Earlier today the ladies of our house went to the baby shower for the second baby of some dear friends whose wedding I was honored to officiate several years back. Then tonight I attended a retirement party for my graduate mentor in religious studies, Dr. James Cutsinger. Those two events are worthy of reflection, but I start teaching the first of five summer classes Monday, and I’m not quite ready…so whatever reflections I have will remain in my head for now. However, at the party a friend mentioned that he would be officiating a wedding soon and wasn’t sure what to say. I told him of the aforementioned friends’ wedding sermon containing some of my favorite marriage quotations which I thought he would appreciate. It was one of those sermons I enjoyed preaching…the type where you really feel as though it communicated well. So, I’ll share it here:
Marriage is what brings us together today, and the preacher who thinks that the bride and groom will remember the wedding sermon is very likely deceiving himself. In truth, I’m not sure I even heard the sermon at my own wedding.
At this moment you two are probably too full of emotion, excitement, and relief to hear anything, and that is as it should be. As D Bonhoeffer said in his wedding sermon for his closest friend:
“It is right and proper for a bride and bridegroom to welcome and celebrate their wedding day with a unique sense of triumph. When all the difficulties, obstacles, hindrances, doubts, and misgivings have been, not made light of, but honestly faced and overcome.”
Getting to and through the wedding day is no small accomplishment. It marks a triumph for your love for each other.
Still, I encourage you to look on everything in your relationship to this point…joys, beauties, frustrations, challenges…as a foreshadowing of and perhaps preparation for what lies before you. Today you come together as one flesh—today you become family.
This joining does not simply double your blessings and sufferings…it is not some “dream within a dream”…in your union, joy and pain grow exponentially as your family grows.
Furthermore, in the midst of the growing challenges of family life you will soon discover—perhaps even on your honeymoon—that you are completely incompatible.
As GK Chesterton has said,
“I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.”
So while you may remember very little of what I say, you will soon find the scripture we heard read today absolutely essential to life:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
If I may add one point of exposition, we do well to note that God’s wisdom through Paul to us is that love binds us together in “perfect harmony.”
Harmony, not unison, is God’s goal. That is the very reason for our incompatibility. God’s purpose is not discord and chaos but harmony, harmony that is the very essence of beauty and a higher order.
To that end, God, in His mercy gives us this blessed arrangement of marriage, and if I may return to Bonhoeffer’s sermon. In the institution of marriage God condescends to our wills and adds his “yes” to the “yes” of our love. He makes of our desires to be together not a mere partnership but one flesh to fulfill his purposes. To quote, “He creates out of your love something quite new – the holy estate of matrimony…Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy ordinance.”
So, with full confidence that in this act of marriage God has joined you together and is supplying you with the foundation of a love “which binds everything together in perfect harmony,” I encourage you to cherish each other.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”