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Summary: On this Father’s Day, how far can husbands carry their wives’ interests first and foremost in their hearts?

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How Far Can You Carry Your Wife?

Ephesians 5:25-33

June 17, 2007

As I begin the message this morning, I need to come clean with you. I need to be up front and honest. I read in a preaching journal this week about Brian Gray, a pastor in Denver Colorado, who suggested that the Father’s Day sermon ought to be co-written with the pastor’s wife. I did not take that advice.

Number 1 – if she co-wrote it, it would be a whole lot longer than it is going to be because she always has more to say than I do. But more importantly,

Number 2 – my wife’s perspective on this might shatter the well-developed illusions that I have constructed among you about my intelligence, sensitivity, charm, and status as an all-around great guy.

So it is Father’s Day. No Father’s Day would be complete without also talking about women. I was introduced this week to a Lyle Lovett song, “She’s No Lady, She’s My Wife.” Toni really likes Lyle Lovett and has several of his CD’s, but I’ve never been a fan, although I remember coming to believe that there is hope for all of the not-so-talented, not-great-looking men out there when he married Julia Roberts. It’s true that it didn’t last, but for a little while, fate smiled on every average Joe Six-Pack out there, bringing them a glimmer of hope.

Have you heard about the big event that is scheduled to take place in Finland just two weeks from next Saturday? As city in Finland whose name I can’t pronounce will host the 15th Annual World Wife Carrying Championships. It is a two week long festival and includes such activities as wife-carrying karaoke and a best costume contest. The highlight of the festival however – the big draw – the event everyone comes to see – is the wife-carrying race.

A wife must weigh at least 108 pounds and a husband must carry her around a three hundred yard obstacle course consisting of sand, grass, asphalt, two dry obstacles, and two water obstacles.

Now I am unable to verify this, but I read this week that the roots of this competition date back to the late 1800’s. Apparently there was a local bandit who needed some partners to help him carry out his crimes. But he was smart enough to know that you can’t accept just any old criminal into the gang. You have to make sure that your desperado really deserves to be included. Now at the time, it was a fairly common practice to steal farm animals and women from neighboring towns and villages, so hoisting a large bundle over one’s shoulder was an important part of the job description. The head bandit held tryouts to make sure that the men he chose were physically able to do the heavy lifting that would be required. From these simple beginnings came the modern day wife carrying championships.

In the modern day contest, there is a 15 second penalty for each time a husband drops his wife. The wives may be carried any way the competitors choose with the exception that no harness or other artificial device may be used. The three most common methods are piggy-back, over-the-shoulder like a sack of potatoes, or the fireman’s carry. The winning couple receives a trophy and the wife’s weight in beer.

Amazingly, one of the leaders of Finland’s feminist movement considers the event not to be demeaning at all, but rather uplifting and authentic because it celebrates companionship. Go figure.

Perhaps by this time, you are wondering what all of this has to do with Father’s Day, or for that matter, the fifth chapter of Ephesians.

When I am doing pre-marital counseling with young couples, we often talk about particular Scripture passages. I always give the couples a choice of which passage we use during the wedding ceremony. There are all sorts of possibilities, among them Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord.” Seldom have I had a bride choose this set of verses. Grooms generally don’t mind, but they are overruled. I just tell them to get used to it.

But I believe that if we truly and honestly look at this passage, we will discover that the main burden is placed on the husband and not the wife. This whole section of Scripture from 5:21 – 6:9 sets out rules that define the social and cultural relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and slaves and masters. In that cultural context, there were well-defined boundaries for those who held subordinate and dominant positions of power and prestige. Everybody knew their “place.”

But Ephesians 5, even though it doesn’t sound like it on the surface, sets a standard which is in direct opposition to conventional attitudes. It begins with a command that everyone should subordinate him or herself to others. The hierarchy of power is flattened to only two levels: God and Christ are in the dominant position and everyone else is subordinate. Since we are all on the same level in relationship to Christ, then it is easy to see that among ourselves we are to mutually subordinate to one antoher. There is no chain of command beginning with God and Christ flowing down to husbands, to wives, to children, to slaves. There are only two levels: the divine level and the human level.

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