21 February 2016

A Sermon for the Sixth Commandment

Ephesians 5:17


5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 

3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness

must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 


Small Catechism, p. 321. 


The Sixth Commandment

You shall not commit adultery.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.




In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Do you know what is apparently the biggest business in the world? Porn! Apparently the human appetite for it is voracious! But have you pondered what it IS? It is looking at pictures or videos of intimacy. One after another. Always more, always new. But a picture. Fixation with a fiction, a picture of an intimacy that isn't even real. And yet the human race obsesses on it. Can't seem to get enough of it.


And here's the thing: that's only a variant on what we do with sex in general. God gave it to us to be a picture, or better a window, what the old theologians would call a sign. Something not to look at but to look through, because THAT's when it's its true self. But the fact is that we stare obsessed at the picture itself rather than use it as the window it was intended to be. And so the pileup of crashed relationships on the highway of life. 


That woman in John 4 isn't alone, is she? Five husbands and a sixth fellow she's just shacking up with. Why? She was "looking for love in all the wrong places." She was focused on the picture or the window, rather than looking through it to the reality. And if you focus on the picture itself, you indeed will be disappointed, soon get bored and itch for another picture to look at or another window to gaze at. 


Countless is the marriage disrupted by the man or woman who "falls in love." Rare is the person who realizes that he or she is not actually "in love" with another person, but in love with a feeling that's by its very nature fleeting. It hangs on novelty and novelty just doesn't last. 


God in His Word warns us of this danger constantly. This "no adultery," no sex outside of marriage is one theme that the Scriptures hammer home in uncompromising clarity like we heard in the reading today. And yet the Scriptures show at the same time an utterly frank picture of the mess, the hurt, the damage we do to ourselves and to others by ignoring God here. From David and Bathsheba to the woman at the well. Never forgets why God hates sin: He hates it because of the damage it does in us, the people He loves.


And this drives us to the heart of it. What ARE you looking for? What is sex itself was given to you to make thirst for? It's HIM. It's the Blessed Trinity Himself. You know what you ache for? You ache for a relationship of love, a relationship where the love is so solid and fixed and sure and unchanging that it doesn't hang one little bit on you. Because you know you screw up all the time. You need a love that doesn't change when you fail. That's the love God gave you when He sent His Son into your flesh to make you His friends, His beloved. That's the love that hangs on Calvary where far from letting your sins drive Him away from you, He draws you into His embrace by taking every last one of them into Himself as His own. And His faithfulness to you is then absolute. Don't mishear the strong warning in the Epistle: it's not that your sin causes Him no longer love you, but that sexual sin in particular has this horrible power to make you no longer care about His love. That's why it's so dangerous. It can lead you to despise the very thing that sex itself was given you to see through; what Saint Paul would call worshipping the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever.


This is the whole point of Hosea. This is the whole point of Jesus calling himself the bridegroom. It's why in the Eucharist He comes to you, touches you, puts His body into you to have communion with you and engender in you His own divine life. That ache, that desire you try to still with the changing pictures, the oh-so fleeting orgasm or the only slightly less fleeting feeling of being in love, it only is finally satisfied in Him, in His unalterable, unshakable love for you. Love that covers every shame and holds you tight.


Don't focus on the picture. Don't stare at the window. Look through sex to what God gave it to be a picture of. He's wildly, passionately in love with you and He wants your sexuality to picture His fidelity and be grounded in His own unchanging and ever-forgiving love. Because that's the real deal.  Amen.



Unknown said...

“That woman in John 4 isn't alone, is she?” No, there are thousands of them, maybe millions. They proliferate in countries where mothers need to go to work, shortly after giving birth. Their children grow up in nurseries, and are deprived of the love and affection all infants need in order to grow into normal adults. Lacking this early affection, they are also unable to develop normal self-esteem. Therefore, when they grow up they look for that affection in men to validate themselves. They soon learn that sex will give them that affection, and they look for it obsessively. Their male partners soon tire of the intensity of the relationship, so the woman starts looking for another partner. One of the names psychologists give to this condition is “borderline personality disorder”, and it really has nothing to do with wantonness or sexual obsession. It is an illness, like the common cold or cancer. And our merciful Father forgives it.
Since our Lord was alone with her at Jacob’s well, have you ever thought about how the story got into the Gospel? Who told John about it? If Eastern Orthodox tradition is to be believed, it could have been the woman herself. According to this tradition, she and her family, brothers, sisters, and two children, were baptized and she took the name Photine, from the Greek for “light”. According to this tradition, she became an ardent missionary and was martyred in Carthage during the rule of Nero. The Russian equivalent of her name is “Svetlana.” The Latin version would be Lucia, but no relationship to the saint celebrated by Lutherans and Roman Catholics on 13 December.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

St. Photini indeed!