The Marriage of Azrielle Ritzman and Benjamin Horner on Sexagesima
February 4, 2024
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15, NKJV)
We often hear the word “patience” and think of waiting. The Oxford dictionary defines it more broadly. Patience is “the capacity to tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without becoming angry or upset.” What Jesus describes in the parable of the soil is perseverance, endurance, and fortitude in the face of delay, trouble, and suffering. Another name for this virtue is hope.
Faith needs endurance built on hope. We need it. We need it because like the earth in the parable we suffer external attacks from demons that snatch at us and men who seek to trample us. This is a spiritual battle. No one in the Church Militant can escape it. We must trust in God’s Word and promise. We are also attacked from within. We are often our own worst enemies. We do not give the attention that we should to God’s Word and thus lack His nourishment. We shrink from the seriousness of the faith and its call to sacrifice. We also are infected with a selfish desire for pleasure and an unwillingness to suffer that tries to choke out faith. We give up hope and live for the present or sell our souls for a bowl of soup.
Jesus doesn’t only describe four types of hearers who will be exposed on the last day. He also describes the totality of our own experience. Faith cometh by hearing and faith endureth by hearing. Everything is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. Demons are driven off in this way, and so also are our passions tamed and virtues trained, sins forgiven and faith strengthened. We live by faith. We face and endure, suffer and persevere what we must in hope and confidence that God does not lie and that He is working in and on us.
Jesus is the Sower, but do not think that is all He does, as though He sows and then walks away. He is the Redeemer who has given His life to win us. He is the Advocate who pleads our cause in Himself before His Father. He is our Husband who has loved us to the end. Even before sowing, He chooses the Seed. It is His Word. He also tills the soil. And He weeds, fertilizes, and waters it. On the last day, He Himself will bring the harvest home.
He has chosen the Seed deliberately. His Word does not lie or fail. It does not return to Him void. It is the power of God unto salvation. It changes hearts. It saves. He has likewise prepared the soil, that is, He has tilled your heart. He does this by crosses and sorrows and by the preaching of the Law. He teaches you what is temporary and eternal, what is shameful and your need. Yes, He sows. He preaches the Word by sending prophets and apostles and even angels and gets it all written down. He makes examples of all the saints of old for your benefit. He sends parents and preachers and friends with words in their mouths for your ears. He then weeds and fertilizes, waters and tends by that same Word.
We stand in a long line of believers. God works through means. We are the beneficiaries of sacrifices and generosity and scholarship long forgotten. We often mention those in the Bible. Sometimes we remember and thank God for those martyrs or teachers of the early Church. Maybe more often than we should we name Martin Luther and his generation. But there have been hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of Christians who have seen to the work of the church, writing books, building churches, donating to Bible and mission societies, sending their children to school, and bringing jello to potlucks. All that the Gospel might be preached, that the Good News might go out, that the call to witness would be fulfilled. In this way, by what appears to the eyes of men to be ordinary means and humble humans, Christ has tilled, sowed, weeded, fertilized, and watered. He has done this that you would hear and believe and bear fruit a hundredfold.
What has that to do with Holy Marriage? Marriage is an act of faith. God blesses, sanctifies it through His Word. It will be the most defining cross of your lives. If you cannot tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without becoming angry or upset, if you insist on your way and are ruled by your passions, you will destroy your marriage and do grievous harm to each other and your children. James gives counsel from the Holy Spirit for marriage. He writes:
Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Holy Marriage, built on and centered in Christ, is the seedbed of patience, of self-denial and self-giving. In it you will learn that love covers a multitude of sins, that humility precedes all virtue, and that peace which passes all understanding beams most brightly when there are few material goods and little esteem from the world. It will not come easily. You have little idea of the suffering and difficulty before you. But God instituted Holy Marriage. It is the clearest reflection of our relationship to Him. He blesses and sanctifies Marriage through His Word. Your crosses and failures, your frustrations and regrets, must be washed in His Blood, must be opportunities for repentance and forgiveness. God’s blessing and promise are on and in marriage. By His Word, you will learn to live in and by forgiveness. You will learn to see more deeply into eternity and to ache for it, which is to say, you will learn to live by faith and you will bear a harvest a hundredfold.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.