Sermon – Pentecost 13 – August 26, 2018
Ephesians 5:22-33 ‘Perfect Submission’
CT: God’s love for us in Christ is what shapes our eternal relationship with Him; a submission out of love that is reflected between husband & wife; Christ & His Church.
Intro: At first glance our readings this morning don’t seem to fit together, but they do. All 3 reading are about relationships; between us and God, between a husband and wife, and between Jesus and us.
In our Gospel lesson, Jesus agreed with the Pharisees that cleanliness does affect our relationship with God. But Jesus and the Pharisees differed greatly in what actually makes us unclean before God and what to do about it. While personal hygiene is important, God is concerned with the hygiene of our hearts. What’s outside and visible versus what’s inside and unseen; the words that end up on our lips; don’t always agree with what’s in our hearts.
All our efforts to address our heart problems with external kinds of measures don’t cut it. It’s the old adage, “I don’t smoke and I don’t chew, and I don’t go out with girls that do.” A great number of Christians get tied up in external appearances. If I do enough of the right things then God will see my worth and heal my heart. It usually ends up with me measuring you to a higher standard than I can keep, but it keeps people looking at you and not me. The problem with that model—and you can wash all the pots and hands you want with religious activities—you’ll never be or feel good enough because that doesn’t cleanse the heart. That’s the worship of your hands and your works, not God.
Marriage Traditions: Think about all the traditions we’ve heaped up around marriage. What do they mean? (White dress, tuxedos, father of the bride, toast to the groom, etc.) How do they possibly help to bring two people together as one? Where is the heart when the lips say, “I will love, honour, and cherish you till death us do part?” Notice it’s not I thee wed because I love you; it’s I thee wed because I plan to love you—I will love you.
Marriage Mystery: Our Epistle lesson points out that Christian marriage reveals a profound mystery. Never mind all the external things we place on a wedding; it’s a much deeper matter of our hearts. (When Jesus addressed divorce, the end of a marriage, He made it very clear it’s not about external matters; it’s comes from the hardness of our hearts!) From the beginning marriage is a Gospel picture of Christ and His Church; a reflection of how God loves us that our families become a living picture of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.
But that 1st marriage broke into a sinful, selfish argument: “That woman you gave me….” God told Eve that the result of their sin would be a battle for supremacy; a disruption of God’s good order. Both parts of God’s perfect recipe for marriage struggle to see themselves as having God-given roles—a uniqueness that allows us to cherish the gift God has given us in a spouse.
Submit and Serve: And so it is that our human pride chafes at the words of Scripture. Wives are called to submit and respect their husbands, treat him as their head. Now that makes any blue blooded North American woman bristle! You know the old saying, “Anything a man can do a woman can do better?” But it’s not about outdoing one another. It’s about supporting, encouraging, and enabling a husband to be the head of a family as God intended him to be. And you won’t understand headship until you know Jesus.
Woman was not made to be a door mat or to be pushed around. God created woman of man’s rib that he would hold her close—cherish and love her as a part of his own body. Thus the husband, for his part, is to be the kind of head that Christ is for the Church—for us. Jesus never forces anyone to believe in Him or follow Him. He loves us with an everlasting, unconditional love. It changes not when we get older, or if the beauty of youth is marred by accident, or if we bear emotional scars from the hurtful actions of others. He loves us when we’re well, happy, sick, sad, angry, upset, and even when we don’t show our love in return. He set aside everything—the wealth and glory of His heavenly home to take on human flesh and be our Saviour. He lived purposefully with us in mind, and for the joy set before Him endured the cross and its shame. Out of love for you and me He gave His life.
Yes, the husband is to love his wife with that kind of commitment, intensity, gentleness, and humility. While people continue to battle for a one-up-man-ship, Jesus said to His disciples: “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” A husband is to serve his wife—now the bristles go up on all the men—as Christ served us. All this serving and submitting is about hearts focused on the needs of our spouse. It’s a picture of God’s love for us—Christ and His Church (us guys).
Mirror the Church: Yet only too often our marriages provide a fuzzy, sometimes contradictory, picture of God’s love. And what does that say about the picture of Church we show to the world? How can we worship, pray, and be about mission in such a way that we imitate God and walk in love as Christ has loved us?
It begins, continues, and ends at the cross, where we see the depth of Jesus’ love for us. Forgiveness brings about a Spirit filled heart willing to submit to the One who gave His life for us. (When I survey the wondrous cross…love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.) It’s a life of obedience that starts with God first in our lives, thoughts, and actions. It’s a place where women, through the wonderful gifts that God has given them, encourage and support men in our midst to be the servant leaders God intended them to be. Our church and our families need more men to recognize the role God has given them, and be Spirit filled to fulfil their vocation before God and their family.
The old battles of the sexes will continue until Jesus returns. People will push away their church family, play church roulette, or simply divorce the church and walk away from the relationship of love that God gave us to treasure in the Body of Christ. The danger is that the people we love might lose their faith in a selfish act of independence. Yet precisely because marriage and church are both made up of sinful people, we get to see that faith, marriage, and worship are more than our words; they depend on His action for us. Jesus’ love for us rises above and through our brokenness to reveal God’s image at work in us through the lavish work of His blood bought gift of forgiveness. God binding us to Him; husband to wife; wife to husband; Christians together in one Body—the Church.