“Wives Submit to Your Husbands.” These Are the Words Of Eternal Life. Wait…That Can’t Be Right.

the Words of eternal Life

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In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

When I was working at Camp back in college, I noticed the reading from Ephesians we have today was missing from the daily office lectionary. Hmmm, I thought to myself, there seems to be an oversight here, they skipped over this passage. So, I flip open my Bible and figure out what is being left out. Oh my, they have left this part out due to their agenda. “Wives be subject to your husbands” is against the agenda of equality, so this has to be left out. Well I don’t like leaving parts of the Bible out, so I conferred with my brother sacristan and we agreed to insert this section back into Evening Prayer. Man did I catch it for that.

As soon as that line was read, I could feel the eyes of the more progressive girls on staff turn to me. Upon this “disturbance in the force” I looked around and could see their laser eyes boring holes of hatred into my person and that of my buddy. After Evening Prayer concluded and we went to dinner, as the Evening Prayer cards were passed to me by these various girls to be put up until tomorrow, I could feel the air around me drop a few degrees due to their cold fury at having heard these words from St. Paul.

Make no bones about it Beloved, this reading we have heard today is for our culture today a hard saying, who can listen to it? In fact, the Church has many hard sayings that cause people to draw back due to the seeming lack of flexibility by the Church on certain issues. The struggle is real. How can the Church teach such backward doctrines? Isn’t God love? Shouldn’t we make that the message first? Shouldn’t we hold back these hard, non-politically correct teachings in order to let people know that they are deeply loved by God?

Well, let’s take a moment and look at our track record and see if this is a good idea. Joshua 24, the Promised Land has now been conquered, and Joshua’s time is coming very close to an end. So he distributes the land allotted to each tribe and they are about to go on their merry way to inhabit the land. But before they left, Joshua said, “While I’ve got you here, let me give you some advice before you go. Serve the Lord and put away false gods. But if you are unwilling to do so, be honest with yourselves and walk away now.”

The People, “Oh yeah. We will serve the Lord. Look at all the good things he has done for us.”

Joshua then tells them, “There are going to be a lot of rules that are tough for you. If you turn away from his hard rules and embrace the free love of the foreign gods, God is going to get mad—“he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good. There are rules and if you want to live under his house, he will hold you to them.”

The people say, “Of Course we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua: “Are you sure?”

The People, “Yes.”

Joshua: “Ok. You are witnesses against yourself that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him”

The People, “That’s right we are.”

And so Joshua made a covenant with them to show the depth of their promise—failure to keep the promise results in their death. But they are willingly subjecting themselves to these rules. And since they are willingly subjecting themselves to the rules, God expects them to keep them—even the hard ones. But they don’t and it gets them into trouble time and time again.

But out of love for us, as Paul says in Romans, “While we were yet still sinners, Christ died for us.” Though not even God’s chosen people could keep their promises, God sent his Son to die for their transgressions that they may be free again to make the decision to return to him once again.

And during these last few weeks we have been rehashing his speech to them about the Bread of Life and needing to eat of his flesh and drink of his blood and in this, they will receive eternal life. But for these people, this was a hard saying—one which caused many of his disciples to turn back and no longer follow him. And as he watched them walk away, Jesus turned to the 12, and said, “Do you also wish to go away?”

Peter answers on behalf of the 12 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” This awesome statement goes to show us two things: 1) even the hard teachings of the Church are included in what Jesus wants us to know, and 2) even these hard teachings are life giving—the words of eternal life.

For instance: this Ephesians reading today. It starts out by acknowledging that all people hold equal standing as each person is made in God’s image. So if each person is equal, then in order to put another person higher than yourself, you must willingly put them higher and you lower. Each person is to show dignity to the next by raising their neighbor’s good above that of their own, because this is the example that Christ gave us.

This leads us into the “controversial” portion of wives being subject to their husbands. First, Paul has just asserted that all people are equal to each other, which includes women. But Paul calls women to “be subject” to their husbands. This means for the wife to willingly place herself under the authority of her husband—it is not a matter one her being lesser—she is not, she is equal, yet Paul calls her to willingly place herself in the lower role—again following the example of our Lord.

The wife is to take for her model the Church. Her model is not be passive, merely waiting there, longing for her orders. No, she is to fulfil her role in the family very much actively. There is no dead weight. She is not to refrain from exercising her influence or even from respectfully admonishing her husband when need be. She needs to be the one that is the Christ example to all in the family, by raising all up around her. Godly subjugation is not cowering in fear, but actively demonstrating Christ’s call to take the lowest seat that all may be glorified, and in taking that lowest seat, have the opportunity to be called up to greater glory.

Husbands also have a very hard calling here, but somehow this is less controversial. Husbands have the call of being willing to be lifted to the role of Christ to the family. How scary is that?! Paul says, “Husbands love you wives,” but the word there is not love as we see in movies, eros love. Rather husbands are to demonstrate agape love to their wives. Agape love is the self-sacrificing love that Christ showed the Church (us) when he voluntarily offered his life on the cross for the life of the world.

This means that Paul is calling husbands to lay down their lives for their wives. This means prioritizing the needs of the wife over the needs of the husband. The goal here is to make his wife holy—set apart—as Christ makes his bride the Church holy. Husbands are to set apart their wives, cull them away from the mundane and profane and lift them up to God as the A #1 priority.

This passage in Paul’s letter gets such a bad rap, but it is indeed the words of eternal life. It is very much a hard saying because how hard it is to place the needs of others above those of our own. But this hard saying shows us that by loving our spouse, each is lifting the other up to God and being set apart that all may have access to the Father and be saved.

So I still stand by my decision a decade and a half ago to reinsert what was left out because it was at the surface level a divisive statement that we don’t want to uphold as of the Christian faith. We who willingly call ourselves Christians, should not, indeed cannot, dismiss these hard sayings. These ARE the words of eternal life. And rather than simply adding them back into Evening Prayer once every other year, this should be read at every wedding and practiced every day of our lives, because everyone needs to be shown such love every single day.

In a world where websites such as Ashley Madison exist and sports stars are constantly being brought up on sexual assault charges, I think we definitely need more Godly Subjugation. This is how we let people know of God’s love for them.

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

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Be Scandalous

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.

The Jews murmured at him because he said he was the bread which came down from heaven…Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?

They think he is crazy.

They know his father, and his father’s father. At least they think they know any way. From their point of view, Jesus is a known commodity—one of many other Jews. The Jewish tent is a very big place—embracing everything from secular to ultra-devout. If Jesus were simply a miracle worker or a reformer they could figure him out and either adhere to or ignore him as they would any other reformer or miracle worker. But he is different. He is preaching something entirely different.

Paul made this mistake. During his second missionary journey Paul went to Athens, the philosophical capital of the world. Converting Athens would be quite the feather in his cap.

This is the big leagues. He was trained in this way. He knows exactly what he is doing. He makes it relevant to their situation. He quotes ancient poetry off the top of his head. In his mind he has them in the palm of his hand.

But he fails to really distinguish Christianity from the crowd. It is just one of many ways in which to live one’s life. It is, the way he presents it, just another philosophy in a long line of philosophies.

As a result, not many people were converted. What should have been his greatest accomplishment was a tremendous failure. After this Paul proceeds to Corinth, tail between his legs. But on the way, Paul was able to assess what went wrong.

In every other place he had been, there was scandal, there was persecution associated with his message. He would preach to the Jews in the town and then get run out fairly quickly due to his message. What was different about this place that failed to convert the Athenians? The scandal of the cross.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you…odd” – Flannery O’Connor

A philosophy that presents just a nice way of living—even the best way of living—is not something that is worthy of mass conversion because people are caught up in their own way of living. What good is a way of life that tells you to be good when that is not the way the world works? People cheat in order to place themselves at the top of the heap. That is the way of life.

Paul forgot this in his address to the Athenians. So when he got to Corinth, he changed tactics.

“When I came to you brothers, I did not come proclaiming the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

Paul had gotten away from his bread and butter: the scandal of the cross—Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified.

Jews demand signs. They wanted to know that Jesus was the deliverer come from God—the deliverer who would remove Roman rule. Jesus did not provide that in their eyes, he was crucified.

Greeks seek wisdom. Jesus proclaims wisdom, but the inversion of society does not compute. This is foolishness. As a philosopher, St. Augustine considered Christians beneath him. He sought wisdom beyond what was seemingly offered.

Jesus came to show a better way—a way of humiliation and agony. The cross of Christ is the stumbling block to Jews, because what Messiah sent from God could not deliver even himself from the shameful death of crucifixion?

The cross is folly to the philosophers because why would God willingly subject himself to crucifixion when he could simply expand their minds? Why would crucifixion even be necessary?

Because of my sins.

My sins put him there. And your sins. In fact the sins of the whole world throughout all time were what caused Jesus to hang there on the cross in our place.

The scandal of the cross is that we are all sinful people, yet Christ died for us anyway. The Son of God willingly took your sins and my sins, and the sins of even the most notorious sinner and died for them, that all who want to may have eternal life with the Father. This is silliness.

Why can we not merit eternal life on our own? Because it is a free gift. Even the most saintly person we can think of—Mother Theresa for instance—cannot merit eternal salvation on her own. “But the rules are supposed to save us” cry the Jews. “But our minds can surely be enlightened to the point of salvation” cries philosophy. But the cross flies in the face of both of these. Salvation is offered freely and all who want it must unite themselves to that sacrifice.

This unification with death is causes new life to spring forth. This is what St. Paul is talking about to the Ephesians in our reading today.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. And walk in love, as Christ love us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

New life springs forth from his wounds because it is the death of sin. All sins committed are paid for on the cross. Their forgiveness just needs to be desired.

Beloved, this is where we come in. We too must preach the scandal of Christ in our lives. In everything we do, we must show that the knowledge of the forgiveness of our sins and the price that it required has changed us. We have been crucified with Christ such that we no longer live, but he lives in us. We must radically encounter the world and show them that same love that Christ showed us. Because our sins are forgiven, we should seek to show others that their sins, no matter how great are forgiven as well.

We must seek to show the world what Jesus proclaims: “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living brad which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The world offers many things that seem good. Things are offered which are even miraculous. But even miracles are not salvific. Only one thing saves, Jesus—the bread of life. And when we partake of this heavenly food, we partake of the forgiveness of our sins which were sacrificed on the cross through Jesus Christ. As we partake of this salvation, new life springs forth—new life that draws all people to the same.

And so beloved, go forth and preach scandal. Preach scandal for the salvation of the whole world.

In the name of the F, S, and HS. Amen.