This article was originally written for
the St. Michael’s Anglican Church’s October edition of our newsletter, THE
MESSENGER. The message is sobering to my
spirit and I hope to yours as well. - Rev. Canon Thad
But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. Mark 10:6-9
As an article for THE MESSENGER this will be much different from anything I have ever written to the family of St. Michael's. What I am about to write flows from something that was shared with me. Someone I highly respect as a pastor shared with me a conversation he had with other religious leaders. It was not a political meeting. It was a conversation of shepherds of the flock of God who like watchmen are disturbed by what they believe to be destructive forces that are storming the gate of something holy to the Lord. They all shared this common concern which moved them into deep prayer for our country. I am convinced their concern is on the heart and mind of countless pastors who are trying to be faithful to our biblical witness as Christians. What were they concerned about??? They see the foundation and institution of marriage under a violent assault and fear that after November 6th the religious heritage of our nation may never be the same.
The clear teaching of Holy Scripture is that marriage is a covenant entered into by a man and a woman. We call this covenant HOLY MATRIMONY. Listen to these words from the Book of Common Prayer that captures and clarifies the teaching of God’s Word. Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony. The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation...Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life...(and) it signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and His Church. At the heart of marriage is a display of God’s graceful and faithful activity. In this God-given unity between a man and a woman the Lord desires to bring a wondrous display of the kind of love and fruitfulness that flows between Christ and His Church. To change or re-define marriage introduces a distortion to what God has declared and what marriage represents.
Secondly, this covenantal relationship has always been the building block of society. God designed it that way. Marital union brings a fulfillment, a joy, and a stability that is intentional and unequaled in human relationships. Once again the Book of Common Prayer highlights this truth of marital union, declaring it is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. This is consistent with one of the first commands of God to a united Adam and Eve: Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. Marriage multiplies the presence and proclamation of God’s Glory by its fruitfulness. Moreover, the love of a husband and wife gives birth to children who in turn become ambassadors of God’s image to a broken and sinful world. Marriage and family are to spread the fragrance of holiness and faithfulness. Sadly, history is filled with the tragic testimony of nations who have distorted and destroyed the family as the foundation to a healthy, blessed society.
Finally, what has been unique to our heritage as Americans is the protection of religious liberty and conscience. Godly men and women who sought to birth a new nation under God built into the framework of these United States a commitment to keep religious belief free from tyranny and government intervention. But the climate in the highest levels of government has changed toward this constitutional commitment. Not only is a re-definition of marriage being sought by various forces, but this “new normal” (borrowing a title from a popular TV show) is postured to secure this re-definition by introducing a new kind of persecution to the church that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Most of us have been aware of the action by the government requiring religious institutions (most notably, those related to the Roman Catholic Church) to provide birth control devices to employees and clients, even at the religious institution’s expense. Predictably, churches deeply rooted in a biblically orthodox faith are objecting to this direct assault on her faith and practice, but the forces pursuing the agenda at hand are turning to the legal arena to silence such objections. What alarmed my friend and his colleagues in ministry is how this assault is now being directed toward the sacred nature of marriage. Already churches that stand for the traditional, biblical definition of marriage are being accused of “hate crimes.” Lawsuits will hound churches and/or religious groups that stand for the historic teaching on Holy Matrimony. This is neither a little thing, nor a hypothetical threat. As states now debate the definition of marriage, churches standing for its sacredness are being drawn into the web of litigation and legal persecution. No wonder these ( and so many) Godly leaders are concerned. It should be sobering to anyone who upholds the sacredness of marriage to watch a nation begin to put asunder what God establishes and declares to be holy.
Of course, it raises the question: What must we do? The answer is best demonstrated in the lives of these same men and women who were moved to pray. Do you see it? They began to pray. It is the first and most important work of the Christian. Our Anglican tradition has always upheld the importance of praying for those entrusted with governing the nations. But usurping God’s Word is much more than a political battle, it is a spiritual battle. So, please pray for our nation, especially with an election at hand. The way we vote may hinder or advance a particular agenda, but only prayer can lay the foundation to restoring a nation. Second, adopt a position of repentance. Repentance is the on-going posture of the Christian who knows that God’s thoughts and ways are different from the world. Any one of us can be swept along by the current trends of the culture. Finally, pray for revival. . Just today I was at the office and a brother in Christ sat down next to me. As we talked about many problems facing our world, he said, “Never forget that tribulations are often the soil from which God’s reviving Spirit begins a new planting.” When we see things in a big mess and we go to our knees before the Lord, we are on the cusp of revival. So pray. Pray for Marriage. Pray that Jesus’ love will be seen in this unique covenant. Pray that our families will create an environment of health that blesses our neighborhoods and nation. Pray that forces which mock God’s word and pressure God’s Church will be neutered and removed. This would be a good time to call upon the Lord for heavenly aid . . . the aid of angels and archangels. May the Lord be merciful to us and bless us with a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As on the day of Pentecost, may the Church be given a language of truth and love that brings light to a darkening world. Bring the Fire.