What is Marriage?

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

On July 14, 1833, a man named John Keble preached a sermon at St. Mary’s in Oxford. The text he used for his sermon was 1 Samuel 12:23: “As for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way.” This sermon is credited with starting the Tractarian Movement, of which we are heirs being a very Anglo-Catholic diocese—high theology and high liturgy.

The incident that sparked this sermon was the state over-stepping their bounds and acted against the Church. The act? The Church Temporalities Act (Ireland) of 1833. This was a major reorganization of the Church in Ireland which reduced the number of dioceses in Ireland from 22 to 12. A seemingly small act by the look of it. But was it?

Should the state be able to define how a Church is run—even an established Church? Kebel said no. He equated this act with Saul offering the sacrifice before battle with the Philistines instead of waiting for Samuel—the authorized person–to come offer the sacrifice properly. Saul saw his men, shaking with fear at the prospect of going to battle with a horde, armed to the teeth, with nothing but a wing and a prayer. So he sought to lead, to steady the legs of his troops before they all headed for the hills.

As the smoke from the illegitimate sacrifice rose in the air, the wind brought the smell of burning flesh to Samuel the prophet. This was sacrifice was supposed to be the sacrifice that lead the people to victory in union with God—but instead, Samuel announce to Saul that this misstep would be his undoing and the downfall of his rule. For God’s favor left Saul the moment he set flame to that sacrifice.

So why do I bring up a scene that we heard last week and a sermon from almost 200 years ago? Because on Friday, the US Supreme court offered their own illegitimate sacrifice when they handed down their ruling on Same-Sex Marriage. They have attempted to re-defined marriage for the Church.

Now let me back up a bit and talk about the Church-State marriage bed.

For centuries, Churches and the State had the same goal—the stability for future generations. The most stable situation is for a child to be raised in a loving home with both parents.[1] So it benefits the State for marriages to occur, the majority of which result in children, who are then raised by their parents, resulting in children who are equally cared for and allow for a diversity of gender specific support. (Remember, this is the ideal—the reality is much messier.) This allows for much more stream-lined processes for instances of taxes, benefits, inheritance, and access to private information.

So what is the nature of marriage? The nature of marriage is for the mutual upbuilding of one another and for the procreation and education of children. This understanding of marriage is why the state sees marriage something it should support and encourage.

The standard definition for such a marriage would be something like: the union between one man and one woman, who mutually agree to life as man and wife intended for life. Over the years, this has been tweaked a bit, all of which lead to the decision to expand the definition. The definition now would be: the union between two people, who mutually agree to life together in marriage.

Now with the expansion of the definition of marriage, the conjugal nature—the procreation of children—is removed as a part of marriage. It is optional now due to the fact that two people of the same sex cannot of themselves produce children. So the stability that this conjugal nation provides is no longer seen as a benefit to the state.

And this expansion of the definition will not be the last. Now that marriage is simply about the mutual upbuilding of two people as far as the state is concerned, why limit it to two? Why put limitations at all?

Yesterday I asked some questions on Facebook, and had lovely conversions with many people on this matter. And from all of the conversations, I came to the conclusion (and I am by no means the first to come up with this): the state needs to remove itself from the business of marriage. If it no longer is in the best interest of the state to uphold traditional marriage as a good—why be in it at all? I am no tax expert, and this is just one man’s opinion, but wouldn’t it be easier for the government to simply remove themselves from the business of deciding who can and cannot be marriage, and simply allow people to designate for themselves all the things that it was in cahoots with the Church in the first place? Allow everyone to designate their own beneficiaries, jointly file with whomever they choose, etc? Again, not my circus, not my monkeys, so I will not tell them how to go about fixing this.

But I have been given the charge for the care of souls, and so I am authorized to define what is and is not a marriage in the eyes of God. Marriage, despite what happened on Friday, has not changed. It still remains an institution established by God between one man and one woman for the mutual upbuilding of one another and for the procreation and education of children. That will never change.

But how we proceed should change. The message that comes across in the eyes of those who have just received the ability to marry in the eyes of the state see this is a thumb in the eye of the Church. You have not loved us, and so we have rejected you and sought a new way. This, may be even worse than the State’s incursion. If anyone ever feels they are not loved by the Church, we have failed. All are loved. All are welcome. All are accepted for who they are. The love of God is shown to every member of creation because all are made in God’s image and likeness, and as such have inherent dignities that cannot be taken away. All equally fall short of God’s glory and are equally in need of forgiveness. The Church needs to make this a first priority in her message.

The slogan is in the news “Love is love.” This is a great opportunity to show the world what true love looks like, and we fail if we do not seize this opportunity.

So the take away is: God loves all people, but the State’s idea of love does not coincide with God’s love. The definition of marriage is best left in the hands of the originator of the institution. The State needs to be careful lest it truly find itself following in the footsteps of Saul. There is a much better king to follow in this instance—David. David is a man, who when confronted with his sin, repented and rededicated himself to God.

Beloved, we live in times that are seemingly troubled, but know that we are not walking alone. John Keble inspired his country to reclaim their faith and change their trajectory. “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” And with God’s grace, we will stand up as countless others have stood up before us. And “As for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way.”

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

[1] http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/children/children.cfm

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