Marriage of Audra Jo and Michael Craig Courter
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The chance to start over again is a uniquely Christian gift. While it cannot be presumed, when it is given, it should be embraced. All of our hope is based upon the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If Jesus does not live our hope is in vain and nothing really matters. But if Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, then there is forgiveness, new starts, and hope.
It is part of our modern arrogance to think our problems and struggles are new and to dismiss the wisdom of the past. All of history knows the burdens we now bear. Nothing has befallen you that is not common to man. Broken and dysfunctional families are not unique to the modern age. They were common in a world infected with slavery, war, misogyny, and natural disasters. The brothers Grimm found step-mothers to be the most common antagonist in German folklore. That is because stepmothers were a regular fear for children. Everyone was familiar with the difficulties faced by those who live in the complicated and ever-changing relationships of this fallen world.
The ancients faced the same troubles and challenges we now face. Their solution was simple. They kept trying. They kept loving. Rather than give up, they dealt with the immediate problems and needs before them. Our Lord Himself was part of a blended family. For whatever you think of St. Joseph and his relationship to St. Mary, that is, whether they consummated the marriage or not, Joseph was Our Lord’s step-father. He was not his natural father. Jesus is the only Begotten Son of God the Father from eternity. He was conceived in St. Mary´s womb without the aid, or permission, of Joseph. Joseph’s other sons were at the most half-brothers if not step-brothers.
It may sound trite, but Jesus really is the answer. He makes all things new. Ours is not the religion of the second chance. It is the religion of 7 times 70 chances. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ lets us start over again. Our Lord is like a master who cancels the debt of a servant who owed 10,000 talents. That is an impossible amount. It is 1000 years worth of wages. At $50,000 a year the servant owed 50 million dollars. You cannot accumulate that kind of debt without the most ridiculous, frivolous, and wasteful spending. He did not simply make a few mistakes, buy a boat couldn´t afford and forget to save for retirement. He was sinfully extravagant and had nothing to show for it. But he got away with it. His debt was canceled in the blink of an eye, by a word. Do not let your eye be evil because He is good. Again, Our Lord is like a vineyard owner who pays for labor not performed. He pays full wages to those who did nothing, who did not deserve it. His ways make no sense to the minds of men. He loves sinners. He loves those who hate and betray Him. He is like a Shepherd who searches all night for a single sheep and even dies for the sheep. He is generous and merciful, patient and gracious. He came into our world and suffered as we all suffer and He is risen from the dead.
He was purposefully part a blended family, for He Himself adopts the sons of the devil as His own. While on earth, He had a step father and a host of relatives. He moved as a child, was uprooted from his home and country, in order to flee Herod´s violence. And even when He was able to come back, He couldn´t go to Bethlehem. His relatives in Bethlehem didn´t want Him. That was Joseph´s hometown. They went there for the census on the night that Mary gave birth out of doors. It wasn´t just the hotels that were full: Joseph´s family rejected pregnant Mary. They had to search for lodging elsewhere and found it with animals. The family of Jesus was a mess.
He endured and suffered all the family problems and hardships, the petty jealousies and old grudges, the schemes and plottings for revenge, that we all know. He also suffered death, not just as one who died, but as One who mourned. He buried St. Joseph, His step-father. That is why St. Mary was alone at the cross and Joseph is missing from the Gospels after they move to Nazareth. Our Lord suffered in every way that decent people suffer. He suffered from the mistakes and sins of others. He was a victim of sinful men.
Worse than that though, He suffered all that sinful men should suffer on account of their own sins, not just in this life but in the next. He suffered as the worst of all criminals. He had kept the Law, done everything the Law says to do and nothing that it forbid. His suffering in this life came exclusively from sins committed against Him. That is an important distinction between Him and us. Sometimes we are victims, we are sinned against, and it hurts. But sometimes we suffer for our own selfish choices. We hurt ourselves and those we love with our sins. In Our Lord´s case it really was always someone else´s fault. It was Herod´s fault He had to flee to Egypt. It was Judas´ fault He was betrayed in the garden, and so forth. But that was not the limit of His suffering. He wasn´t merely the innocent, passive victim. He also suffered the full punishment for sin as though He were the sinner. He knew no sin, yet He became sin on the cross. Satan unleashed on Him all of Hell´s fury, all that justice demanded for every single sin the world has ever known and more. He didn´t just pay for all the sins of the world, the exact amount and not a penny more. He paid for our sins and the sins of those who don´t believe in Him. He paid for all the sins of all the people in heaven, in Hell, and on earth. But He kept going. He went further. He even paid for sins that hadn´t been and won´t be done. He overpaid. He made a sacrifice greater than the demand. He poured out everything, was forsaken by the Father, and thereby took away every real and every false accusation that Satan might make against you. The Lord Jesus has paid even for sins that the devil might make up. He has forgiven you sins you didn´t even commit. So you can be sure, you can know you are forgiven. Thus does David confess that his cup overflows.
The Scriptures calls St. Joseph Our Lord´s “father” with full affection and honor. It is not mediated or qualified. Joseph is the real father of Jesus. He is a mask of God, the way that God provides for the infant and child Jesus in this world. Our Lord´s true Father is His Father in heaven, but anyone whom His true Father uses for Our Lord´s benefit on earth is a real father. The Scriptures care little for genetics. Your father is the one by whom God provides for you. Even coaches and teachers and pastors can fulfill a part of this role. But while your true Father is your Father in heaven, into whom you have been baptized, the role of father is mostly fulfilled by God for you through the man or men who do the day to day work of fathering. In the same way, Our Lord calls His half or step brothers “brothers” without qualification. They are really His brothers.
He makes blended families families in the best and purest sense of the word. Even when He was dying, He continued in His filial role. From the cross He gave St. Mary a new son, St. John the Divine. He doesn´t say that John will be like a son, or a surrogate, step, or half son. He says he will be her son and she will be his mother; and what He says is. Family life goes on precisely because Jesus died. Because Jesus died, because He forgives sins, John could become Mary´s Son. John and Mary had been reconciled to the Father in the death of Jesus, declared righteous and holy. They were free for new family life. This is the unique power of the Creator. He who created re-creates. He makes the world good once again. He makes families families not by bloodlines or legalities, but by forgiveness and grace.
That is the only path to a satisfying marriage and a healthy family life. It may not always be happy. It may require incredible sacrifices, the regular swallowing of pride, financial hardships, awkward moments, tearful confessions, and frustrating repetitions. Like the ancients before you, keep trying. Keep loving. Keep forgiving and starting over. For the promise of God is to make two people one flesh, to change the world through them, to show what love is. Even when marriage is not exactly happy, it can be good, it can be satisfying and fulfilling, it can be holy. That is the power of the forgiveness of sins. The Lord Jesus hears and blesses your prayers. He will bless your life together as He has promised. And by His grace, you can start again, and again, and again, and again. As you have been forgiven, you can forgive. You can live in the reality that God forgives sins and has joined you together for His good purposes.
The Lord Jesus Christ died, but He is not dead. He lives. He is risen from the dead. He gives new life, new starts, to those who believe in Him. God bless you in this.
In +Jesus´ Name. Amen.