The Rite of Holy Matrimony for Teresa Sue Zook and Kurt Benjamin Mundinger
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There is something that does not like to be alone. And yet it is afraid to take the risk, to be rejected, to be hurt, to lose the prize of a true friend. It does not like to be alone, but alone is safe. Alone and sad beats alone and ashamed. And so it builds walls and fortresses and imagines its safety as a companion for its loneliness. This something that does not like to be alone afflicts not merely the unwed, bachelors and bachelorettes. It attacks and infects droves of husbands and wives. For you can be alone, behind your walls, in crowded places. You can hide behind your black curtain of depression and let no one in. You can raise the drawbridge, batten the hatches, go to your secret place and be alone. With sarcastic, cruel remarks and a cold shoulder you can drive the world, or even your family, away from your door.
But it is not good for man to be alone. Man was not meant for this. This is the devil’s doing. He has exposed our nakedness, our vulnerability, ushered death into paradise. He has given us the power to hurt and the weaknesses by which to be hurt. With so much pain, so much betrayal, so much sadness and abuse, is it any wonder we are afraid? We don’t know how to behave, what to do or what to say, what to expect. It is so unlike the movies, so disappointing when compared to our fantasies. We are missing the soundtrack, the rehearsed dialog and stereotypes, the standard props and plot devices that clue us in as to what happens next. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad? We are afraid and alone and trapped.
But alone will not cut it. It does not satisfy. It is not the way we were built. It violates our design. We are social creatures from the beginning, needing a mother’s touch, a mother’s lull-a-bye, a father’s strong hand to pat us on the back and on the behind. We need hugs and kisses, yes, but even more we need companionship. Ask the widows. They will not say that they need a man to warm their beds, to bring home the bacon or to fix the car. They’ll say they need someone to talk to, someone to care about, and to care about them. When the kids are all over you, tiny rubber-soled tennis shoes stepping on your thighs, sponge-tipped arrows flying through the air, shouts and fights and demands for attention, it seems as though nothing would be so nice as peace and quiet, as a cup of coffee and the evening paper to yourself, by yourself. But ask the widows. Those who have it would gladly trade it. There is little joy in it.
That is the problem with our sin. We always want what we don’t have. We are filled with desires for things forbidden. We despise the gifts of God, wife and children, Word and Sacrament. They seem so plain, so ordinary, and so boring. We curve in toward ourselves and demand our own time, our own things, our rights and health. From kindergarten on we yell “Look at me! Look at me!” And then we run away when someone does, afraid they’ll steal from us what we don’t even have. There is something that does not like to be alone, but it is broke. It is afraid and ashamed. It half-covers itself with fig leaves and hopes no one notices. Repent.
But I am talking about Christ and the Church. For Adam and Eve had been one. But they were broken from one flesh into two competing egos by the snake and forbidden fruit. Yet God walked in the garden for restoration. He did not unleash His wrath upon them. He showed them mercy and forgiveness. He did not carry out His Law against them. Instead, He sacrificed an innocent animal in their place. By the death of that innocent they were covered. It’s skin clothed them. And God made a promise. The substitutionary execution of that animal showed what He would do. He would intervene on their behalf. He would take up their flesh, become one of them, and die in their place. He would make them whole by sacrifice. He would restore the marriage of Adam and Eve, make them again one flesh by removing their guilt and joining them to Him. He would fix what they broke by forgiveness. By Grace, they again became “we.” They were ousted from the garden, but not before heaven was opened.
There is something that does not like to be alone in God. He could not stand the thought of being separated from you. He could not stand the thought of your eternal torture in Hell. He wanted you to be whole, to be healthy, to be free. So He stepped in and paid your debt, suffered your punishment, bore your burden. He has washed you, purified you, cleansed you for eternity. In Him you are chaste, immaculate, and holy, worthy of the price He paid, a fit receptacle for His love. He wants you to be His Bride, to belong to Him, to be served by Him, to bear His Name. He knows there is something that does not like to be alone. He offers companionship like no other, a perfect unconditional love that satisfies all the Law, a rescue from your loneliness and fear.
This compassionate, sacrificing God has instituted Holy Marriage. He moves us out of ourselves. He places upon us responsibilities and duties. None of us is “I.” All of us are “We.” We are daughter, son, husband, wife, father, or mother. We have relationships, duties, a place in society. They define who we are. We are who we are by who we are with, who we are for, and who is with and for us. God has given us companions, true friends who love us, benefactors and students, mothers and children, husbands and wives. They are not perfect but they are perfect for us, custom-made by the God who counts hairs. They are His gifts to you. In them you live by Grace, forgiven and forgiving. In them, you die to self. And in dying, you live. Kurt and Teresa will never again be “I”or “me.” Forever hereafter, until death parts them, they will be “we” and “us.”
But again, I am talking about Christ and the Church. Christ has joined Himself to you, taken up your flesh, you are one with Him, and thus are accepted and embraced by the Father in the Spirit. God does not say of you: “he.” God says of you: “we.” You are His. He is yours. And death will not part you – ever. You will never be alone. For the One who rose from the dead
says, “Lo, I am with you always.”
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana