Bride of Christ (Proverbs 31)
- Liturgical Date: Katharina von Bora Luther + December 20, 2017
- Order of Service: Vespers
- Hymns: LSB #335, 345, 348
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. (Proverbs 31:10)
Throughout this “Sainted Advent” series, one of the underlying themes has been marriage. St. Nicholas helping three young women of his congregation with dowries so they could get married. St. Lucia deciding she'd never get married. Tonight, we see St. Katharina von Bora Luther, a woman who was told she could never marry find the one man she wanted to marry. Whether he liked it or not.
Katharina von Bora was the nun smuggled out of her convent in a fish barrel who would marry Martin Luther. Martin considered her an excellent wife. His nickname for her was “my rib,” pointing back to Eve's creation from Adam in the Garden of Eden. Katharina was Martin's Proverbs 31 wife.
A Proverbs 31 wife is “an excellent wife … far more precious than jewels.” She is to show her husband the same love and respect that the Church shows Jesus. The Church is Jesus' excellent, Proverbs 31 Bride. As a Proverbs 31 Bride, the Church has a demanding list of things to do, but she does them with great joy and love because they are for her husband.
The demanding list begins with the most important. “The heart of her husband trusts in her.” If a husband cannot trust his wife, or a wife her husband, there can be no joy in that marriage. Jesus' heart does trust His Bride. This trust is shown as “He commissioned the Church … to the ends of the earth, among all nations, from sea to sea. If she was not going to persevere to the end, her husband's heart would not be confident about her.” Jesus promises, “Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus trusts His Bride because His work creates and sustains her throughout history. His work is proclaimed by His Bride.
This proclamation doesn't just happen within these walls. No matter what the government may decide, the Church proclaims her husband to the whole world. “You shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” Jesus says before He ascended into Heaven. The Church flourished through the Apostles preaching the Gospel when it was illegal. Most of them were imprisoned and/or killed for their proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” The Church's proclamation makes Jesus known throughout the world. The city gates were the place where the city's major business was handled. The elders of the city would gather there to administer justice and settle disputes among citizens. Boaz came to the elders at the city gates of Bethlehem to become Ruth's kinsman-redeemer. As a member of the Christ's Bride, Boaz publicly declared his allegiance to his Savior and became one of Jesus' earthly ancestors. He received this blessing because he joined himself to Jesus' Bride.
A true Christian cannot say, “I can be a Christian without going to Church.” This is a lie straight from the pit of Hell. It goes along with the heresy that salvation begins with Jesus at Baptism, but I have to finish it off. All I have to do is be “good enough.” This is the most commonly believed heresy in the world. It is taught by Roman Catholics, the Reformed, the non-denominational churches and the heretical churches that have broken off of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. She is Jesus' true Bride. Only in her will you find salvation. Not that just sitting in the pew will save you, but you should hear the message of salvation through faith alone by grace alone on account of Christ alone there. You cannot hear this message anywhere else.
Everywhere else, you will hear the message of one of the “bad daughters” of the Church. Messages that sound like Jesus but drip with Satan's venom. Augustine writes, “They too have our sacraments, they have our Scriptures, they have our Amen and Alleluia, most of them have our creed, many of them have our Baptism.” “Heresies are generated from Christian seed; they are thorns because they have been nourished outside of God's paradise, that is, outside of the catholic Church.”
The “bad daughters” are the “many women [who] have done excellently.” Heresies sound excellent. They trap people in their excellency, but they do not give you pure, unadulterated Gospel. They will have some Gospel, but they will mix it in with the poisons of this world. Self-help psychology. Pop culture. Legalism. These things are prevalent in Christendom today. Many Christians fall for their illusory excellencies. They sound excellent, but they are deceptively shallow when it comes time to collect the promised blessings. They cause you to plunge headfirst into the rocks just shy of the deep water surrounding them.
These heresies cannot give salvation like the Church. Satan dresses them up to look like the Church, but they are not the Church. They fall far short of fulfilling their promise of salvation. He does this even among us. Even here at Trinity. Satan has done his job well. He brings people to an idea that we only have to go to church “regularly.” And regularly can mean Christmas and Easter or just Christmas or Easter. There are too many “more important” things in life. He can get away with it because he has removed three books from many homes: the Bible, the Catechism and the hymnal. He convinces people they don't need to read their Bible to be a Christian. They end up not knowing how to properly answer Satan's challenges through friends and family. He causes them to crumble like a house of cards in the slightest wind. He convinces people that the Catechism only needs to be used in the classroom for Confirmation. It has no other legitimate use in a Christian's life. He convinces people that the hymnal is only useful for Sunday morning. That's one of the reasons we have such low attendance during the week. Satan convinces people that remembering the Sabbath day only covers Sunday. Each of these convictions builds on top of the others. They compound together so that the Bride of Christ seems to be tearing herself apart.
But “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against” the Church. She will stand forever. After all, “where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” The Church is the excellent Bride who continually honors her husband. His heart trusts her. She proclaims Him Lord of all. She is the thrilling voice sounding in the world. She is thrilled because she knows that her husband is returning soon. And she prays for that Day to come quickly every time she gathers for worship. Amen.