Monday, January 05, 2009

Leaving & Cleaving

Over the weekend I was in Grand Rapids, MI to preside over the wedding of my friend, and former congregant, Sean McDonald. It was a beautiful wedding and I am grateful to have been a part of this wonderful day in the lives of Sean and Laura.

A couple of other bonuses over the weekend were getting to see Rob Wieland, also a member of our congregation in Colorado Springs, but now studying at RPTS in Pittsburgh, PA, and Philip Loden, who has been at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, CO for the past 4 years (Philip is also a member of the congregation). The three of us were hosted marvelously by the Rev. Ray Lanning household, and were made to feel at home throughout the course of the wedding festivities and business.

Sean and Laura requested that I preach from Ephesians 5:22-33—that classic marriage text—and I found it a frustrating exercise to try to prepare a “homily” on one of the most profound texts in all of the Bible. Nonetheless, I limited myself to a few points that could be drawn from the text, but there is much more to be mined from this treasure trove...

I began by noting that it is impossible, and unbiblical, to separate theology from practical living, and that in this text, in fact, Paul has grounded all of his practical instruction about marriage upon the foundation of Christology. That is, marriage is ultimately to be a reflection of the person and work of Jesus Christ—the husband loving his wife as Christ loved the Church, and the wife submitting to her husband even as the Church submits to Jesus Christ.

But then I went to the quote from Genesis 2:24, “A man shall leave his father and mother and holdfast to his wife.”, and then Paul's astounding statement immediately afterwards, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” In other words, Paul is saying that the ultimate referent in that Genesis 2 passage is actually Jesus Christ and His bride the Church.

I then developed the idea of leaving and cleaving being something bigger than a single-sided action of the child—or in this case—the Son, but rather that it involved and involves the Father or parents also. Indeed, it was at the cross that this leaving and cleaving ultimately happened, and it is fascinating to note that Psalm 22:1, which Jesus quotes while hanging on the cross—“My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”—and particularly this word “forsake”, is the exact same verb as “leave” in Genesis 2:24!

Thus at the cross there was the most profound and mysterious “leaving and cleaving” that happened...and it involved not only the Son leaving the involved the Father forsaking the Son. Now, words and human minds fail us here. This is holy ground and almost too deep to make comment on. But somehow, as Athanasius said, “Remaining what He was, He became what He was not”.

...anyway, I struggled with the right words at this point and even made an unfortunate comment, with unintended consequences, of Christ leaving His “native” relationship with the Father (which Rev. Lanning corrected me on). I should have just brought us to the vastness of the mystery and called for a time of gazing with our hands over our mouths...