The Holy Marriage of Julianna Laulea Grobien and Samuel James Felton
July 10, 2020 A+D
Ephesians 5: 21-33
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God has established Holy Marriage as a union between husband and wife for a number of purposes. Primarily, marriage is meant for companionship. We were meant to live together in conversation and mutual support. Even in the perfection of Eden, Adam needed a partner. This companionship is how God populates the world. Even before the Fall, God also meant for marriage to be a picture of the communion between Christ and His Bride, the Church. Marriage should show to the world the self-giving character of God. He sacrifices Himself for the Church. Since the Fall, marriage is also an aid against sexual immorality.
The most fulfilling marriages embrace all those things. They are fulfilling because husband and wife have endured great hardships and not given up. They are not soulmates. That is a fantasy that destroys marriages. In a fulfilling marriage, husband and wife are partners. They share burdens, sorrows, and joys. They have learned to give themselves to one another even when it hurts. They have stuck it out through lean years and disappointments. They have not sought to maximize pleasure or personal success but have learned to live for one another. Contrary to much popular wisdom and fear, living for one another, sacrificing for spouse and children, does not suffocate or stifle. Rather it frees us to be the best people that we can be, enabling us to achieve more than we thought possible, to find our true selves, and to grow in ways we never expected.
But that is all mundane, temporal, terrestrial. It is integral to God’s purpose, but there is more to Holy Marriage than that. Holy Marriage is a mystical reality. It transcends sight, reason, and practicality. The phrase that Moses uses to describe this is the two shall become one flesh. We still see two separate bodies. We still know two separate wills, wills which often conflict with one another and suffer disunity. But this is the mantra and the promise: the two shall become one flesh. Jesus repeats it: the two shall become one flesh. He adds an explanation. This is a Divine action: What God has joined together, let not man separate. Paul also repeats the phrase: the two shall become one flesh. He expands our understanding by telling us that Holy Marriage is a great mystery.
Holy Marriage is an object of faith. It can’t be quantified with tape measures or microscopes. It is a mystery wherein we participate in something Divine. It was hidden until God revealed it. Now we know: Marriage has a supernatural, miraculous component. God makes two people into one flesh.
Therefore Holy Marriage cannot be constrained merely to the mundane. It extends beyond the order of creation and beyond the civil order or practicality. It is intimately wrapped up in and necessary for God’s redemption of the world. In the beginning, before the Fall, Eve was taken from the side of Adam, from his own flesh. He paid for her from and with his body. Before this, without her, it was not good; now, without her, he is incomplete. He can’t be fully himself or what he was meant to be without her. But with her, it is good.
This is true even beyond the Fall. Two still become one flesh in Holy Marriage and a Divine unity is created out of incompleteness and lack. It is more than the sum of its parts. And it is still not good for man to be alone. Celibacy is a cross, as is widowhood. God can and has used celibacy and widowhood for good, to enrich the world, to extend the kingdom, but those things are not good in and of themselves. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, there would be no widows nor any celibates or eunuchs, anymore than there would be anyone blind or deaf or suffering from cancer. It was not good when Adam was alone. Crosses are, of themselves, a lack and deprivation, evil. Even the cross upon which Christ was crucified was evil, though by it God has done for us the greatest good.
When Adam and Eve plunged the world into the chaos of sin and began to unravel the unity of Holy Marriage, God issued a promise of salvation through the Seed to be born of the woman. Because of this, not only do Adam and Eve fill the world with humans, they also fill it with Christians. She is the mother of all the living. Procreation grows the church and propels the promise of the Messiah into the future. Without marriage there is no Gospel.
Finally, God, Himself, joins this messy process. He takes up flesh in the virgin’s womb. He, who is the Creator and is uncreated, is procreated. He is born under the Law, under the curse, of a woman, who will be married to Joseph. He is subject to abuse and betrayal and failure from those He loves. This He does that He might have a Heel to be crushed, a life to be snuffed, and therein crush the Satan’s skull and set us free. He is born to die as the answer for all our sins, the absorption of His Father’s wrath, the completion of what the Holy Trinity began in Eden. Once again, thanks to Good Friday, He can say, “It is good.” When He rises from the dead, vindicated by His Father, with our ancient enemy destroyed, He presents us to His Father a glorious Church and Bride, without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish.
This is what Holy Marriage is and what it is for. That is not to say that the mundane realities and purposes of God in Holy Marriage are second class or less than central. There are the means of the mystical reality. Apart from them, there is no marriage. It is God’s purpose that you two feel in love with each other. But even in those moments when you don’t, it is God’s will that you still love one another, that you are faithful and stick it out. It is good that you have babies and raise them up in the fear and knowledge of God. But even if you can’t, it is God’s will that you be involved in giving yourself to children. It is good if the world can look at how you treat one another and see a picture of Christ’s compassion and love for the Church, but even if they don’t, you are the Church, baptized into Him, living by grace, in forgiveness, not for yourself but for one another. And it is God’s will that you are a picture of Christ and the Church.
But as good as all that is, know this: you are entering into something that is more than all of that. It is not separate from that, but it is more than that. You are entering into a mystic reality that defies the senses and science of man. In losing yourself to one another, you are becoming the embodiment of human beings. You are being restored to the image of God, participating in the expansion of His Kingdom. You are a step closer to Eden and the original design of God for us and what is truly good.
Thus the wife submits, in love, voluntarily. Her goal is to give herself to and for her husband, forsaking all others. Thus does the husband sanctify and cleanse his wife with the washing of water by the word. He feeds and nourishes her at the cost of his own body and blood, giving up His life for her. He forsakes all others. She is not just his bride, she is his body. The two shall become one flesh.
This is a great gift, a great joy, a great privilege. For that reason, this is a great day and you, together, one flesh according to the Word and promise of God, you are a great mystery. May God in Christ be forever praised that He gives such gifts to men.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.