Third Sunday after the Epiphany “Mawage”
January 24, 2021 – 1 Corinthians 7:35
The Bride of Christ
In the words of the Impressive Clergyman from the 1987 movie The Princess Bride, “Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder today.”
It is not the “mawage” between you and your spouse or, if you are unmarried, the married friends or family in your life that brings us together today. Not those marriages.
It is the marriage of Christ to us all, His Church, which brings us together today. Christ has, as Ephesians 5:26-27 says, “sanctified us, having cleansed us by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present us, the church, to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that we might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27).
It is Christ’s “marriage vow” to us which keeps us coming together, week after week at His calling, to be His bride living out our relationship with Him. If this idea is new to you, of being the bride of Christ as a member of His church, think on it for a moment.
If you are a man, think about the uncomfortableness you may feel being called a “bride.”
Think about how strange it is being lumped together with Christians who have passed away, who are yet to be born, and those alive still today, and how Christ binds us all together as one person, His bride – His very body who He loves and cares for. Think about these things. Reflect on the metaphor of our relationship with God and each other in this way, which comes from God’s Word itself.
God speaks and it exists. He does this at the start of the world in His creation. There is nothing. He speaks. The thing comes into existence. Light and darkness, the sun and the moon, plants and animals, your ancestors – your great Father Adam, and your great Mother Eve. All exist from the powerful Word of His mouth. His Word has lasting power when He speaks it.
He speaks and declares us righteous through Jesus (Romans 5:1; Titus 3:7) and we are. He speaks and says, “this is my body, this is my blood” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25) and it is, “if you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven” (John 20:23) and they are, “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16) and they are saved. He speaks, calls us His bride (John 3:29; Mark 2:19; Matthew 25:1-13; Revelation 21:2;9-10; 2 Corinthians 11:2-4; Hosea 1 &2), and so we are.
So mawage is what brings us together today.
As we see from our Epistle (1 Corinthians 7:29-35), there is more for us here on earth to learn about marriage.
Marriage was given by God and it is good – it is a gift (Matthew 19:4-6). Celibacy also, to remain unmarried Like St. Paul, is a gift (1 Corinthians 7:6).
Here, in our Epistle, we are given a new perspective to consider about marriage on this earth.
In this life, God knows it easy for us to get caught up in the things of this life and forget about what lies ahead.
He knows that we can easily weep as if we have no hope – in utter despair – when we have hope in Christ!
He knows we can set our spouses up as our gods instead of Him. Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).
Are you wondering how a Christian can love God and their spouse at the same time? We put it in light of Jesus’ Words “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37) and the knowledge that we serve and love God as our Master, through caring for, and loving, our spouses (Small Catechism: The Sixth Commandment). We can love God, as He has allowed, by loving and caring for His image– our neighbours – and husband and wife love and honour God by loving and honouring each other.
Having this in mind, we see God pointing us to the future, beyond this earth, when St. Paul tells us in our Epistle the end of time is near, and he wants us to be free from anxieties.
He writes, “Let those who have wives live as though they had none… The unmarried man [or woman] is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord [how to be holy in body and spirit]. But the married man [or woman] is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife [or her husband], and [their] interests are divided (1 Corinthians 7:29; 32-34).
This is a hard thing. Paul says this, not because it is a sin to be married (1 Corinthians 7:35; Proverbs 22:25), it is not a sin, but because in these end-times we live in, it would be easier as a Christian to be “freer and less distracted by domestic occupations in order to pray, teach, and serve” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession art. XXIII par. 40) for “a healthy marriage thrives on attending the needs and wishes of one’s spouse” (The Lutheran Study Bible pg. 1956).
The end is drawing near and there is a lot of work to do. The driven young-person’s saying of “I don’t have time for a relationship” is almost Biblical if understood that the work needing to be done is God’s. Paul says these things not to restrain us but “for our own benefit… to promote good order and to secure our undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:35).
The end is coming, and yet we, as the Bride of Christ, are miserably unprepared judging by our actions. We live as if the world would not end tomorrow. We do not fear God for the judgement He could bring at any moment. We do not focus on God’s Word in Hebrews 10 which tells us, at this time, to focus on “how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:24-31).
Are you chasing after other gods? Are you putting aside God’s law? Are you married to God only on Sunday morning and neglect him all the other days of the week? Take a sober look at your life, as do I every day, and realize that you are a terrible spouse to God. You are unfaithful, unloving, hurtful in your lack of devotion to God and what is right. Read the first two chapters of Hosea and recognize God’s righteous accusation of adultery against us. God has every right to divorce us. He has every right to abandon us and leave us to suffer.
How does God treat people like us? What does He do? Read the book of Jonah where our Old Testament reading comes from. It is quite small. He sends a prophet to speak to the people of His creation that have rejected Him and are the most cruel and foul people on the face of the planet – who have actively engaged in destroying God’s chosen people.
He sends a prophet to them, a prophet who knows just how unfair it is that God even wants to say anything to them – they do not deserve it. In Jonah’s eyes, God ought to destroy them without a single word of warning or chance to repent. Jonah very reluctantly gives a five-word sermon in Hebrew, eight in English, saying “forty more days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). That’s all Jonah does. That’s all God needs.
God turns the hearts of those people completely around. The king down to the lowest slave, and even the animals, fast and cry out to God in repentance. The decree is that “everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish” (Jonah 3:8-9). “Who knows? God may turn.” On an unfounded hope of mercy from God, everything turns around.
God’s Word, God’s warning, is all they needed. God saw and spared them of the disaster He said He would do to them. Those people did not even have the promise of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ for their sins. Those people did not have the Holy Spirit promised to them in the waters of baptism. You have these things.
God knows your sin. He hates your sin. He knows your unfaithfulness. He knows how poor of a spouse you are and it’s despicable in His sight, and yet, in His great mercy, He forgives. He does not divorce us as we deserve. He is not divided in His devotion to us as we are to Him. He cleans us with water and the Word that we may be worthy of being His Bride and living together with Him in Heaven forever with the wedding feast which does not end.
So, thanks be to God! Thanks be to God that marriage is what brings us together today. God’s unfailing, underserved, unfathomable love in His marriage with you and me.