Pastor’s July message

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The Bride of Christ
The [Jesus loves his Church. He calls her his Bride. A man can love many things, but he can have only one bride, and he loves his bride as he can love nothing else. Not even himself. A man can love himself—that would just be narcissism—but real love is directed outside of oneself, to another. Jesus is a true Man, he has one Bride, and he loves her as he loves nothing else.]

In Scripture, our Lord uses several different images to portray his Church. The church is a sheepfold taken care of by the Good Shepherd; the church is the body of Christ, with many members knit together like the members of a body; the church is an army gathered to the victory feast; and in Ephesians the Apostle Paul describes the church as the Bride of Christ.

Who is this Bride? We are, you and me, our children and theirs, bearing the Name of Christ, along with those who preceded us in the faith, including Moses and the Israelites and the others who lived by faith—the church is all of us, together corporately, as the Bride of Christ.

Jesus loves his Bride. The problem is, his Bride is us. And that means he doesn’t have a good bride. She’s a bit of an embarrassment.

Who Is This Bride?
This Bride, the Church—she is not some abstraction, some concept. The Bride is flesh and blood people, all of us bound together as one, and named as Christ’s Bride.

But that’s a problem. As actual people bound together in oneness, the Church is not just the binding of all of us together, corporately, as one; it is all of us bound together, each of us with our sin, our shame, our uncleanness. The Church, the Bride of Christ, includes the all that we are. Our sin, our shame, all that we would want to keep hidden and never show in public, it is all bound together, corporately, in the Bride, the church.

Christ has a problem. His Bride is not clean. She has shame. There are things she cannot display in public and still be thought a Bride.

And Jesus knows it. Yet he loves each of us. He loves his Bride the church, all the sinners. So, he gave himself up for her, to sanctify her with his own blood. He cleansed her by the washing of Baptism, in order to present her publicly, to stand her next to himself as his beloved Bride, without any spot or wrinkle, that she would be with him, holy and without blemish.

This is the love of the Groom for his Bride. This is Jesus loving each one of us—knowing our sin (for nothing is hidden from him), knowing all that which we would want to hide from public display, and, knowing all of this, loving us. Loving us in such a way that he binds us all together as one, all of us sinners along with each other, as one, his Bride, the Church. He sanctifies his Bride, cleansing her by the washing of water with the word, and now standing her alongside of himself as his honored Bride, with no spot or wrinkle.

Can any husband love his bride like this? Can any bride know this kind of love without running away in her shame?

Husbands and Wives
If a husband wants to know how to love his Bride, he looks at Christ Jesus and how he loves his church. If a bride wants to know how to love her husband, she looks to the church embracing Christ Jesus.

So Paul tells how this goes. He says to the husband and the wife,
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
[EPHESIANS 5:21]

The Greek word for “be subject” is not a word of submission or coercion; it’s a word of things being subject to each other, of things placed in proper order. So, the word to the husband and the wife is, Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

That is, to the husband, Care for your bride, giving to her every good gift from a husband and looking to her alone for the gifts of marriage.

To the wife, Be subject to your groom, giving him every good gift from the wife, and looking to him for the gifts of marriage.

If a husband wants to know how this works, Paul gives the image of Christ and his Bride, the Church. It is as if Paul is saying, husbands, look to Christ, and see how he takes care of his Bride the church. He gave himself up for her; he held nothing back; he poured himself out for her, to sanctify and cleanse her, to stand her next to him holy and without blemish. Jesus made himself Groom to the Church, to always be the One caring for her and taking care of her, sanctifying her, loving her even more than he loves himself.

Wives, to know what this means, look at the Church. She looks to her groom Christ Jesus for every good gift. She knows that there she finds her comfort. She is subject to him, to receive all gifts from him and to be loved by him as by no other.

Husbands and wives, love one another, for you are one flesh with each other, as Christ Jesus is in oneness with his Bride, the church.

The Church and Her Groom
But then Paul takes a turn. After telling us all these wonderful gifts of husbands and wives, of love for each other and subjection to each other, after he tells us about how a husband cherishes his wife even more than himself, then Paul says, But it’s not just about just a husband and a wife.

It’s about Christ and the Church. It’s about everyone in the church bound together in the oneness of the Bride, and about Christ Jesus taking care of that Bride:
31“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
[EPHESIANS 5:22-33, OF THE EPISTLE FOR PENTECOST 14]

Our Lord brings us all into the picture. The husband sitting in pew, and the wife; the single person looking toward marriage someday, and the single person not given to be married; the divorced person regretting a failed marriage; the husband lamenting that he has loved himself more than he has loved his bride; the wife sorrowful that she has not appreciated her husband—our Lord brings us all into it as he gathers us all to his Table and names us, together, as his Bride, the Church.

He knows the cleansing his Bride needs. There is nothing he wants to do more than cleanse his Bride, than take care of her, comfort her, love and cherish her, and stand her next to himself in all her splendor, forgiven of all sin, holy and without blemish.

He’s doing this toward us now, as he invites us to receive gifts from him, gathering us to the Table of his Body and Blood for the cleansing of all sin. The Groom will have his Bride. He sends to her his Holy Spirit. As it is given in the Catechism, the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and enlightens us with the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

By the Gospel Christ Jesus has his Bride.

In the Name of Jesus,

Heaven is Open
“When you are baptized, partake of Holy Communion, receive the absolution, or listen to a sermon, Heaven is open, and we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father; all these works descend upon us from the open heaven above us. God converses with us, provides for us; and Christ hovers over us—but invisibly. And even though there were clouds above us as impervious as iron or steel, obstructing our view of Heaven, this would not matter. Still we hear God speaking to us from Heaven; we call and cry to Him, and He answers us. Heaven is open, as St. Stephen saw it open (Acts 7:55); and we hear God when He addresses us in Baptism, in Holy Communion, in confession, and in His Word as it proceeds from the mouth of the men who proclaim His message to the people.”
[Martin Luther, 1538, (LW 22:202)]

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