Wedding Homily delivered in October 2021
Well we made it…sort of…we are in person, that has to count for something. Being online is a common experience these days. This pandemic has endured for 560 days. Think about that…that’s well over a year and a half. There is much to be thankful for today. We have a young couple who is getting married. This is a special time to enter into. It’s unlike university frosh week and living on residence. It’s unlike starting your first day on the job. It closely resembles the first time they met together. Think about it, there was attraction, interest and prospects of what could be. Now getting married is going to take it to a whole other level. See, getting married shares the likeness of meeting the one who you are standing side by side today. But what exactly makes marriage different? We can’t deny that the person you marry is not fully known even though you have eaten dozens of meals, which means you figured out what and where to eat together. Even if you have figured out where you will live, now you need to see what it will be like to live with that person. Marriage makes things different.
What makes things different? More to the point, what makes a Christian marriage different? Our passage today read for us shows us what a Christian marriage looks like. First off, marriage has to do with a man and a woman committing to each other in lifelong partnership. What would differ in a Christian marriage has to do with Christ being honoured in the marriage by two Christians; one man, one woman. See our passage describes Christians as those who submit to one another out of their reverence for Jesus Christ. For a Christian couple, reverence is relevant to the relationship. Reverence for Christ means our heart’s priorities are brought under God. Reverence is an attitude that lives with values shaped by faith (an active trust in God by depending on Him), hope (firm confidence in what is unseen that will come into the present) and love (committed to God by showing it in voluntarily, willingly, joyous activity). Reverence is to be held accountable by God for our actions. Reverence is about living single-mindedly and simply for God. Out of reverence for Christ there is mutual submission. This takes willingness to radically trust each other without opt outs and loopholes and strings attached. There are no if’s or but’s or any other conditions than that Christ is our motivation.
Now with this established, Paul describes what wives are doing is submitting to their husbands. It is clarified as being submitted in everything to their husbands. Not some things, but everything. Remember this is a Christian marriage we are talking about. There is inner delight in submitting because Christ is the Lord of the relationship. It’s because of Christ that a wife submits to her husband. It has to do with His personal presence in the marriage that He is blessing and overcoming our weaknesses. The wife is submissive is not a putdown or humiliating. It’s redeeming, nurturing and intelligent in its design.
The husband is not given a free pass as if he does nothing but sit on the couch. He is commanded to love his wife. But it’s all in relation to Christ loving the church. And how did Christ show His love for the church? By dying for her. Christ’s death was by crucifixion on a Roman torturing tool called a cross. But the way Christians hear of Jesus’ death it is not simply a public execution. It’s more than that. How do we know that? Because of who Jesus is. He is the Son of God. He is the Messiah. Not simply a good man or teacher who told nice stories. He embodies the very truth He speaks of. When Jesus describes Truth He personalises it to Himself. He is not a way to God, He is the way to God, the only one! He isn’t simply one light among many lights. He is the light of the world. Jesus Christ is the King of the universe. And because Christians confess this, we see His death on the cross as the way through which God redeems, ransoms, and reconciles us. It is the supreme revelation of God’s love for sinners. That’s what we are. We are those who have fallen from grace and under the power of sin. But we were not meant to stay in sin. What is sin? It’s a power that renders us self-centred thus producing selfishness. Sin turns us inward and concerned about our own lives alone (ie. “It’s my money,” “My body, I can do whatever I want to it”, “My life, my stress, my happiness” “work-life balance”, “me-time” “you only live once”…no wonder adulting is so hard!) We turn from God and thus live in darkness. God never intended us to live like this. So you see, sin that produces self-centredness that makes us selfish is now given a promise that in marriage, God will bring an end to our selfishness.
Self-centredness is the problem of our lives. And there is nothing we can do about it. No amount of education will ever be able to liberate you from the power of belly button gazing. No amount of self-help and do-it-yourself attempts can redeem us. No human religion can solve this problem. The Christian solution to the problem of sin is to find our hearts de-centred. Jesus Christ and Him crucified is God coming to us in our sin. While the roof caves in, the windows break and the foundation cracks here comes the Saviour for a people who can’t save themselves. Do you know that? Did anyone tell you that not only can you not save yourself but the One who will save you, created you, cares for you and concerned about you and the ditch you are in? And the good news today is that He has already done something about it! He who was betrayed, arrested, falsely accused, condemned to death and mocked and jeered and humiliated, dies violently on the cross, is now raised to new life never to die again. Jesus Christ, the only one in history to be raised from the dead is alive in heaven at God’s right hand today. Jesus Christ, the man who lives for others and not Himself has put to death our old person (the OLD YOU) that we might be raised with Him. Believe and trust in Him for your salvation. He is a kind Lord. He doesn’t keep count of all your failures, wrongs and sins. He forgives and not accuses. He relents and not finds fault. He is compassionate and gracious to us and not distant or aloof from you today. Turn to Him as you hear His voice and submit to Jesus Christ. God will send His Holy Spirit to you to live inside of you. This, and this alone will turn us away from being self-centred to now leading to being Christ-centred and all this because God drives us to His feet and off the throne of our lives. Being married means it is no longer your own life.
Husbands are to love their wives the way Christ loves us. There is a standard here that every man who is married must hold to. Living with your wife in a manner that is caring and champions the cause of God’s kingdom is the sure path to victory. This whole talk about husbands and wives is because Jesus Christ fought against the evil one and defeated the powers of sin and death and the world. And what prize does Jesus Christ receive for His triumph? It’s the church! His bride! This isn’t the first time we observe this pattern. David goes up against the Philistine champion of Gath named Goliath. The winner of this combat will possess the enemy people and be given the king’s daughter as a reward. David is piqued in his interests and motivated not by the reward but to dispossess the proud and make known the honours of the humble King; David takes one swing and two and then three and whizz goes the stone and lands squarely on his forehead. Goliath doesn’t fall backwards but forward showing us the battle is the Lord’s. Goliath’s head is taken as a trophy and the king’s daughter is in hand. Israel wins! Now that’s a way of getting the girl!
One more story because I’m a dad and we recently just read and watched the childhood tale. It’s the story of a man who takes from the rich and gives to the poor. He is a champion for the poor and oppressed. He is a skilled archer and word is heard of an archery contest that whoever wins will get the hand of Maid Marian. Off goes Robin Hood in one of his many disguises and goes to the contest. As the story goes, Robin Hood wins the contest with a bullseye. I like the way the movie portrays it, one of his opponents bumps him to make his aim go amiss and he fires another one off and redirects it to a bullseye! Direct hit! Robin Hood wins and gets the hand of the damsel, Maid Marian.
The reception of the bride as a prize is what we are for Christ’s atoning work. He won not only the battle but our hearts and we are forever grateful. That’s why Christians have a habit of singing and making melody. Our spirits are inspired by the Holy Spirit of God to lift up praise and thanks to the One who has done it all. We belong to Him.
Now here’s where it all comes to its climax. It’s all about this good news that makes known the mystery. What mystery? Our Scripture today says the mystery is great & profound. Marriage points to it. It’s the mystery of God who takes on our humanity; completely and entirely and totally. God becomes man! See, the Scripture tells us that husbands are to love their wives as they love themselves. Christ loves His church because they are members of His body. Do you see? When Christ takes care of you and me as the husband He takes care of Himself because we are in Him. That is the mystery! The mystery is that we are in Christ…completely and entirely and totally. This is what marriage between one man and one woman who live in reverence for Christ portends…we are in union with God. That is the goal and has always been God’s goal with people. When we are married, we reflect God’s image the way God intended. After all, marriage is God’s institution not a humanly doctored thing. God’s design reflected in two becoming one; leaving home and living under the blessing of God all the days of our life.