Love Given
Friday of Epiphany 6
17 February 2017
Perhaps you recall the tragic passing of Anna Nicole Smith (8 February 2007), made famous by a celebrated court case, which was still being litigated as recently as 2011. Her passing can't help but make us think about the meaning of marriage and chastity. In a certain segment of the population marriage is about high finance or is a publicity stunt. Marriage has become another form of possessions accumulation, so that successful men will sometimes divorce their first wife in favor of the much younger "trophy wife." I suppose that was what the aging J. Howard Marshall II at 89 years old found in Ms. Smith at 26, just another great looking possession. After all, how many guys his age had a wife her age? He could say, "Look what I got." The tragedy is not the age gap, but the willingness of Ms. Smith to be used as "arm candy," and for Mr. Marshall to use her that way. At one level they were both equal opportunity exploiters.
Our culture no longer understands the true nature of love. It only knows different kinds of acquisition. By love, we mean acquiring what we need from the other. Another's value is only seen in their ability to offer us something we want: money, fame, security, beauty, service, and so on. Love then becomes a metaphor for an economic transaction; merely another acquisition. It is no wonder there is a whole cadre of people in our society who reject marriage and the sexuality connected with it because they see that the love that leads to marriage has been reduced to a tawdry economic transaction hardly better than a gussied up form of the world's oldest profession. Love has become possession of the other rather than a giving of the self.
Love does not "use" or exploit others. It serves others. It does what is best for them, even if it is detrimental to ourselves. Love gives itself up for the other. If love is self-giving it cannot be offered for gain. It is not transactional but sacrificial. This is the model of love given by the Savior through His self-sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. He gives Himself not because we are worthy of Him or His love for us, but rather because He desires to rescue us out of our sin and death for our eternal good and joy.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"Inasmuch as there is a shameful mess and cesspool of all kinds of vice and lewdness among us, the sixth commandment applies to every form of unchastity, however it is called. Not only is the external act forbidden, but also every kind of cause, motive, and means. Your heart, your lips, and your whole body are to be chaste and to afford no occasion, aid, or encouragement to unchastity. Moreover, you are to defend, protect, and rescue your neighbor whenever he is in danger or need, and on the contrary to aid and assist him so that he may retain his honor.  Whenever you fail to do this (though you could prevent a wrong) or wink at it as if it were no concern of yours,you are just as guilty as the culprit himself. In short, everyone is required both to live chastely himself and to help his neighbor do the same. Thus God by his commandment wants every husband or wife guarded and protected from any trespass.
"Inasmuch as this commandment is concerned specifically with the estate of marriage and gives occasion to speak of it, let us carefully note, first, how highly God honors and glorifies the married life, sanctioning and protecting it by his commandment. He sanctioned it above in the fourth commandment, 'You shall honor father and mother'; but here, as I said, he has secured it and protected it.  Therefore, he also wishes us to honor, maintain, and cherish it as a divine and blessed estate. Significantly he established it as the first of all institutions, and he created man and woman differently (as is evident) not for lewdness but to be true to each other, be fruitful, bear children, and support and bring them up to the glory of God.
"God has therefore most richly blessed this estate above all others and, in addition, has supplied and endowed it with everything in the world in order that this estate might be provided for richly and adequately. Married life is no matter for jest or idle curiosity, but it is a glorious institution and an object of God's serious concern. For it is of the highest importance to him that persons be brought up to serve the world, promote knowledge of God, godly living, and all virtues, and fight against wickedness and the devil."

Martin Luther, Large Catechism
Ephesians 5:22-33

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-- for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery-- but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Lord Jesus, we thank you for the gift of self-sacrificial love You have given to millions of married couples who are putting into practice Your divine plan for marriage and family. Help us to keep marriage pure and holy among us. Rescue those who are alienated from You and Your gifts through their misunderstanding of true love. Amen.
For the work of Higher Things that all involved in it would continue to call Christian young people to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
For faithful attendance at Bible classes so that we might together delight in the law of the Lord and on it meditate
For all those suffering from chronic illnesses that God would give them the strength to bear up under that burden and confess God's faithfulness in the midst of suffering
Art: MANETTI, Rutilio  Wedding Feast at Cana  (c. 1620)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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