Sermon Text: John 2:1-11
In the second chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus never once talks about marriage. Jesus never gives a speech on marriage. He never writes a pamphlet on marriage. You don’t even see one sentence come out of His mouth in the second chapter of the Gospel of John about marriage, and yet for the past two thousand years, Orthodox saint after Orthodox saint, Orthodox commentator after Orthodox commentator consistently tell us that here in the second chapter of John’s Gospel at the wedding of Cana, Jesus put His stamp of approval on marriage.
Contrary to what some of the radical sects in the first century were trying to teach, that we should no longer practice marriage, that we should now live as the angels, that no longer should a man and a woman come together in marriage and bear the fruit of children, Jesus attends a wedding, and by attending this wedding, He puts his stamp of approval on marriage and says marriage is still for today. Marriage is still holy and righteous and undefiled. Marriage is still something which God blesses and approves of.
But notice what the Orthodox commentators are saying whenever they talk about Jesus in this way: Whenever the Orthodox commentators talk about Jesus in this way, they’re saying something important about his actions. They were saying He was able to condone something by His actions alone.
Jesus did not have to give a speech on marriage or talk about marriage to give His approval of it. All he had to do was simply attend the wedding. And the question I want to ask us, is: What types of things do we give approval to, through our actions?
We might not stand up on any box and give a speech praising this or that or the other thing, but simply by our attendance, simply by the things that we do, simply by the places we choose to go, what are we giving approval to in our own lives? That’s very interesting. The sinfulness of man, the fallenness of man, it shows itself sadly even within the church. for we have not yet been perfected. we say, “I want to follow Jesus. I want to follow Christ.” but what do we really mean by that when we say, “I want to follow Christ?” Well, we want to feel righteous. We want to feel holy. we want to feel good about ourselves. We really do. and because we want to feel this way, we want to have Jesus in our lives. A little bit. to scratch that itch, we will go to church once a week, maybe twice. We may pray a couple times a day. we may even hang up some icons of Jesus and the saints on our walls. And because we have peppered our life here and there with Christianity, we convince ourselves that those are the reasons that we must really be Christians. “Surely the fact that I go to church, surely the fact that I pray, surely the fact that I hang up some pictures of Jesus, that alone is all the proof I need in the world that I am a follower of Christ.”
But you see, those things, while good, those are only the first step. That’s just letting Jesus into the front door and into the front room of your house. As long as we can keep Him penned up there, in that one room, as long as He doesn’t have access to every corner of our lives, then we feel good, we feel elect, we’re Christians, we feel comfortable. Where things start to go too far, where we start to become very uncomfortable, is when Jesus is not content to stay at the front door, when He’s not content to stay in the front room, but He starts walking through your whole house, wanting to clean out every single corner of it.
Just for a moment, let’s get outside of church attendance. Let’s get outside of occasional prayer and scripture reading. Let’s get outside of the fact that you hang pictures of Jesus in your house. Do you want Jesus to critique you on your marriage and the type of husband or wife that you are? Do you want Jesus to critique your parenting skills, or your grandparenting skills? Do you want Jesus to meddle with your checkbook, and what you do with your money? Do you want Jesus looking in your refrigerator? Do you invite Jesus to help you plan all your meals? When you sit down to read a book, do you want Jesus to have something to say about what it is that you’re reading? When you go for entertainment, when you want to watch a movie or listen to the radio, do you want Jesus to be honored by that? Do you want Jesus to critique what you do even when you’re just looking for some relaxation and entertainment?
See, this is where it gets personal. This is where people get angry and uncomfortable. This is where people start saying, “No, I don’t want judgmentalism. I don’t want all these rules and laws and regulations.” You know what? I don’t either. I’m not giving you any rules. I’m not giving you any laws, I’m not giving you any legislations. I’m not giving you any lists of dos and don’ts, except for one. And it’s been spoken in Scripture in many different ways. Jesus Himself said the very first commandment is to love the lord your God with all of your mind, with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your strength.
Let me ask you something. If you love God will all of your heart, mind, soul and strength, how much of you is there left after that? Doesn’t that cover everything? He doesn’t say “Love the Lord with all of your heart, except when you’re watching a movie. Love the Lord with all your mind, expcept when you’re thinking about politics. Love the Lord with all your soul, except in your marriage and with your children. Love the Lord with all your strength, but not when you’re planning your meals . . .”
It’s been said other ways. The Apostle Paul wrote First Corinthians. It says, “Whether you eat or whether you drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.“ Well, let me ask you, do you vote for the glory of God? Do you eat for the glory of God? Do you seek entertainment for the glory of God? What about your wardrobe? The way you dress, the amount of money you spend on your clothes, and your hairstyle, your jewelry, makeup, everything. In your heart of hearts, is your intention to glorify God? Is that the point of it, or is Jesus even in your mind when you focus on those things?
In the second epistle that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he gave us a command. It is something that God requires of us, something that Jesus requires of you, and of me. He commands us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. What do you think about? Do you think about fashion, do you think about money, do you think about politics? Do you think about gardening, do you think about shooting guns, do you think about hunting, do you think about fishing? Do you think about toys, dinosaurs, dolls? Do you think about food? Do you think about romance? Do you think about relationships? Do you think about physical pleasure? Have you figured out by now that there’s nothing that doesn’t go on this list?
Here’s what I’m not telling you. I’m not telling you to put God first. I am not telling you that if Jesus takes up about 15% of your life, that you need to make sure it’s at least 51%. What I ‘m telling you is it needs to be 100%. That’s right, 100%. Every second of every waking moment, of every day, of every night, whether your’e eating or drinking, giving somebody a kiss or a hug, or seeking entertainment, or refreshment, or anything else that you would think of. You need to do it for the glory of God. You need to do it for Christ.
In recent days, I’ve had more than one person in the Orthodox church approach me about different questions. Some of those questions have concerned what sort of entertainment is okay, with movies and television. And somebody else approached me and asked, “Well, what’s okay with fashion, and clothes and hairstyles and things like that?” And I didn’t see any connection between these questions that have come my way, and the Gospel for today, until I realized how Orthodox Christians have interpreted it for two thousand years.
There’s no requirement for Jesus to even open His mouth and say, “I approve of marriage. Marraige is good. I like marriage.” He doesn’t have to. All he has to do is just go there. And by going there, He shows that he approves. That is how the Church has interpreted that passage for two thousand years. So a particular movie or television show or story, if it glorifies wickedness . . . Now, I’m not just saying it has something in it which happens to be wicked; the Bible has that. The Bible itself reports murders, adultery, rape, sex, war, everything. but it doesn’t glorify it. The Bible records the fact that these sinful things have happened. And within the Bible, it interprets these things as sin.
If you study a history book that is about an Orthodox nation, like Georgia, or Russia, or Greece, you are going to read about a lot of sin. You’re going to read about murders. You’re going to read about adultery. You’re going to read about theft. You’re going to read about pride, and you’re going to read about wars and horrific battles. But the question is, “How are these events interpreted?”
See, if you read the Scriptures, these sorts of events are interpreted as being evil. But what if you read a novel or you watch a movie or you take pleasure in a TV show, where these events not only occur, but they are glorified, they are praised, they are lifted up as being something good? If you take pleasure in these things, just by being there you’re granting approval to it.
I think about fashion. There’s a lot of examples I could give, but a current fashion that’s really big is for teenage boys and, you know, guys in their twenties or thirties that act like teenage boys, to have their pants pulled down about six inches below their waist, so that you can see their underwear. Now, is there any canon law in the Orthodox Church that we can consult to tell us the precise number of inches from the waist the pants may be? No. Thank God that’s not something they had to deal with at the Ecumenical councils.
But where did that come from? Where did that particular fashion come from? It originated in prison. And at least in this country, when men go to prison, there are no women prisoners, just other men. So some of the guys, as they should, remain celibate during this time that they are incarcerated. Some of the men do not. Some of these men, since they are only surrounded by other men, begin to behave as homosexuals and satisfy their lust. They need some way to advertise to let other men in that same prison know that they are available, and this is the way that was invented.
So this just started out as a prison thing; it had nothing to do with fashion. They’d pull their pants down a little bit, show some of their underwear, just a few inches, and when other prisoners would see this, they’d say, “Oh, there’s a guy that I can go sleep with.”
It’s embarrassing to even hear this, isn’t it, to even talk about it? This is one of those things you hear and you just, as that one guy says, “things that make you go bluhhhhh.” It’s disgusting. It is. It’s filthy, it’s disgusting, it’s sinful, and if I preached like this in Canada, I’d probably be arrested for saying that it’s sinful. But it is. It’s wicked, it’s sinful, it’s disgusting, it’s where it got started, and somewhere along the way, some guys outside of prison–neighbors of you and neighbors of me–got to thinking that was a pretty cool fashion statement. “I think I wanna pull down my pants, too, and walk around in public and show people my underwear.”
Now, if you ask, “Where does the Bible say that’s wrong?”, if you ask, “Where does the Church teach that that is wrong?”, you’ve actually already asked the wrong question. You see, whenever we say, “Well, is it really wrong to watch this movie? Is it really wrong to dress like that?”, there’s an assumption we make. We are assuming that we’re free to do whatever we want, whenever we want, with the exception of a few dos and don’ts that are on the list somewhere in the Bible or in the Church, and that as long as we avoid that list of dos and don’ts, we can literally do anything we want to seek self fulfillment, self-exploration, to find our voice, to find out “who I really am.” So if there’s something I want to do, and you tell me not to do it, I want you to show me where it is on this list. “Where on this list does it say I can’t dress like that, or act like that, or do those things?” Wrong question.
The right question is, “This thing that I’m about to do, how will it bring glory to Christ?” It’s a different perspective, isn’t it?
Imagine that you’re a seventeen-year-old boy and you’re wanting to drop your drawers down and show your underwear, because you think it looks cool. Now, what are your motivations for that? Why might you want to do that? It might be because you saw some rapper, some sort of gangster rapper that was dressed that way, and you want to look like him. You’re not trying to mimic Christ; you’re trying to mimic the world. It might be that you haven’t really watched TV, you haven’t really looked at music videos, you don’t really know about all that stuff, but some of your friends at school dress like that. Or maybe you were just at Wal-Mart, or at Target, and you saw that they were selling some different pants, and maybe the model for those pants was some teenager dressed with his pants pulled down just a little bit, and you want to copy that because you think it looks cool.
Now, notice what’s absent from your thinking. There are many motivations that you might have, but the one thing absent from your thinking is, “How does this glorify Christ?” It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to copy the prisoners or not. It doesn’t matter whether you’re thinking “gay” or not. It doesn’t matter whether you’re copying a rapper or not. It doesn’t matter whether you’re just walking through Wal-Mart and you see something, and you think, “That’s cool. I would like that.” Those are all different motivations, but the commonality between them all is that Jesus is left out of the picture.
Whenever you think about buying those jeans and only hike them up halfway, you should ask yourself, “Wait a minute. If I only hike them up halfway and I show my drawers to the world, how does this glorify Christ?” And I think you would hear crickets chirping, because I think you don’t need a theological degree; you don’t need to have read the canons of the ecumenical councils. You don’t even need to have read much of the Bible, to look at this particular fashion statement, and be able to give absolutely no reason why that would be glorifying to Christ.
But see, we don’t want to think like this, even those of us that do not want to dress like a gangsta. We don’t want to think like this, because we know that it’s gonna get too pervasive in our lives. It’s going to become too meddlesome, because maybe we don’t wear pants like the gangstas, but the next time you’re deciding what you’re going to eat for lunch, do you just want to eat whatever you want to eat, or do you want to ask yourself, “Well, wait a minute; What’s going to glorify Christ the most, the triple Big Mac with chili cheese dogs, or something healthy for the temple?” Next time you flip on the TV or you go to watch a movie, do you really want to be asking, “Now, how does this glorify Christ? How does this honor Him? How does this lift up His kingdom and His church?” Or do you want to just take a break and not think about that, and just sit down and watch something just to enjoy it?
See, these are the things that start hitting closer to home. What is the reason I want to spend money on that? What is the reason I want to do that? What is the reason that I want to spend time with that person over there? What is the reason that I want to wear this? Or eat this, or watch that?
I cannot find a canon of the Church or a verse in Scripture that tells you specifically not to watch this movie, not to get your hair painted with rainbow stripes, not to get a tattoo of Lady Gaga on your arm. There are millions of things that you should not do, that I cannot give you any Scripture verse for. There are thousands of things that you should avoid, that I cannot point to an Ecumenical Council to prove.
But I’m just gonna turn it back on you. Every decision that you make, whether it’s in who you vote for, whether it’s in what you eat, whether it’s what you watch, whether it’s what you listen to, whether it’s what you wear, whether it’s your marriage, whether it’s your children, whether it’s your grandchildren, whether it’s your checkbook: Every decision that you make, every second of every day, needs to be for the glory of God. It needs to be done with Christ in mind. And if you are constantly–and I mean constantly–thinking along those lines, I doubt that you’re going to do much of anything that a godly person would be able to object to. Let us live our lives, every heartbeat, every breath, for the glory of God.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, God is one.
This sermon was preached on Sunday morning, January 27, 2013, at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.