3rd Sunday of Easter
Mighty Fortress 7th Anniversary
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
May 8, 2011
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
1 "Open Now Thy Gates Of Beauty"
--- "Thank God For Christian Mothers" (text at the end)
262 "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"
APPRECIATING TWO BRIDES
TEXT: "25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body."
In preparing my sermon for you this morning, I'm going to start by telling you that this has not been an easy task. As you all know, it's Mothers' Day today. Our sermon hymn this morning confirms that fact. But that's not the only thing.
This is also our congregation's 7th anniversary. It was on May 8, 2004 that we had our first official worship service as a congregation. We gathered around Word and Sacrament and started what we have continued to do down to this very day. Word and Sacrament are the pure marks of the church. This is the way we identify Christ's Church here on earth. I'll talk more about this later on.
The real difficulty in all of this, was trying to tie the two events together. This involved finding a common thread between these two occasions, and presenting them to you as one unified message.
The way I have done this is by choosing this theme based upon our text for today: Appreciating Two Brides. And as we ponder this connection, I'm going to begin by relating what I believe is a true story to you.
This story takes place back sometime in the 1800's, at a time when this country was being settled beyond the original 13 colonies. This young couple that had been recently married moved to Kentucky. They found a nice piece of ground, and established a farm.
This farm was a good distance from the nearest town. Even though the couple lived very well off of what the farm produced, they still needed to go to town about once a month or so for various supplies. So the farmer and his wife would hitch up the wagon, travel for a day to get to town, and then spend the next day or two taking care of the business they needed to. When everything was done, they would get up early and spend another day going back to the farm.
Things went this way for a while; and then the couple began having a family. With children and various other chores to take care of, the mother would stay at home and take care of things while the father would make the trip into town for supplies by himself.
Then one day while the farmer was gone, his wife was out working in the garden. She didn't realize it at the time, but as she worked, she disturbed a snake's nest. Before she knew what was happening, the snake struck her and bit her several times on her leg.
She knew how dangerous the snake was, and that she had been injected with its poisonous venom. She knew that the snakebite was fatal, and that her death was imminent.
Without a moment's hesitation, she gathered up what she had picked from the garden, and ran to the kitchen. When she got there, she began to feverishly start cooking food. She knew about how long her husband would be gone, and she wanted to make sure her children would have enough to eat until he returned.
As she was cooking in her small kitchen, it started to get very hot, and she began to sweat. As time went on, the combination of the heat of the kitchen and the snake's poisonous venom caused her to sweat more profusely than she ever had. As she felt more and more sick, the more dedicated she was at completing her task so her children would have something to eat after she died.
When she had completed her cooking, she called all of her children together. As she was starting to go in and out of consciousness, she said, "Mummy will be going to sleep for a very long time." With that, she gave them instructions as to what chores each had to do, and what they needed to do to prepare their meals. Then she kissed them all, laid back on the bed, and breathed one huge sigh as she closed her eyes.
Several days later when the father came home, the children ran out to meet him. "Mummy has been asleep for a very long time," they told him. The father knew something was wrong, so he ran into the bedroom to find his wife sprawled out on top of the bed. He picked up her hand, and felt a very thready pulse. Then he detected the occasional shallow breath. She was still just barely alive.
So he picked her up in his arms, loaded her in the wagon, and the family headed off to the doctor together, which was still quite a distance away.
When they reached the doctor, he examined her. He saw the snakebites on her leg. There should have been no way she could have survived.
Then as the children told the story of what happened, the doctor figured out what had saved her. Since she had perspired so profusely while she was in the kitchen, much of the poison of the snake venom had been purged from her body in her perspiration. A combination of that and her good health was enough to keep her alive. Even though she was sick for a long time after that, she was still living. She would be able to be a wife and mother for many years to come.
This mother's dedication to her children is the basis for an awesome miracle. Had she just given up hope and laid down on the bed, she would have been dead in a very short time. She would have succumbed to the serpent's attacks. But her faithfulness and her loving husband saved her life. The serpent had not been successful in killing her.
A woman, in the garden, attacked by a serpent. It has a familiar ring to it, doesn't it? In the beginning, didn't Satan, in the form of a serpent, try to bring the entire human race to ruin by his attacks? Doesn't he still operate that way today amongst each of us?
The Apostle Peter is well aware of this. In his first Epistle, chapter 5 verses 8-9 he gives his readers this warning: "8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world."
In our text for this morning, the Apostle Paul is breaking new ground as far as his readers are concerned. The church at Ephesus knew Jesus, and knew what he had done for their sakes. Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice so that they, as true believers, would be saved. Jesus showed a love for them that would mean he would suffer and eventually die on their behalf. To love somebody or something enough to die for them is about the highest form of love one can have.
But now he adds a comparison to the picture, namely the love a husband is to have for his wife. This is to be the same kind of love that Christ has for his church. And considering the culture in which they lived, this would be an entirely new concept to them. Elevating the wife to the position of Christ's Church was a type of honor and respect that the people of that day had never known.
I believe that when we honor mothers on Mothers' Day, we need to be reflecting love and honor of that caliber. Of course we have the commandment "Honor your father and mother" as a guiding principle. But that seems to have this strong emphasis of obedience attached with it, even though Luther rightly points out that this also includes love and respect. But now when the wife and mother is elevated to the position of Christ's Church, we see just how highly regarded she is.
It's no accident that the Bible always refers to the Church in feminine terms. The Church is indeed Christ's holy bride. Verse 27 of our text for today explains this: "so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."
Sinful human beings like you and me are the recipients of this act of Christ's love. His love for us caused him to sacrifice himself so that we might be saved. Because of his love for us, he gave us his Holy Spirit so that we might accept his sacrifice through faith alone. As believers, we are Christ's holy bride. Our sins have been washed and cleansed in his blood, and Christ has accepted us as part of his body. We are joined with him like husbands and wives are joined together. And what an honor that is!
But you know as well as I do, that Satan never quits biting and attacking us. He will do everything he can to mess things up. He will try to interfere with husbands and wives, with mothers and children, and he will stop at nothing to destroy the relationship between Christ and his Church.
Let's look back at the story I told a few minutes ago. There was a mother who took her responsibilities seriously. I think of her sweating in the kitchen with snake venom coursing through her body, just so her children would have food to eat after she died. She could have taken the easy way out. She could have just laid down on the bed and died. She could have said, "Sorry children, I'm going to die, and I can't do anything about it. You'll just have to fend for yourselves. Good luck!"
But because of her absolute love and commitment, she didn't do the easy thing. As hard as it must have been for her to do what she did, she worked through it and kept on going. Even though the serpent in her garden hit her with a deadly strike, she had her priorities in order. And because she did, she survived. The husband still had his wife, and her children still had their mother. Through her dedication, everybody benefited.
Today as we look at ourselves as part of Christ's holy bride, we know the road hasn't been an easy one these past seven years. When we started, we did so with a lot of adversaries and strikes against us. But we're not people who give up either. Certainly the easy thing for us would have been to just lie down and die. We could have said, "Oh well, Satan has attacked us, and there's nothing we can do. It's not worth fighting for. Let's just take the easy way out."
That's why it is important to keep our priorities straight, and not look for the easy way out. God never told us that being a mother would be an easy job, nor has he told us that being part of Christ's bride would be easy either. But he has promised that he will never leave us nor forsake us.
I mentioned earlier that the marks of Christ's true Church are Word and Sacrament. That's the way we can identify Christ's bride here on earth. And as a Christian congregation, that's what we must faithfully proclaim, despite whatever difficulty that may bring. We want people in our community to look at us and say: "Hey, that's Mighty Fortress. We know that they faithfully hold to God's inspired and inerrant Word. We know that they treasure and faithfully administer the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper." We want to be, in every way possible, a clear and shining example of Christ's bride here on earth.
We know that the Lord will continue to bless us just as he has for the past seven years. As long as we are faithful, then Christ has promised us his blessing. Being the "popular" or the "hip" church isn't the important thing. There are plenty of popular churches out there that are heading right down the road to perdition, and they are dragging many unsuspecting people right along with them. Being popular doesn't mean that it is the right thing to do, even though it might seem easy and even fun at the time.
Today is a day when we can come together with a spirit of joyful thanksgiving. We have come to appreciate two brides, namely the women in our lives who are our mothers, grandmothers, and wives; and the bride of Christ, which is his Church, of which we are a part.
Mothers expend a great deal of time and effort to see that their children are raised correctly, that they are clothed and fed, and that their sundry needs are met. That's not an easy job, but it certainly has its rewards.
The Church is to see that God's people are continually being fed through Word and Sacrament, that through faith they are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and that they are prepared for a life of service to their Saviour. That's not an easy job either, but the rewards are eternal.
The key is being faithful in whatever role God has given us. When we do this with the love of Jesus in our hearts, then we know God will bless our efforts and help us overcome whatever difficulties Satan may throw at us.
MOTHERíS DAY HYMN
(tune: TLH 294 Munich)
1. A Christian wife and mother
Godís gift from heavín above.
To members of her family
A source of constant love.
A help-meet for her husband
In good and evil days;
A blessing to her children
In eíer so many ways.
2. She always well remembers
Her marriage vows with love;
To live in sacred honor
With help from heavín above.
With him whom she has taken
As partner in her life;
According to Godís ordínance
A truly faithful wife.
3. She looks with love and favor
Upon her children fair;
As precious gifts from heaven
God gave into her care.
With Christian admonition
And nurture in the Lord;
She rears them well and wisely
With Scriptureís full accord.
4. Thank God for Christian mothers
Remember them today;
And call upon your Saviour
To bless their earthly stay.
They are a nationís blessing
A stronghold in the home;
We honor and salute them
Now and in life to come. Amen.
- - John Mueller