOC MAGNUM! So perhaps we need to pay a little closer attention to what is going on behind the scenes - behind the sign - of marriage!
Things that make you go, "hmmmmmmmm?"


So what is marriage about?  Why is it so important to the church today? Why is it so important to God?

Turn with me to the beginning - you know "IN THE BEGINNING..."  Genesis 1 and 2.

First I need to say a bit more about "sacramentum".  When we say "visible sign" we often think of something like a sign on a highway,  or a street sign, that points the way or marks our position.  But the word sacramentum and its greek cognate, musterion, both denote something more.  What we are seeing is not just a signpost or an advertisement.  It is something more!

In Sacramental theology there is a concept of "participation" - the Greek word we hear in this regard is the word "koinonia" - what is often translated simply as fellowship, or common life.
But in his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul writes the words, "the cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ;  The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16)  What Paul is making reference to here is the concept of Sacramental Participation.

A sacrament is a visible sign the PARTICIPATES in an invisible reality.  We have a KOINONIA with the Body and Blood of Christ as we eat and drink the elements of the Eucharist.  In marriage terms we become "flesh of His flesh" as we "eat his flesh and drink his blood."  This is why these holy moments are referred to by Paul as a GREAT MYSTERY - A SACRAMENTUM HOC MAGNUM!

Friends, the same is true of the union of husband and wife in holy matrimony.

Why is this so important to God?  Because it is the first institution of mankind after His creation of the world.  And in fact the very creation of man, and subsequently woman, is similarly a GREAT MYSTERY!  It was this mystery, in fact, that Paul refers to in Ephesians 5.  What Mystery?

Now look at Gen 1:26 ff.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man[h] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Paul, in his letter, refers back to this point at creation just before he calls marriage a "great mystery."  Why? What is going on here that we don't see?  What is God doing in the world as He creates us male and female?
I want to note just a couple more things:  first, note that the image of God is not just male, its male and female.  Interesting turns of phrase, "In the image of God he created HIM:  male and female he created THEM."  Hold that thought.
Second, in Gen 2 we get a look into the creation of woman - literally "from man."  wo - man.  He caused Adam (which means MAN) to sleep and took a rib out of his body (from man - wo-man) to create woman.  Throughout the account she is wo-man (from man) and only in chapter three, does Adam name her Eve (literally life.)
Adam (Man) and Eve (life), real people, are physical signs created to participate as male and female, in revealing spiritual reality!  This image of the creation of woman is, according to St. Augustine and St. Jerome, a prophetic moment - one that points us all the way forward to the death of Christ on the cross.  It was moments after his death, that a spear was thrust into his side and up through his heart, pearcing into the pericardium - the sack that surrounds the heart itself - and out came what?  The eyewitness testimony of John said, "blood and water" flowed out.  Not only scientific physical evidence of his death, but of spiritual and sacramental reality.  According to the saints, the first Adam was put to sleep and from his side, from his body, Eve (wo-man) came forth.  St Augustine says that in a similar way, the second Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ was "put to sleep(death)."  And as the blood and water flowed out of the Body of Jesus Christ, up sprang The Church.  Of course the figurative language speaks here of the blood and the water, of the Eucharist and of Baptism, through which we come to be "very members incorporate in the Body of Christ."
Now come back to Genesis again with me...
What is happening friends, in the creation of man and woman, and subsequently in their blessing and being told to "be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth"?  What is happening is a blessing on their creation as male and female, and a blessing on the state of matrimony, which is the setting of their being told to be fruitful and multiply.  Verse 28 of Gen 1 begins with these words:  AND GOD BLESSED THEM. PERIOD. Thus we have a picture of the first marriage ceremony!  We pick it up in Chapter two again:  
22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made[h] into a woman and brought her to the man.23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”[i]
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 
The very definition of marriage we have and use today is contained in the 24th verse of Genesis 2.  Jesus referred to it himself in Mark 10:
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,[a] 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.”
From this point of view, marriage is God's most ancient and most foundational revelation of Himself to man!  He gave us marriage so that we might know Him and be known by Him. He purposed us to marry so that we might give and receive the love that exists in the eternal community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Through Christ, we have, literally, been included in that love that exists in the Godhead.  Through our one-flesh covenant with our spouse, our husband or our wife, we attempt to daily pattern the love of Christ and His beloved Church.  Christian Marriage, as the Apostle Paul writes is SACRAMENTUM HOC MAGNUM, a Great Mystery!
Marital union, my friends, is intended to be an ICON, through which we see the inner life and love of the Trinity.  Body, mind and spirit we are created to "be ONE" - Jesus quoted the original source:  "they are no longer two but one flesh!" We are made in specific ways in our sexuality - in complimentary ways - we are made to love someone that corresponds to us, male for female, female for male, for the whole of our life!
Perhaps we should heed Jesus warning, "what therefore God has joined together let not Man put asunder!"  Do you hear that, Supreme Court?  There is more going on here than you can possibly imagine!  What you are messing with is the oldest institution of creation, created and blessed by God Himself to be an IMAGO DEI - the joining of male and female in oneness to IMAGE the unity and community of the Creator God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit!  Marriage and marital communion is the most fundamental revelation of who God is in His very own nature.  As we partake in it, we partake - we PARTICIPATE - in the very nature of God.  
Sacramentum Hoc Magnum - a Great Mystery - a great mystery indeed!
Let us pray:
[Let me pray the prayer at the end of the Anglican Church's recent Statement on Marriage, in response to our high court ruling:]
Almighty God our heavenly Father, you have created us male and female in Your image and have ordained that a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.  Look down in mercy, we pray, on our families, our church and our nation.  Knit together in constant affection those who, in Holy Matrimony, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, the hearts of the children to the parent, and the hearts of all to those who are single or alone.  Finally, grant that your Church may steadfastly defend the unchangeable bond of marriage which embodies the mystery of Christ's love for us; Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and forever.  AMEN.