Yesterday my oldest baby sister, Julie, married Chris Dye, who’s been a part of our family for about 3 or 4 years now. Having recently been ordained, I had the honor of being one of the officiating ministers, and I appreciated them having enough trust to bring a rookie out of the pen in such an important moment. Below is my homily, and I hope that it might encourage you in your marriages as well.
Julie and Chris – I remember standing here 10 years ago; Julie you were right over there in the bridesmaid’s line. And I remember thinking in the days leading up to the wedding, “I’m not sure I have what it takes to live up to these promises.” I wanted to, but I felt the weight of what Diane and I were saying. The vows you are about to say are weighty to say the least. And they should be – marriage is one of the most precious and wonderful gifts, but it takes much work and commitment, and these vows are meant to be an anchor and a reminder of this day for years to come.
Now, it may seem that when you are saying them, gazing into each other’s eyes with all sincerity and love, that it is going to be easy to keep these. “Of course I will love you in joy and sorrow, plenty and want, sickness and health.” But there will be a day when they will be far from your heart and mind. You won’t fulfill these promises that you have made, and loving this amazing person will seem more work than wonderful.
If in these moments you think that it’s all up to you to keep it together. If you think that the answer is to try harder or to fix one another or to just shut down and do your own thing for a while, fight this tendency. Remember, you are not in this alone. Don’t fall to the temptation that tells you it’s all up to you, sink or swim.
You are getting married in a church for a reason. This moment is not just about you two, because God is present here. God is being worshipped here. And your coming together is sealed and protected by God. You are promising to love each other and in the midst of that promise, God enters in and promises, too, to stand with you and by you. And mysteriously, because God is in the midst of us, you move from being two to being one. You are no longer simply Julie and Chris, but one in the eyes of God.
Why would God do that, commit Himself to your union? Because your love for each other is an opportunity for God to receive glory. As you love each other well, God is honored. When you make choices that reflect the reality that you are no longer two but one, God’s love is shown.
So Chris, when you choose to set aside a night with the guys to take Julie on a date and really listen to her, God is honored. Julie, when Chris wounds you, even by accident, and you choose to share your heart with him rather than shutting him out, God is honored. When you all work together to have a marriage of trust and communication and sacrifice for each other, God is honored.
Now, as I said earlier, these promises are weighty, and on our own, these are really hard to keep. But here’s the Good News is it’s not up to you!
The Good News, the Gospel, says that while none of us has lived a life that is pleasing to God, when we trust Christ’s life and forgiveness He gives us righteousness and eternal life that we could never earn or deserve. And the Good News, the Gospel, also says that Christ’s life and forgiveness are not simply a means of getting to heaven one day, but they are also the means of having true and full life right now.
2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Christ has all the love, faithfulness, and forgiveness that you need to have marriage that glorifies God and brings you joy.
Remembering this truth, and learning how to live this God-dependent-life takes work and time. It takes regular worship, regular times of prayer and Scripture. But even as you are learning and growing, know that God has given you all that you need in Himself, and He is standing with you in these commitments, that your marriage might result in His glory.
You are making a Covenant today. A covenant is deeper than a promise, more than a legal transaction. This is a work done by God. You are making a covenant not simply before God, and He stands to the side nodding His approval, but with God. God joins you together, and God delights to see you live in the freedom and goodness of this marriage covenant. He is with you. He is for you. And He will see you through as you depend on Him. Take heart! You can’t keep these promises, but there is One who can keep you and enable you to love one another. He is here today, and He goes with you as you leave. Amen!