Tag Archives: divorce

One flesh

My sermon for the past Sunday was on “One Flesh”, it refers to the Genesis 2:24 and Mark 8 passages. Clearly these passages speak to the physical marriage of man and woman, but we seem to not remember that as Christians we are the part of the Body of Christ, that His Church is the Body of Christ, which we, who are saved in Jesus, are part of. As discussed in Revelation 21, 22, the Church is the Bride of Christ. Now I’m not trying to get cute or all weird, but it does seem to follow that because of that, because we take the true Body and Blood of Jesus, that we all become one flesh. Yes, the Bible passages are to be understood as a man and a woman becoming one flesh. They should both readily understand that and that Jesus’ command that “…What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) An aside, I have to tell you for those who are involved in facilitating divorce; judges, clerks, lawyers, I truly feel at least a concern. I do not know how people can participate in something that Jesus clearly condemns.

I was also reading Henry and Richard Blackaby’s devotional (Experiencing God Day by Day p 277) which starts “Christians do not live in isolation”. No we certainly don’t, and yet too many who call themselves “Christian” will simply not understand the idea of the Body of Jesus, Bride of Jesus, one flesh etc. We are too much about what are we getting out of this and not at all about what is the Body of Jesus about. I get it, most of us have difficult lives, pressing concerns and different demands that we do need to confront immediately. Certainly the media is beating us into submission, compassion fatigue and when things happen, over and over, in the Body of Christ, we just have to withdraw or be overwhelmed. Yea, I get it. However, we are, nonetheless, part of the Body of Christ. One flesh? Not now, but ultimately, in the resurrection, in the same sense of a married man and woman? Yes. But just because we are not in the same sense as Genesis and Mark describe, does that make it any less genuine? And now, in the shadow of the murders at Umpqua Community College, Charleston SC, Columbine, Lancaster, Pa, just for the United States and the horrific murders in Iraq, Syria, China, Africa on and on shouldn’t that be a signal pain in the Body of Christ, and if we are part of that Body shouldn’t we at least wince?

Maybe there is a fatigue going on, but if the persecutions of Christians throughout history that resulted in resolve and strength to the Body, shouldn’t that be apparent now? If so, how does that look? If your reaction is “wow that’s too bad” or “see that’s why we need gun control” or “every Christian should carry a gun” as the Lt Governor of Tennessee suggested, shouldn’t that suggest to the individual that maybe they’re not in communion with the Body of Christ as they should be?

The Blackabys write: “We depend on one another, and this influences everything we do. Jesus said that even when we pray, we are to begin by saying ‘our Father’ (Matt 6:9). We must do everything with our fellow Christians in mind. (1 Cor 14:12)” Yes, He is our Father. OK, that means children? Yes, it does. Is this another mystery of being in Christ along with the Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption, Resurrection? Yea, apparently. Does it mean that just because the concept seems obscure, it’s not valid? No, I don’t think so. The Blackabys suggest: “Ask God to place a burden on your heart for fellow believers.” I do think it’s necessary. Can you ignore such profound pain in your body and not feel it, dismiss it? I’m not sure what the “cure” is. Certainly we are always called to pray. We should remember Tertullian’s words, a Roman, in the middle of the persecutions of the early Christian. He said “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Certainly those who are martyred receive great reward, but for us still in our earthly life, to simply dismiss the suffering and murder of Christian brothers and sisters is not acceptable. As with everything in our Christian life we are always in prayer. We also are to be guided by the Holy Spirit, where is He moving us to confront or to help those in persecution? What are the opportunities He is presenting us and our local church with in order to witness to Jesus to a world that is lost and filled with death. A world that hates God and His people and believes that it is somehow serving a greater God by killing Christians. “”If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) Jesus’ words, we certainly trust His Words and this is face to face reality for many. The answers aren’t easy we are to trust in God. Paul certainly appealed to civil law for protection against the mob and unfair judgment. I’m not saying to roll over and play dead, but certainly we remember those Christian Martyrs  who gave up everything they had and witnesses to Christ and sacrificed their life. That is a witness to the world that the Holy Spirit uses to change lives and bring them to salvation in Jesus. Stay in prayer, pray for those who hate and abuse you, and know what the Holy Spirit is putting on your heart and act accordingly.

Sure, how about a Big Bang wedding???

As I’ve pointed out before, Lutherans treat a wedding as a matter of worship.

First yea, it really gets under my skin having five comedians (the Big Bang Wedding between Howard and Bernadette) claiming that they’re “ordained” ministers. The state designates those who can marry, such as county clerks, judges etc, they’re certainly not “ordained”, the state sets the requirements. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it’s not enough to be ordained, you have to be the pastor of an active church.

Yes, people can be designated by the state to perform a one-time marriage ceremony and I think there are states that can license you to regularly perform weddings. That does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that you’re “ordained”. The United States military requires chaplains to have a Masters of Divinity Degree, that chaplains are properly examined and ordained by a recognized religious organization and also requires further training. I would say that this is the best description of being “ordained”, you sure as heck don’t do it on line for one wedding ceremony.

Now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest, what I’m really twisted about is the trivial, sentimental, “it’s all about me” wedding ceremony. As I said, Lutherans hold weddings to be a worship service. It is a serious, albeit joyous, occasion, and needs to be treated seriously. Why on earth would you want to start something as serious and sacred as marriage with something as trivial as what was on television?

We don’t treat marriage very seriously, it’s a convenience, it’s social convention, it’s a reason to have fun time. But it’s really not a commitment. Sorry ladies, but for too many of you it’s just a time where you’re the center of attention, and the fun and the party is all about you. Afterwards, well… I’ve had my own experiences. I try and I am going to be redoubling that effort, to insist that anyone I marry has a significant amount of counseling. I went to some time and expense to get trained in a comprehensive program to let people analyse a lot of their interpersonal relationships and to deal with them as we do counseling. I want them to start out in their marriage with as much as possible on the table between the two. I don’t want to hear 2, 3, 5 however many years down the road: “well we just couldn’t work it out…” I want it to get worked out before the marriage. My goal is to marry a man and a woman who go into marriage with their eyes wide open and to have that marriage last a life time. I’m going to do all that I can to make sure it doesn’t end in divorce.

ESV Mark 10:8 and they shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” … 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her,”
Divorce is not acceptable to God. Yes it happens and He certainly provides in the cases when an unbelieving spouse wants a divorce or simply walks away. And divorce is not the unforgivable sin. But as a Christian pastor who only wants to marry two people who are in Christ, who are married in Christian worship, who take solemn vows before God to stay married “…so long as you both shall live?” You just made a solemn vow, for those who want to get married, you should seriously consider what you are doing when you are taking that vow before God.

Save all the sentimental, dancing around, food, decorations, trivial stuff etc for the reception. I promise I will, probably, show up. But I won’t stay long so you can do some of the crazy stuff. But in that sanctuary, before that altar and a minister of the Gospel, your family and friends, it is serious business. It is done in formal dress, in a formal environment, before God in order to emphasize the solemnity of the occasion. We all need to treat it that way and understand what we say and do. I’m sure the Big Bang stuff is all cute and fun, but marriage, from the start, should be about that relationship that Jesus lives before us. Jesus’ example is about His being the bridegroom and the church being the bride. He has sacrificed all for His bride and protected and served her, how could the bride, the church, not do as much as it can. We take that relationship of Christ and His Church as our example as husband and wife and live that in the strength and faith that the Holy Spirit gives us to live as one-flesh.

I know someone’s going to fuss, “oh it’s just television”, yea but. This is what people take seriously the absolute trivializing of marriage, and be honest, that’s where too many people are today. So let’s knock off the stupid stuff about being a “Reverend”, it’s a lot of hard work, time and education. Believe me. As much as you trivialize the Ministry of Christ’s Church and the institution of marriage, what really should we take seriously anymore?

Weddings are for worship and should not be a lot of money, period!

This is based on an article in the Wall Street Journal dated Oct  5, 2014 (sorry cut off the page number). The average, AVERAGE wedding in America costs $29,858. That is more then I made when I started my first job at Chase Commercial Corp. ( one wedding in ten cost between $50,000 and $100,000! This is not a typo) I’m going to say it and I’m sure someone won’t like it, but that’s insane! Turns out that the article would tend to agree. The author Brett Arends quotes research done by Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, two economics professor at Emory University in Atlanta (A Diamond is Forever and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration). Their findings were, at least to the current culture of excess and overkill, that: “We find evidence that marriage duration is inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony.” That is, the more you spend on the wedding/engagement, the more likely that you will not stay married.

The authors found that “women whose weddings had cost more than $20,000. ended up getting divorced 60% more often than those whose weddings were cheaper. And men who spent between $2,000 and $4,000 on their engagement ring got divorced 30% more often than those who spent between $500 and $2,000.” Mr Arends talks about the likelihood of an expensive wedding raising expectations, etc. He also writes about the very real possibility that the couple may feel trapped into the wedding after a lot of money has been spent and maybe now they’re having second thoughts.

The upshot is this: “The evidence suggests that the types of weddings associated with the lower likelihood of divorce are those that are relatively inexpensive but high in attendance,’ write Messrs. Francis and Mialon.” Didn’t see that coming didja? My translation; there is a lot more intimacy, a lot more feeling of being together with a modest cost wedding. You don’t start your married lives already trying to outdo people or impress people, creating problems right from the start. Instead you have a nice group of those you want at the wedding and you treat them nicely, but hey, who’s kidding who and trying to wow everyone? It’s just not the way to start a marriage.

Now I think I have a different perspective on this than most people and for that matter most clergy. I think even clergy have fallen into the trap of conceding the ceremony to other people and really just being a prop. I get it, most important day, want it to be perfect, everybody look at me, yada, yada. Feeding into the immaturity and narcissism that is so prevalent in today’s society. I think we all know a bride that felt the entire event was about her, center stage, look at me, with very little understanding of the fact that there was going to be a marriage after the wedding. The marriage is supposed to last for decades, not months.

I am a Lutheran pastor and I would probably be smitten if George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin came to me and asked me to perform their wedding. Nonetheless, it just is not going to be at their level, at least not for the ceremony. Yea, a couple is going to do what they want for a reception, but in the church I pastor, that ceremony is going to be about them coming before God and understanding that their marriage is all about living a Christian life, in all they do.

Ladies you aren’t going to like this, but a Lutheran wedding is about worship, the pastor is the center of attention, not you. You will get your moment, but the pastor’s responsibility to you and frankly to the rest of the people in attendance is to impress upon all, the seriousness of marriage and the commitment you are making before God. Isn’t that the way it should be, isn’t that the way you want your marriage to start? Versus a big show “it’s all about me”? The wedding ceremony isn’t especially long, but there is no mistaking the emphasis. You have come together before God and these witnesses to make a sacred commitment and take sacred vows. You better take them seriously from the start. It is a reminder of what marriage is about, and yes, between a man and a woman. It is entirely what God’s intention is for marriage, the union between two complementary persons, man and woman, how God created us and how we should live that union together, one flesh.

It is also worship for those attending, many of whom have probably not been in worship since, well let’s be upbeat and say since Easter or Christmas. It is a reminder to them that marriage is sacred, it is important, it’s about all the trials and tribulations of life and marriage. It’s not about giving up the first time things don’t go your way, it’s about living through all those things to God’s glory, not yours. Towards the end of the ceremony I close with this prayer and it is not just for the two who are now married, but for all the married couples in attendance: “O God, our dwelling place in all generations, look with favor upon the homes of our land. Embrace husbands and wives, parents and children, in the arms of Your love and grant that each, in reverence for Christ, fulfill the duties You have given. Bless our homes that they may ever be a shelter for the defenseless, a fortress for the tempted, a resting place for the weary and a foretaste of our eternal home with You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” (Lutheran Service Book Agenda p 70, Concordia House Publishing) And then the Lord’s prayer. So ya, this isn’t some Hollywood movie, this is about marriage that is for all the right reasons and things and that’s the way it should be. Sorry to my brother pastors, but if you have a couple whose purpose is something else, just shut it off then. I didn’t go into the ministry to be popular, I am a minister of Jesus Christ and I serve Him and am here to help and serve those that I come in contact with to know Him and His will. Not to be someone’s prop at a Hollywood wedding, so George and Amal, I’d have to respectfully decline if the wedding is anything other than that. The reception, hey, you’re on your own on that.  And now I get to start wedding  counseling with a couple tonight and that’s is so great and they know the drill. I can’t wait to help them start this exciting adventure to a wonderful life in Jesus and to the glory of God.

Please let’s start taking marriage and child raising seriously

The following is from a post from a brother pastor, Eric Ekong.

“Is marriage obsolete? In a recent Pew Research poll, about 40 percent of Americans assert or strongly assert that marriage in America is obsolete. You probably know the dismal stats about the divorce rate in our country. Here are nine reasons people give that might explain the steady collapsing of marriage in America:

I assume that the relationship is probably going to break up at some point, and the breakup will hurt less if we were never married in the first place.
–Marriage is an exploitative, chauvinistic anachronism that heavily favors patriarchal control. Liberated women will more likely get what they want on their own.
–From the male point of view, women are giving it away these days. You don’t have to commit to her to get sex.
–Single parenthood is the new normal. African-Americans are already there with single-parent birthrates in some places above 70 percent. White folks’ single parenthood stats are following.
–My mom was a single parent, and I turned out fine.
–Marriage is something you can think about when your kids are raised and you are secure in your job.
–Cohabiting preserves your freedom of choice.
–Movies and TV shows relentlessly portray young men as either uneducated, clueless, reckless, socially inept, or violent. Why would any woman want to lock in her life to such a high-risk partner?
–I’m not going to get married until I find the perfect soul mate.

Are these the attitudes you want in your children’s minds? In your grandchildren’s? In your own spouse’s? If you don’t, God has a better way. Let’s give the divine designer a chance to explain to us how to be happily married till death us do part and how to build a family life that will give him glory.”

Me – People love to talk about how smart they are today, when it comes to marriage, commitment, living life in a strong and faithful manner, way too many people, have way too little discernment. How do you think this affects society as a whole? When the burden gets to be too much on those who are trying to live responsible, faithful lives, how do you think it will work out for the rest.

Point one – Yes, I guess if you have a fatalistic view of marriage it will fail. Hey how about this, grow up, make a commitment, live a responsible life and decide that you will make it work. In the meantime stay out of bed with anyone who isn’t your spouse. Oh yeah, I get it, all the excitement, none of the responsibility. How do you really think that’s going to end up?

Marriage is a partnership, that too many men and women today think can be manipulated and played with. How about we all decide to be grown ups and truly commit to what is best for each other and children, and quit playing games. Exploitive? I’m not saying there aren’t bad situations, but the reality is this, the highest rate of poverty is on unmarried mothers. Married women, have a much lower rate of poverty, men will step up and provide. The nasty swill of those people that compose the media love to take isolated situations, make them the rule, distribute their extremely poor “work” to people who gullibly swallow it and there you have it. Broken families, no mutual responsibility and this nonsense that too many women believe that the government will give them all they want. Afterwards and I’ve seen plenty of “afterward” pictures, you have women living in substandard housing with children they can’t keep up with and the spiral continues down and down. Hey there are women that do step up and manage, but I would bet you anything that they would tell you it was much harder then it had to be.

Single-parenting is not a “norm”, it may be the situation, but if people were truly honest about their platitudes “it’s all about the kids”, they would try as much as possible to raise them in a family of a man and a woman. That is how children are raised the best, the research shows it over and over again. There are exceptions, but really, why would you want to try to be the exception, when you can step up and do what’s best for children. Be honest, it’s not about the kids, it’s just about you.

OK, fine, marriage and children are only for when you have a secure home. OK, when do you think that will be? Yea, right, come on. If that’s the standard, then a further standard should be this: “Until such time I am ready to raise children like that, I’m not going to put myself in the position where I could have children.” Yea, people like to get all righteous at one end, then the other end, ahhhh, not so much.

“Cohabiting preserves your freedom of choice.” and “I’m not going to get married until I find the perfect mate.” Seriously? I don’t even know how people can say this with a straight face. Yeah, “choice”, while you’re making your “choices”, what do you think the other person is doing? This is just a recipe for disaster for both of you. The person who says this thinks they’re cool and is showing they’re clueless. The “perfect mate”? There isn’t one and even more ironically, you certainly aren’t the perfect mate either. Hmmm, you want perfect, but you aren’t even close to being able to offer it. Yeah, let me know how that works out.

For a society that loves to tell people how smart they are, wow, “don’t care about tomorrow”, “don’t care about another person”, “don’t care about my kids”, “don’t care about the society I live in”, I could go on and on, but you get the idea. All the research and much more importantly God, emphasizes the importance of the family, of commitment, of sacrifice, of truly living like a mature human being. When you live like a mature human being, and everyone else does, we have a great society and it helps everyone to grow and be secure. When we have a society where everyone says “it’s all about me and the heck with everyone else”, well how do you think that’s going to end up? Find a way to make it happen, quit making excuses, quit trying to have it your way and then stick someone else with the consequences. You may think you’re smarter, but it will catch up to you and then all of a sudden just a world of hurt. And you’re going to sit there wondering why no one will help. Why? Because they’re busy being self-centered and selfish like you’ve been. Not so smart, huh?