Rev. 21:9-14, 21-27; John 16:21-33/Easter6.07
She is a lovely Lady, and no matter how long we live, how old we get, She remains as beautiful as the Day we were born - from above, that is. No, I am not speaking of our earthly mothers. We'll get to them. I'm speaking of the Mother from Whose Womb we have eternal life, and at Whose Bosom we are succored in this life, until the Life to come. I am speaking of the Mother Whose Voice is the Voice of Christ; the Holy, Catholic - which means universal - and Apostolic Church; the Bride, of Whom we hear this morning in God's Word.
St. John, on the isle of Patmos, saw a vision of that Holy and Precious Mother. One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came to St. John, saying, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb."
Call her Mother, for that is what She is. Read Genesis 3 and learn how She is the One Whom Eve was pointing to, as Adam pointed all the world to Christ. Out of Adam's side the Lord brought Eve while Adam slumbered. While our Lord was sleeping that Great Sleep of death upon the cross for us, a soldier pierced His side and out flowed blood and water, witness of the Bride and how she bears and succors children.
Jesus speaks about the agony of bringing forth the Church, His children. As Isaiah put it, "His Name shall be Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting FATHER, Prince of Peace." Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the World! His Wife, His Bride, is the Church, and She, by Him, is the Mother of all the Living.
That's what Adam called Eve, remember? when she had been brought from Adam's side. Learn from that today to dispel whatever lies men speak against the Gospel. And they speak plenty, even twisting the glory of Christ's Church into shame.
We all know how it goes when men take wives. They propose. They try to win a girl, who then considers the offer and gives her answer. And young ladies - BE PICKY! Choose a man who is faithful, dependable, responsible, upright. Choose one who is godly, who will not compromise your integrity, virginity, your chastity or faith. If you falter in any of that, make sure he is one who will go WITH you to your pastor for forgiveness. And if he isn't yet a Lutheran, make sure he is willing, or at least that he doesn't get in the way of YOUR being one, or hinder your bringing your children TO the womb of Holy Mother Church and then UP on Her knees, suckled on the Word and Sacraments of Jesus.
In terms of earthly betrothals, ladies, you DO make a choice, so make a good one, and pray God's strength to help you keep the choice and promise that you make. Young men, you do the same. But in terms of our heavenly betrothal, READ GOD'S WORD! The Bride of Christ is heavenly, from above. She is brought from Jesus' side through Word and Water, Bread and Wine; created in His image by Holy Baptism and Holy Supper, the very Blood and Body of our Savior.
Eve did not DECIDE to be the wife of Adam. The Church did not DECIDE to be the Wife of Christ. Read Ezekiel 16. We were BETROTHED to Him, as God brought Eve to Adam and ADAM said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." Eve was united with Adam by the Giving of the Father and the speaking of her husband.
So, the Church is bone of Christ's bone and Flesh of His Flesh. She is Christian, because She has Her life, Her image, from Christ. As the Virgin Mary WAS betrothed - presumably by her parents - to be married to Joseph, the Church is betrothed by the Father to be the Wife and Bride of His Son. And by that Son, by His death and resurrection, by His agony and Bloody sweat by which He toiled and labored on the cross for our salvation and the reconciliation of this world - by that, the Church brings forth Her children. Such joy!
Children, you were brought forth by the actions of others, by the love of your earthly father and mother. Today is Mother's Day and it's good to be reminded that we didn't have a thing to do with our conception or birth. Mom - YOU DID IT ALL! You labored, you agonized, you pushed, you brought me into this world and brought me up in the same! THANK YOU!
If children start to talk the way so many preachers do, that THEY had to WANT to be your children, had to DECIDE to be your children, had to ACCEPT you as their mother - Moms, if you aren't a practitioner of corporal punishment, I hope you become one - fast! at least to stem such a tide of thankless pride and rudeness! Make sure your children learn that life is GIVEN them. They receive it JUST because somebody said it's theirs. They accept it and live it, as those who know how to receive in thanksgiving, not twisting life and love into some horrendous excuse for the godless ways men go about destroying one another and themselves! God forbid! Life is such a precious gift!
Children, JESUS labored for you on the cross. HE agonized and sweated and THAT brought you life. You will find a LOT of preachers who will tell you, "Sure, Jesus did HIS part, but what decides that you're a child of God is what YOU do with it." God will punish such liars in His own time. Don't have a thing to do with them.
I actually heard a mother recently admit that her church believes you have to accept Jesus in order to be saved. I said, "My daughters never accepted me, yet they're my kids. I gave them life. And now, they make me proud, which is as it should be. They have become fine young Christian women who confess God's work in Holy Baptism, even to strangers, and remain in the receiving of God's Word and Sacraments."
The lady said, "Well, I think we're all just saying the same thing in different ways." That's when her little boy walked up. I put my hand on his head and told him, "If you haven't accepted your mother as your mother, she is not your mother. If you haven't decided, with all your heart, that you want to be her son, then you are not her son." I looked at that mother and said, "Is THAT the same as what you tell him?" It was not.
Ladies, pick men who know the Gospel. If they don't yet, bring them here to me. If they refuse to come, then pray they do not hinder you in any way from living, as the Bride of Christ, from the side of your Husband Jesus; from His Promises to you and to your children in Holy Baptism; from His tender voice that calls you forgiven; from His Body and His Blood for you in bread and wine. These are the engagement ring He places on the finger of His Church. Let no one rob them from you!
If your household won't be Christian with you, pray for them. Ask the Father Who has given you to Jesus, ask Him in your True Husband's Name, and He will answer. It is His desire that your joy be full. If only we were more desperate for such joy, to have the ones we love this side of heaven safe and secure in the Bosom of the Mother Who raises up Her children in the Confidence of being God's sons, teaching us to storm the throne of heaven, expecting God to pay attention!
Pray that God make you a Lydia, so that your whole household dwells within the Bride of Christ, raised upon Her knees, learning how to sing and confess the Voice of Christ. Such a sweet lullaby by which God teaches us the way He is toward us, and how we are to be toward one another, serving in love, suckled and succored and strengthened in Christ, until we join the saints around the throne of the Lamb in His Kingdom, the foretaste of which we have today.
But be careful. Having brought your children to the Womb of Christ, the Font, do not neglect to feed them, or be fed yourselves. Mother's Milk is a good defense against infection and disease. That is why St. Peter writes, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk." Crave the hearing and receiving of God's Word, at any age, mother, father, child, whoever you are! Grow up in it - not only on Sunday mornings - both in the Divine Service and in Bible Class - but also in your homes. YOU ARE NOT TOO BUSY for the Word of God!
If those you love were dying, would you say, "We're just too busy to get them help. The hospital's far away. And we're busy"? Then don't pretend that you can't manage to provide your children and yourselves the Colostrum you need (look it up!), which God provides in the pure spiritual milk of His Gospel and His Sacraments rightly administered. Keep yourselves away, and you will starve, you and your household, and thereby you will lose divine grace. As the angel says, "Nothing unclean will ever enter (into the Holy City) nor anyone who does what is detestable or false," and what is more detestable than to let God's children starve to death, when Food is near, available and free?
Members of the Bride of Christ, learn today from the account of that godly woman, Lydia, that it is God alone Who opens hearts to pay attention to the preaching and the teaching of His Word; to value the adornment of His Word and Sacraments the way a woman shows off and values the diamond some man gives her. Ladies, your husband is to represent Christ to you, and you - when you walk down the aisle dressed in white, perhaps led by the cross in procession - and surely, as you bear children and raise them up in the Gospel, in the white robes of their baptism . . . you represent the Church, the Bride and Wife of the Lamb. Only God can open hearts to say, "Amen!" to that.
So, pray. For yourselves, that you believe these things, that you believe the GOSPEL - that heaven's yours because it's Christ's, and He has opened up His side to make what's His - life and salvation - yours! As Lydia led her whole household - adults and children - to Holy Baptism, you, continue living from the same. Such faithfulness to the Lord! Pray God to open the hearts of all you love, your spouse, your children, your neighbors, your friends, and to keep them open; open to the speaking that says, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. You shall be called MY Wife, MY Bride, because I AM your Savior, Your Husband, the Lamb. I laid down My Life for you, and that saves you. I opened My side. That brought you forth, in My image. Now, I have nothing but joy over you - despite your failings, your faults, your sins." As mothers delight in their children, even though they disappoint them, what joy Christ has now over you! He forgets your sins the way a woman forgets about the pain of childbirth. He has His Children, washed clean, forgiven! He has His Bride, beautiful and lovely, and forever - living from His Side. In Jesus' Name, Amen