Sunday, July 31, 2011

Homily for The Sixth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 6)


Matthew 5:17-26; Romans 6:1-11; Exodus 20:1-17

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Undoubtedly you have heard the question, “Can God create a stone so heavy that He can’t lift it?” The question is absurd, of course; it is a semantic paradox often used by atheists in an attempt to prove that God is not omnipotent (all-powerful) since there are some things that God cannot do, and the inability of an omnipotent being to create a task it cannot do contradicts its omnipotence. Similar semantic paradoxes include the questions: “Can God make a spherical triangle?” and “Can God make a square circle?” Of course, any child can see that such questions say absolutely nothing about God, but rather they are logically impossible because of the definitions of the objects involved (e.g., a triangle, by definition, cannot be round; the definitions of squares and circles are mutually exclusive). However, such paradoxes do cause us to reflect upon what it means for God to be omnipotent: For God to be omnipotent does not mean that He can do anything (even the Holy Scriptures do not make such a claim), but rather, what it means for God to be omnipotent is that He can do all that He desires and wills to do.

But, such wicked foolishness as this is what proceeds from the sin-filled hearts and mouths of men: Men try to explain God away. Men try to trap God in a box. Men try to eliminate the gaps in human reasoning where God can still exist. And, like our ancestral Father Adam, men hide in fear from our God who cannot be explained away, who cannot be trapped in a box, and who cannot be forced out of necessity and existence, and even worse, men blaspheme and curse the God who created them and still sustains them, who has redeemed them in His Son, who continues to show steadfast love to those who love Him and keep His Commandments, but who visits the iniquity of Father Adam upon those who hate Him.

For, it is God, not men, who has defined what it means to be a man, and it is God who has established the boundaries and who holds the measure of righteousness in His Holy Law. And so, it is God who has placed man in a box, not the other way around, and it is God who has also given man the freedom to leave the box, the freedom to choose to not keep God’s Law, and so to reap the consequences of disobedience, the true merit of man’s works – death and eternal damnation. And so, God has trumped the atheists before there were atheists, for God has given men a Law that is so perfect only God can fulfill it.

For, God alone is holy, God alone is righteous, and God is the definition, the standard, and the measure of goodness, righteousness, and perfection. He was before all things and He fills all things; all things are sustained by Him, through Him, and because of Him. And, in the beginning, God made man in His image of righteousness and holiness, in communion with Him, yet free to choose otherwise. But then, Satan tempted, and Adam succumbed, and he chose against God and against His Holy Law and Will. Adam sinned, and the sin of Adam is the sin of all men; Adam’s sin is your sin, and it is the substance of all sin to have another god in the place of, and before the face of, the True and Living God – that is to be a god unto yourself.

And, since there is no place where men can hide from God’s perfect and Holy Law, for the Law is written on our hearts and it accuses us in our consciences, therefore men take God’s Law and they make it to be man’s law. That is, they water it down and they relax it so that it appears to them to be more do-able. It is true that our civil laws reflect God’s Laws in part, forbidding murder, adultery, stealing, and bearing false witness, and so men obey the civil law, man’s law, and they believe that in so doing they are righteous. However, while we may deceive ourselves, God is not mocked. For, our Lord Jesus teaches that everyone who is angry with his brother, everyone who insults his brother, and everyone who condemns his brother saying “You fool!” will be liable to judgment and the hell of fire. And, though you may not have murdered, committed adultery, stolen from your neighbor, or borne false witness against him according to the civil law, you have done all these things in your heart and in your thoughts, if not in deed. For, when you hate your brother in your heart or fail to help him in his bodily needs you have murdered him. And, when you look upon a man or a woman with lust in your heart, you have committed adultery. And, when you covetously desire what belongs to your neighbor instead of helping him to keep and protect what belongs to him, you have stolen from him. And, when you gossip and slander your neighbor and fail to defend his name when others do the same, you have borne false witness against him. For, the Law that all men break, ultimately, is the Law of Love. You do not love your brother because you do not love God. You do not love God because you love yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor, ever, in thought, word, or in deed, therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law. You harm your neighbor with your thoughts, and with your words, and with your deeds because you do not love God. Repent.

Repent of your lovelessness, and then receive comfort. For, though your Lord Jesus has said to you that He did not come to abolish the Law of God and that, indeed, not a iota or a dot will pass away from it, He has also said to you that He came to fulfill the Law of God for you. And this Jesus has done for you in His Holy Incarnation, in His perfect obedience, and in His selfless and sacrificial suffering and death upon the cross. Tετέλεσται. It is finished. The Law is fulfilled. And all this is done for you that you might receive it as a free and perfect gift of God’s perfect grace, hold on to it, keep it, and treasure it in tenacious faith, and live, now and forever, in communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But how do you receive this free and perfect gift of righteousness in Jesus Christ? You receive this justification the way you receive any gift, by believing the giver and the gift that He gives and by claiming it as your own, that is, by believing that it is truly yours and by placing your faith and trust in it and in its giver. The way this works in the Christian faith is through Holy Baptism. In Holy Baptism you died to sin and lawlessness; In Holy Baptism you died with Jesus on the cross. And, as St. Paul wrote to the Church at Rome,

We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For, if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.

In Holy Baptism, you have already died and you have already been raised to a new life in and with Christ Jesus. It is your new life in Him that Jesus is describing in today’s Gospel lesson. Jesus has called you to a higher obedience to God’s Law and to a higher way of living. Not only must you not hurt or harm your neighbor, but you are to help and befriend your neighbor in every bodily need. Not only are you not to take your neighbor’s money or possessions, but you are to help him to improve and to protect his possessions. And, not only are you not to tell lies about your neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but you are to defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way. For, Jesus has called you to obey the Law, not motivated by fear or coercion, but freely from a heart of love for God and for your neighbor. Jesus has called you to obey the Law, not to earn or merit your salvation, but because you have salvation now through Holy Baptism and faith in Jesus Christ and in His atoning suffering and death.

Theologians often argue about Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount – Is it Law, or is it Gospel? The answer has to be “Yes!” As Jesus teaches us, the Law has not passed away, but He has fulfilled it for us. Therefore, the Law still exists and still demands our obedience, but it has become for us no longer a Law of tyranny and fear, but a Law of love and grace and mercy. Sometimes this is referred to as the Third Use of the Law, a guide (rather than a curb or a mirror) offering instruction in how to live our new life in Christ and what that new life looks like and does. And, sometimes when Jesus teaches what appears to be Law or commands such teaching is referred to as Gospel Imperatives, commands that much less demand than empower obedience.

The Law was given first that men might become aware of their sin and, terrified of their standing before God, repent and die to sin that God might bestow upon them His grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. But, after justification, after forgiveness, men are raised to a new life in Christ and to a new and higher obedience to the Law, which never passed away but was fulfilled, and obedience that flows from a new will aligned with God’s will and that flows from God through Jesus through you to your neighbor and back to God. The Swedish Lutheran Bishop Bo Giertz puts it this way:

There is no other path than the one that leads to the kingdom of forgiveness. We have to understand how bad it is, so we become poor in the spirit and start to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Then we can discover the precious pearl. We can understand why Jesus invites us to come to Him. We can receive His righteousness and begin to live with Him. That’s when we can reconcile with a brother without demanding judgment against him. That’s when we accept a speedy reconciliation without having to wait for the other party to confess to what he’s done wrong and ask for forgiveness. We have been acquitted and escaped imprisonment, despite the fact that we were guilty of both rage and harsh words. The only gate available where you can escape imprisonment leads you to the kingdom of forgiveness. There we live a new life.

Dear children of God, you have been born again in Holy Baptism and even now live a new life in Jesus Christ. Everything you have, everything you are, and everything you do is given you by grace so that you are a steward of God’s gracious gifts. These include, not only money and possessions, time and talents, but also love, mercy, grace, charity, and forgiveness. And, these you have received anew this day in Holy Absolution, in the Living Word of God, and in the Holy Supper of Christ’s real and present body and blood so that, once again, the chalice of your soul is filled to overflowing with the gifts Christ freely gives. And, you are empowered to give of His gifts to you, to forgive with His forgiveness, and to love with His love. And, in so doing to your neighbor, you do it to Him, and God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is glorified.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Homily for The Fifth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 5)


Luke 5:1-11; 1 Peter 3:8-15; 1 Kings 19:11-21

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

To be a Christian is to be a little Christ in this world as His disciple, for a disciple is a student of Christ who, through the discipline of study and correction, is being shaped and molded into the image of his teacher. And, to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be like your teacher and to take up the cross that the world will place upon you as a little Christ, a cross that God the Father will permit the world to place upon you, so that, in being Jesus’ disciple, you will be a witness and a martyr to Him before the world.

So, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if anyone tells you that being a Christian is easy, he is a liar. If anyone tells you that being a Christian will win you friends and popularity, he is a liar. And if anyone tells you that being a Christian will make you successful and wealthy, or even happy, he is a liar. Indeed, your Lord and teacher Jesus never told you such things as these, and He is not a liar, but He is the Truth incarnate, in your flesh. And, through your Holy Baptism and the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith, you are made to be a little Christ, and, through repentance and faith, all that is rightly His is also yours including sinlessness and holiness, righteousness, true and eternal life, and sonship with the Father. However, rightly yours also are meekness and humility, sacrificial service to your brothers and neighbors, and hatred, persecution, and suffering at the hands and words of the world.

Does this shock or surprise you? Do you think of me as a pessimistic preacher of gloom and doom for saying such things to you? I am sorry. I am sorry that so few have been honest with you before. I am sorry that you have been deceived by the world, our culture and media, and even by so-called Christian preachers and teachers to believe that, if only you try your best, God will be pleased with you, that, if only you think positively, then things will go well for you, and that, if only you had greater faith, then you would achieve health and wealth and prosperity. These are all lies! For you can see with your own two eyes, and you can hear with your own two ears that too often the wicked prosper while the humble suffer! And, because you have believed these lies, when trial, tribulation, and suffering come – and they always will – to you, or to those you love, you are tempted to blame God, you are tempted to lash out at Him in anger, or you are tempted to lose your faith altogether believing that there must not be a God, for God would not allow His children to suffer.

When Jesus calls His disciples, He calls them out of the world. They do not come to Him, they will not come to Him, and they cannot come to Him. But, He calls them, He chooses them, and He catches them like fish in a net. Jesus calls His disciples out of their comfort zones, away from their livelihoods and away even from their friends and their families. He calls them to discipleship and a new life, in the world, but not of the world. And, as fish cannot live outside of water, those Jesus calls and captures struggle as they leave behind the things they believed constituted their lives and they learn to breathe and live a new life, true life, life that never ends. When Jesus calls His disciples, He calls them to leave behind their boats and their nets, the tax collector’s booth, the weaver’s loom, the accounting books, the medical kit, etc., and follow Him. But, in following Jesus, His disciples return to their vocations and through them serve their brother and neighbor and glorify God. When Jesus called the fishermen to be His disciples, they died to themselves, they confessed their sins and their unworthiness, and Jesus absolved them and He raised them up to new life saying to them, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will catch men alive.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.

To be a Christian is not to be perfect, but it is to be humble and repentant and to be made perfect before God in His grace and mercy through faith in Jesus Christ. And, to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is not necessarily to live in poverty and celibacy, but it is to live anew in your God-given vocations, your callings, in selfless and sacrificial service to your brother and neighbor to the glory of God. You don’t have to be anyone special to be a Christian. For, the Church is not a memorial for saints, but it is a hospital for sinners. Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners, and, you are called to find healing in Christ’s wounds. Jesus is not merely the Great Physician who heals you in your body and soul, but Jesus is healing, Jesus is life, and in Him alone are you healed.

Jesus doesn’t ask about your faith when He calls you, He just calls you; He catches you, like a fish in a net. He makes you His disciple, and a disciple trusts in and follows Jesus. And He makes of you fishers of men, catching men alive, in the net which is the message of the cross, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has brought you into the boat of His Church, and in your holy vocation He works with you and through you to bring others into the boat of His Church.

Though all around the Church the nets are breaking and many who hear the Word do not believe, we continue to let down the nets into the deep waters of the world and men of all ages, races, languages, nationalities, and economic strata, both notorious sinners and tellers of white lies are caught together in Christ’s net and find themselves saved in the boat of His Church to the glory of God.

And, in the Church, Christ our Servant Captain is present to raise men to new and eternal life through the washing of His Word and Spirit in Holy Baptism. And, our Great Physician is present with His healing Words and Wounds to recreate, restore, and resurrect our weary souls, feeding, nourishing, and strengthening us with His Holy Body and His Precious Blood, the very Medicine of Immortality. And, on the Last Day, when Christ our Captain calls His Church to safe harbor in Heaven, He will crown you with eternal life that will never wane, and the life that we know now but through a mirror dimly, then we shall know face to face.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Homily for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 4)


Luke 6:36-42; Romans 8:18-23; Genesis 50:15-21

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

In 1972 a psychologist by the name of Walter Mischel conducted a study at Stanford University that has come to be known as the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. In the experiment a child between the ages of four and six was seated at a table alone in a room while a tray was placed before him containing one marshmallow. The child was instructed that he could eat the marshmallow immediately if he wanted to or he could wait until the researcher returned and then he could have two marshmallows. The researcher then left the room and the child was videotaped as he sat and pondered his decision.

As you can perhaps imagine, the behavior of the children was often humorous and sometimes torturous. Some children would cover their eyes with their hands or turn around so that they could not see the tray, others started kicking the desk, or tugging on their pigtails, or stroking the marshmallow as if it were a tiny stuffed animal, while a few would simply eat the marshmallow as soon as the researcher left. The Marshmallow Experiment has been repeated several times and recently a video has made its way around the internet and has become viral (extremely popular) because of the near torturous facial expressions and the humorous behaviors the children in the study exhibited as they attempted to resist temptation and forgo immediate gratification for the promise of a reward after a period of waiting. While a few children would eat the marshmallow immediately, of the over 600 who took part in the experiment, only one third could defer gratification long enough to get the second marshmallow.

It can be hard to wait, even torturous, and the devil and our own flesh, desires, and passions continually war against us so that we give in to temptation and reach for immediate gratification rather than wait for the promised reward. This is why we are in debt, we give in to the temptation to charge what we want and take it home today rather than save up our money over time to buy it later. When we are children we cannot wait to grow up and to be adults, and so we give in to the temptation to do adult things before we are ready, or legal, and we find ourselves in trouble. And, when we are treated unjustly by others, when bad things happen to us and to those that we love, when we see poverty and hunger, war, and pestilence in our cities, our nation, and our world, we become impatient with God’s timeline and we curse Him for not acting quicker or we take action ourselves, even against His Word and His will to right our perceived wrongs, often causing greater suffering and affliction for ourselves and for our neighbors.

Waiting is a test of our faith. In fact, the Holy Scriptures speak of faith in terms of waiting. The Psalmist David sings, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” And he exhorts you, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” And the Sage Solomon warns, “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.” And the Prophet Jeremiah comforts you saying, “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

For, so much more than the promise of man do we have the promise of God: “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.” “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” And we have the promise of our Lord Jesus, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." And, so much more than the promise of a marshmallow, or a new TV, or even physical health or peace in this world do we have the promise of True and eternal life, peace, and fulfillment in communion with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In today’s Gospel lesson our Lord Jesus exhorts you to be merciful, just as God your Father is merciful. Jesus exhorts you to not judge your brother and your neighbor but always to forgive them and give to them what they need. To be sure, this is often hard to do, and sometimes it seems impossible. Indeed, it is impossible to be merciful, to refrain from judging, but forgive, give to, and love your brother and neighbor unless you first have received mercy, forgiveness, and love from God your Father through Jesus Christ.

And, in our Old Testament lesson you heard how Joseph forgave his brothers all the evil they had done to him. In his mercy and forgiveness Joseph served as an example, even an icon, of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and love in Jesus Christ. Joseph even confessed that, though his brothers meant it for evil, God used their evil and his own suffering for good. So too does God use the evil and the suffering that you and your loved ones experience for good. So too does God use all the evil and suffering in the world for good according to His mysterious and holy wisdom and will. Joseph knew God’s love for him, and with God’s love he loved his brothers who meant him harm. So too you, knowing God’s love for you in Jesus Christ, can love your brothers and neighbors, even when they mean you harm, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, and enduring all things.

And this is how mercy, reserving judgment, forgiving, and giving are related to patience and faith, hope, and trust. These are all the fruits of ἀγάπη, God’s divine, selfless and sacrificial love. We love God because He first loved us, and we love one another because we are loved by God. And because God has loved us, we trust Him to be faithful and to keep His promises, knowing that He works all things for the good of those He has called in Jesus Christ. This is why St. Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” for God has promised that He will see us through all sufferings, crosses, and persecutions, even death, to the resurrection to eternal life. He has given His own Son unto death and has raised Him to life and seated Him at His right hand in power and glory as living proof of the trustworthiness of His promises.

So, for now, we live our lives to God and to His glory in selfless and sacrificial love for our brothers and our neighbors in faith, hope, and trust in our gracious God and LORD for a glory yet to be revealed. And while we wait patiently for the redemption of our bodies, the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh war against us, tempting us to judge and to condemn our brothers and neighbors, to seek revenge, and to satisfy the desires and the passions of the flesh. When we resist these temptations we make a sacrifice and we experience suffering, but these sacrifices and sufferings are precious to God and they are sanctified in the sacrifice and sufferings of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

And, with the measure that you give it will be measured back to you. For, what you give consists of what God your Father has given you. When you are merciful, it is God’s mercy that you show to your brother and neighbor. When you refrain from judging, it is because you have not been judged by God for your trespasses and sin. When you refrain from condemning, it is because you are not condemned. And, when you forgive, it is because you have been forgiven and it is with God’s forgiveness that you forgive your brother and neighbor. For, you are a manager and a steward of God your Father’s mercy, forgiveness, grace, and love, and with the measure you use of your Father’s gifts will it be measured back to you, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.

And, your Father is ready here today to pour these gifts into your ears and your mouths and your hearts that you may be filled with His mercy, forgiveness, grace, and love so that not only are you filled to the brim with His love, but your hearts will overflow in abundance as you serve your brother and neighbor in love to the glory of God the Father.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Homily for The Holy Marriage of Jody David Lent & Rachel Louise Keller


Matthew19:4-6; Ephesians 5:1-2, 22-33; Genesis 2:7, 18-24

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

St. Clement of Alexandria said that “Marriage is more than human; it is a microbasileia (a miniature kingdom), which is the little house of the Lord (a little church).” This is most certainly true, for Holy Marriage is the premiere human institution, instituted by God in Paradise when His creation was new and pure and when man and woman and marriage where unblemished images, icons, of the Holy Trinity.

God instituted Holy Marriage that we might know something about our Holy Triune God by experiencing and participating in His life, His dominion, and His love. God created our First Parents in His image with an intellect and will unique amongst all His creatures. He created them in holiness and in righteousness, with the capacity to give life and love and to lay down their life in selfless, sacrificial love for the other. God created Adam in a special way distinct from all else that He had made and then He made Eve in a distinct way out of Adam’s side so that when God brought her to Adam he recognized her to be his own bone and his own flesh. Both the man and the woman recognized the other as the completion of their self, and God reunited the two that were separated and blessed their union declaring them to be one flesh.

Though, after the Fall, the image of God in man became tarnished and corrupted, it was not destroyed, and still we catch a glimpse of God’s life and love when we act in selfless love, mercy, charity, grace, kindness, peace, and forgiveness toward others. But the union of a man and a woman in Holy Marriage as instituted and blessed by God is an icon of the Holy Trinity in a unique and special way. Husbands and wives together are an icon of the Holy Trinity in their one-flesh union in which neither is greater or less than another, but together they share dominion as kings and queens of the microbasileia (the little kingdom, the little church) that is their home and family. For, Holy Marriage is a kingship, but a kingship, not of tyranny and subjugation, but a kingship of stewardship and of martyrdom, that is, a kingship of love. God crowned His creation by creating man, male and female He created them, and God crowned our First Parents as king and queen over all of His creation. God crowned them to be stewards of His creation and stewards of each other’s body and life. And God crowned them to be martyrs, called to die to their selves for the sake of the other in perfect, selfless love. And then, at last, God crowned them and He blessed them that they would participate with Him in the ongoing creation of life as the two, sacrificially united in selfless love in a one-flesh union, would bring forth a new and third life that would be the fruit of each of their bodies and lives bearing forth new life in communion with, and to the glory of, the Holy Trinity.

Holy Marriage is an icon of our Holy Triune God, for it is a communion of persons who give to and receive from each other, who are so closely bound together by their love for each other that, in a way that we cannot understand, they are one flesh. Just as there is no human equation in which 1+1+1 = 1, so neither is it possible according to human reason and understanding that 1+1 should = 1 or that two should become one flesh. For, just as the Holy Trinity is a mystery, so too Holy Marriage is a lesser mystery. And yet, our experience in Holy Marriage, as two become one flesh, offers us, not only a glimpse into the mystery of the Holy Trinity but also an experience of the selfless and sacrificial love that is the essence of the Holy Trinity.

Jody and Rachel, as we your friends and family together behold you this day, just moments away from giving yourselves to each other in Holy Marriage, we are blessed to behold in you an image, an icon of our First Parents in the Garden of Eden. We are blessed to behold in you an icon of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Bride the Church. And we are blessed to behold in you an icon of our Holy Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For, that is what you are becoming, a new image, an new icon of selfless, sacrificial love in the one-flesh union of holy marriage that our Triune God has created and instituted and even now calls you to. God will place crowns upon your heads; they will be crowns of dominion, crowns of love, and crowns of martyrdom, and yet they will not be multiple crowns, for they are all but one crown, the Martyr’s Crown, the crown of Jesus Christ, and they will make you to be an icon of God’s holy love in the one-flesh union of Holy Marriage, the sweetest martyrdom.

God is love. And God has revealed His love in creation, in redemption, and in sanctification. And, your Holy Marriage is to be a reflection of His love and a participation in His love in creation, in redemption, and in sanctification. For, Jody, today you will be crowned a king in a new family. You will be a king like your King Jesus, a Servant King, a Martyr King, as you sacrifice yourself for the sake of Rachel, your wife, your body, bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh. Your only desire every day of your life will be for her salvation that she may be presented to the Lord just as He has made her to be in His holy, innocent, shed blood, in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. You are to be the steward and husband of her body and soul and you are be her king and pastor and love and serve her as the queen of your kingdom and as the little church that is your home just as Christ loved His Bride the Church and gave Himself up for Her.

And Rachel, today you will be crowned a queen in a new family. You will be a queen like unto the Holy Church of which Jesus Christ is the Head. You are to stand by your husband as his helpmate, equal to him in all things, yet you are to willingly submit to him as your head just as the Church submits to Christ Her Head. By submitting to your husband you show him love, honor, and trust as you likewise do to the Lord. And, as Jody will guard and protect the salvation of your body and soul, so do you have stewardship of the salvation of his body and soul.

Jody, Rachel, today you will be crowned with the Martyr’s Crown, for today you will die in the sweetest of martyrdoms. Each of you will die to yourself, for the sake of the other, and you two will become one flesh. The words of St. Paul on marital equality are clear: “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” For a husband and a wife belong to each other as martyrs, they belong to God as royalty, and they are called to treat each other accordingly. For, that is what it means to love, to die to yourself. This is why, and this is how, Holy Marriage is an icon of God, because Holy Marriage is an opportunity for you to show selfless, sacrificial, life-bestowing love to one another, and Holy Marriage is an opportunity for you to receive such selfless, sacrificial, life-bestowing love yourself.

No one is created to live for himself. It is not good that the man should be alone. But, love requires an object, a lover requires a beloved, and a sacrifice requires a cause, and the cause is love itself. God has revealed Himself in love, in creation, in redemption, and in sanctification, and your Holy Marriage will be an icon of His love and a participation in His love in creation, in redemption, and in sanctification.

Jody, Rachel, always remember that your Holy Marriage, instituted and blessed by our Holy Triune God, is an icon of God’s own Divine Family. As you sacrifice yourselves one for the other, two becoming one flesh; and as, if God should so bless you, you are fruitful and bear children – remember always the third partner in your marriage – your Lord Jesus Christ. It was God who brought Adam and Eve together because He desired for them to know the love and fulfillment of His own Divine Family. He is the love that binds you and makes you one flesh; and He has promised to be with you always. Call upon Him daily for your needs. Thank Him daily for your blessings. Make Him the Lord of your hearts and of your Holy Marriage – and He will bless you and your Holy Marriage. You will be fruitful. And your one flesh union will be “very good.”

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.