Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

By the Sweat of Your Face

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 20, c]


1 Timothy 2:1-15

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.


In the Name of Jesus.


If we want to see an argument explode out of nowhere in our current culture, can we do it any faster than by just by bringing up the sexes? Just say the words man and woman, or male and female, or husband and wife, or natural marriage, or mother and father, and get ready for the dumpster fire.


Man and woman, male and female, husband and wife—it’s ground for a war, it’s conflict, it’s time for name calling.


And yet, it didn’t start that way. God did not intend it that way. In the beginning, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in their conversation of creation, made mankind, male and female. And the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend it and keep it. [Genesis 2:15]


Tend and keep. No word here about working so hard you’re sweating, about work being a grind, about reporting in on Monday and counting the days until Friday, just gentle words, Tend and Keep. Work the ground and keep it. From that tending and keeping, you will have all you and your family ever need. Your interaction with the Earth will not be a constant battle against flood and disaster, against drought and famine, but your engagement with the Earth will be one of a creature receiving abundant gifts from the Creator.


The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to tend and keep it. But the man was not whole without his counterpart, his equal, she who along with the man completes humanity, so there is male and female. To the man and the woman, the Lord God blessed them and said, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth. [Genesis 1:28]


If the man is given the high office of tending the ground, providing the food, guarding it all, the woman is given the high office of giving birth to the child, of bringing forth the generations, of bearing life.


And there is no note of pain in this, of difficulty or threat, of loss or tears.


The man and the woman. Created for each other, created to bring forth and uphold life, created to receive gifts from the Creator.



Then, we know what was done.


The man and woman, rather than receive gifts as they were given, took things according to their desire. Rather than stand as creatures living from the gifts of a loving Creator, in their desire, they took their stand as those who refuse gifts, but will make their own way.


They sinned. From them—for we are their children, we have no life but that it didn’t come through them—from them, we stand as sinners.


And the tending and keeping of the Earth? The Earth is now cursed. It is now by the sweat of your brow. Genesis 3:17:

[The Lord said,] Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.


If the man now gets food only by the sweat of his brow, what of the woman bringing forth children? Genesis 3:16:

[The Lord God said,] “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children.”


And the man and the woman, given to be one-flesh with each other? They are now in conflict, the wife seeking the man’s office, the man ruling over the wife, both seeing themselves as apart from the other.


From then on, up to us today, work is no longer the joy of receiving gifts from creation, but is the struggle to control nature and bring forth food by the sweat of the brow. Childbearing is no longer simply the joy of bearing new life into a peaceful creation, but is the tears of a mother in pain, the crying of a mother who loses a child, the torment of a woman unable to bear, none of it intended by the Creator.


The binding together of the man and the woman, the gift of husband and wife, the institution of marriage, it is torn-at by jealousy and lust, it is even denied by sinful generations, it is mimicked and mocked by those who desire to pursue lust outside of marriage.



Then the promise. In the midst of this sweat of the brow, this pain of childbearing, this tearing of marriage, in the midst of it all, a kindly and gently spoken promise:

The woman will bring forth a child who will be struck by Satan, but who, in being struck by Satan, will crush Satan’s head.


The promise: the woman will bear a child who will stand on the Earth as the New Adam, the New Man who takes all the sin of Adam and Eve, all the sin of their children, including you and me, who takes all the shame of living from cursed ground only by the sweat of your brow, all the pain of sickness and stillbirth and infertility, all the shame of lust and living in sinful community where men and women cannot even clearly rejoice in what it means to be a man or a woman—he, the New Adam, born of woman, takes it all upon himself and puts it to death in his own body on the cross.



We live by that promise—promise given to Adam and Eve, promise accomplished by the New Adam, Christ Jesus, on the cross, promise delivered to you and me every time we hear his word cleansing us of our sin, forgiving our rebellion against being creatures created to receive gifts, and declaring us to be his bride, the Church.


We live by that promise, that he, Christ Jesus, is the New Man, and he takes as his Bride the Church, a Bride he loves and daily sanctifies, cleansing her by the washing of water with the word, presenting her as his bride in splendor. [Ephesians 5:27]


And living in that promise that all sinners have been redeemed by Christ Jesus and he gathers us to be his Bride, the Church, we hear the kind words of the Apostle Paul:

Yet [the woman] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.


This is our Lord’s kind promise that even as we live in this world of “the sweat of the brow,” this is not judgment to us—for the judgment against sin is found at the cross, but this is the life we are given to live in faith. So that even as we live by “the sweat of the brow” in our sinful flesh, in our life of faith, we live as the Bride of Christ, daily being sanctified by his promise.

And it is our Lord’s promise that even as a woman is given to go through the pain of child-birth, or even the pain of being unable to bear, yet, that is not judgment to her, but she is being saved even as she goes through it. 1 Timothy 2:15:

Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.


This is our Lord’s promise that we are saved not by any work we do, not by any sweat of our brow, not by any pain of child-bearing, but, as we go through all of this, we are saved by grace through faith.


By the grace of a Lord he calls himself Groom, and calls us his Bride, the Church.


By the grace of a Lord who as Groom, sets men to be pastors to serve his Bride the Church, not because they are of themselves worthy or competent, but because he, the Groom of Church, chooses what is weak in this world to put to shame the wise.


By the grace of a Lord who so honors the office of being a man that he came into the flesh as a man, redeeming all who are children of the man, Adam.


The grace of a Lord who so honors the office of being a woman that he came into the flesh by birth from the Virgin Mary, who now stands as Mary, Mother of God, most honored among women.


By the grace of a Lord who forgives sins as inexplicably and abundantly as an out-of-control dishonest manager freely giving away the wealth of his master. [Luke 16]


Through all things, we are saved by his grace.


In the Name of Jesus.