September 6, 2014 Holy Matrimony
Laura Elizabeth Zwicker and Ian Blythe Everhart
Tobit 8: 5-8; Colossians 3: 12-17; Mark 10: 6-9, 13-16
Wow. Good afternoon everyone! Family and friends . . . . Great to be here as we are witnesses and participants in this much anticipated celebration of Christian marriage. On Facebook it has been called “the Royal Wedding.” Laura and Ian, I would personally and I know speaking for everyone, express my and our deepest thanks for inviting us to be with you as this new page is turned, a new chapter begun. Her eyes met his across the choir of St. Andrew’s Church, and the rest is history! All your lives now coming together in a new harmony. Making beautiful music together. (There are a lot of possibilities with this metaphor, but maybe I’ll leave it at that. Will try to, anyway.)
I of course loved knowing you as Laura, and as Ian, before I got to know you as “Laura and Ian.” Over this long season as I have had a chance to get to know you as a couple, I very often have had the thought that “this is going to be something special.” You should know that that’s the consensus in the room today. We’re all smiling! In the mysteries of his Providence, God is doing a great thing with you. He has a plan, only just now beginning to unfold. Two exceptional young people, gifted in so many ways. We’re your cheering section, with applause, with love, and as you have heard with promises to support and even more: to share with you the good work God is giving you to do. The Choir sings at St. Andrew’s, the great organ rumbles and roars, and the Angel Chorus is joining in, magnificent descants, in the choirs of heaven. A day of promise and blessing—and again, it’s so great to be here with you.
You both gave careful thought to the selection of the readings from Scripture for this service, and we would pause for a moment to allow God’s Word to inform what we are about to witness.
The reading from Tobit, perhaps a story of the tradition not that familiar to everyone. But this glimpse of what we might call the honeymoon of Tobias and Sarah. I’m sure there must have been champagne and candlelight in there somewhere. But so meaningful that what they do first together as husband and wife, is turn their hearts to prayer. And that I think is just such a helpful image. How, as they say in the Twelve Step Movement, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Back in the 1950’s the National Council of Churches ran a campaign that popularized the phrase, “the family that prays together stays together.” Not that there is some magic formula to guarantee marital bliss. But when you pray, when you will open your hearts to God--and to be open in turn to what he has for you, and when this is a consistent part of your lives, you will come to a sense of humility and grace that will allow you to continue to know God’s presence and blessing. As we will pray today that it will be as you grow deeper and deeper in faith, in prayer and worship, growing into communion with God, you will at the same time grow deeper and deeper in communion with each other.
The passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Christians in the Greek town of Colossae, in what now is southern Turkey. We don’t know too much the context of this particular letter, but it’s evident that news had come to him that there were controversies—spiritual and theological--that had begun to cause division in the congregation. So glad those kinds of things don’t happen in churches in our day! In any event, Paul addresses the issues at hand with clarity, and absolutely correcting those who have wandered from the message of the Apostles. But then in the third chapter he goes on in I think an even deeper way about Christian life and conduct in community, to describe what it means to live together as Christian people, as we do the hard work of dealing with differences. As there are always differences, whether in a large community, or even in a Christian community of two.
Paul lifts up what perhaps we could call a shopping list for a new wardrobe, the deeper themes of what we are and what we can be at our very best in Christian relationship. How we are called to “dress for success,” as Christian people, to live by sharing in the image of Jesus himself, by clothing ourselves with him, by patterning ourselves in love following the pattern that he shared with us. “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another, and if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all clothe yourselves with love” –and here again our musical metaphor—“clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
Thank you especially for selecting this reading. A great word as Paul addresses problems in the early church, but always also for all of us to keep close, in our friendships, in our families and communities, and meaningful that you have shared it with us today on the day of your marriage. We might almost say that sharing this reading with your family and friends is the first step, the first example, of the work you are being called to do in your marriage from here on out. When we call marriage a “sacrament” we do so because in marriage you two become outward signs of God’s grace and love. He is going to be using you to communicate that grace and love to others, and that is the work you are called to do and that we acknowledge and celebrate today.
Finally, just a moment on the reading from St. Mark, as Fr. William has read it for us. The 10th chapter of Mark along with the 19th chapter of St. Matthew rich and critical texts as we seek to know what God’s Word has to say to us about marriage and family, these foundational human institutions and relationships. Lots more to say, but I’m going to hang for a moment on the first five words that Jesus speaks in this discussion. “From the beginning of creation,” He says. That’s how he begins. “From the beginning of creation.” We remember just a few moments ago in the Opening Address of this service we heard, “the bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation.”
So to say this afternoon, that what we do as we pray that God will bless your marriage vows, what you do as you exchange these vows, is not to ask God to enter into and bless something that you have created or are creating, but to see that it is for you now to enter into what God has already made. This is your day, for sure. But Marriage: it’s not about you, your lives, your happiness and romance, your plans for the future. This is about stepping into his plan. His future. Not a way of life that you choose, but a way of obedience, a way of life that he chooses for you, and that you choose to accept. The prayer we call the Prayer of St. Francis begins, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” And we would let that be what you and we are about this afternoon. “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.” Again with humility and grace, a moment of vocational turning, as you open your lives to allow him to guide you, and direct you, and correct you, and bless you, for his purposes.
Which we really don’t know, don’t understand. But just to say, and a good word for all of us: Fasten your seatbelts! I have a feeling that what God can do with this marriage in particular is going to be pretty exciting! So: all good, Laura and Ian. We’re cheering! It is good to be here.
And now as Ian and Laura come forward to stand at the altar to exchange the vows that will make them husband and wife, let us pause for a moment and bow our heads and in the quiet of our own hearts offer a prayer of love and blessing for them.