Easter 5 2022
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
May 15, 2022
Acts 11:1-8, Revelation 21:1-7, John 16:12-22

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            A woman stands in the back of church dressed all in white with a veil over her face and a bouquet of flowers in her hands.  The organist is playing Canon in D and the pews are full of family and friends.  Who is this woman?  What is she doing?  It appears that she is a bride on her wedding day preparing to get married, but there is one more thing that is essential to her being a bride.  She needs a groom.  To be a bride she needs a man waiting at the front of the church for her to come down the aisle and the two be united as one.  A woman cannot make herself a bride.  She needs a man to ask her to be his bride.

            The Church is the bride of Christ.  The followers of God are united with God and are to be faithful to God.  In a marriage you pledge to forsake all others and be united to one person alone. With God you must be faithful to God, and God alone.  The first commandment is, “You shall have no other Gods.” 

The Church is the bride of Christ.  This idea of God’s people being in a marriage relationship with God runs throughout the Bible.  In the Old Testament there is much talk about the rebellious children of Israel being an adulterous people.  This isn’t talking about them cheating on their spouses; instead it is the accusation that they are cheating on God by following after other gods — foreign gods, false gods, detestable gods.  An interesting and under-read book of the Bible is the book of Hosea.  The Lord has the prophet Hosea marry a prostitute named Gomer as a warning to the people of Israel that they are prostituting themselves with other gods.  Two of Hosea and Gomer’s children are called, “No Mercy” and “Not my People.”

            In the New Testament we see this concept continue and increase.  Jesus comes for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and then His ministry expands also to the Gentiles; the nations.  We see in our reading from Acts God clearly showing that Christ has come for all people; Jew and Gentile. 

The Church consists of the baptized followers of Jesus.  The Church is the bride of Christ.  In Ephesians 5 we see St. Paul offer teachings about marriage based on the relationship of Christ and the Church.  Ephesians 5:22–27 (ESV) 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

            The marriage relationship of husband and wife is modeled after Christ and the Church; the Bridegroom and the bride of Christ.  It is a relationship of submission and protection and cleansing.  You all, as the Church, are the bride of Christ, not because you have declared yourself to be such, but because Jesus has made you His bride and washed you clean by the washing of water with the word and He presents you to Himself in splendor.  Jesus presents you without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.  He presents you holy and without blemish.  Jesus chose you to be His bride.  You all are the bride of Christ. 

            The Church is the Bride of Christ.  The Church belongs to Christ.  Therefore the Church is not something you can use to build up your self-esteem.  The Church does not exist for you to use it to network and increase your business.  The Church is not yours to be used to pursue the American dream of wealth and success.  The Church is not to be used to exercise authority over people.  The Church is not yours to be molded and shaped to fit your desires.  The Church is not yours to adjust so it evolves with the world.  The Church belongs to Christ. 

What is the Church?  The Augsburg Confession is the first basic summary of the teachings of the Lutheran Church presented to Emperor Charles V on June 25, 1530.  In Article VII defines the Church: “[Our churches] teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.” 

Together, united in Christ, you are the Church, but you did not create the Church.  You do not get to define the Church because the Church belongs to Christ. 

There is an entire industry that markets and sells programs to save the Church. There is a false yet very attractive idea that, if we can just do this…or if we can just do that…then we can save the church.  But the Church is not yours to save, it is not mine to save, the Church is Christ’s Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.  Congregations are planted and congregations close. Membership numbers go up and down. There is a great temptation to take control.  “We’ve got to do something!  Anything!” But the Church is not a product to be marketed.  The church is where the Gospel is rightly taught and the sacraments are rightly administered.  The Church is for preaching and teaching and baptizing and receiving Holy Communion. The Church is for distributing God’s gift of forgiveness in Jesus.

            The Church weeps and laments and yet is filled with the joy of Easter because you all know that the Church will endure to the Last Day. This age will end.  This World will pass away.  And despite how things may look at times, in the end Jesus wins. 

We go through life as the Church, struggling with conflict and sin, fighting off temptation, resisting the devil, suffering the slings and arrows of evil, injury, sickness and death.  The Church battles against the devil’s desires to divide and destroy, but we do it together as the Church.  We do it together, remembering our baptism.  We do it together, hearing again and again that our sins are forgiven. We do it together, receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.  We live together knowing that Jesus took all our sins into the grave and left them there when He rose from the dead. 

            You are right now the Church, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ and yet, for now, the Church struggles mightily in this world and life.  Jesus warns of this in the Gospel lesson, John 16:20 (ESV) 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”  Jesus is speaking of His death and resurrection and also of His ascension and return in glory on the Last Day.  The Church lives in the joy of Easter even as she weeps and laments the evil in this life; even as the world rejoices. 

            The Church weeps and laments and yet is filled with the joy of Easter because you all know that the Church will endure to the Last Day. This age will end.  This World will pass away.  And despite how things may look at times, in the end Jesus wins. 

            In the midst of all the conflict and confusion and hardships of this life we get glimpses of what the future holds.  In today’s lesson from Revelation we hear John’s vision of last day and it is a glorious vision.  This earth and this life is all we know and yet all this is only temporary.  A new heaven and a new earth are coming.  The holy city, New Jerusalem, will descend out of heaven from God as a Bride adorned for her husband.  God will dwell with His people.  The bride of Christ will be with her Bridegroom and we will celebrate at the wedding feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom.

            You live now as a saint of God in this time between Jesus’ ascension into heaven and His return on the Last Day.  It is the time of now you are saved, but you are not yet in the full presence of the Lord.  It is a time when you have been declared righteous, innocent and blessed because Jesus died for you and rose for you.  You are, right now, a saint made perfect in the blood of Jesus, a saint perfected by the blood of Jesus and yet you still live in this fallen world full of sin and trouble.  You are a saint who is, at the same time, a natural born sinner struggling to act like who you already are in Jesus.  Life as a follower of Jesus is hard.  It is a life of bearing your cross.  It can seem, at times, like there is no hope, but in the midst of the struggle and temptation and failure — remember who you are.  You are a baptized child of God washed clean in the blood of Jesus.  Together, you are the Bride of Christ.  Together, you are His Church.  Together, look forward to the last day when, Revelation 21:3–4 (ESV) 3 … “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

            You are the bride of Christ washed clean by Jesus.  He presents you without blemish.  Come, Lord Jesus!  Come quickly!  Amen. 

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