Saturday, 11 September 2010

A Wedding Address

Today, I had the privilege of speaking at the wedding of some dear friends.  For better or worse, here's what I said...

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It doesn’t seem like long ago when we were all packed into your front room, Chris, watching “Cool Runnings,” and Becca’s head was leaning affectionately on your lap and I thought to myself: Hello, something’s going on here... ;-)

Well, a year later, here we are all gathered before God to witness this momentous day in your lives: your wedding day. We’re gathered here both as witnesses to the vows you two are about to make and as cheering supporters to say we are with you all the way and whole-heartedly endorse with joy the new family that is being created today.

No doubt, few people in this room feel that joy more than your parents. These four people must be publicly honoured today for all the blood, sweat, tears, and joy that they have invested in you over all those years since you both first started growing inside your mothers’ tummies! They should be honoured for all those dirty nappies they selflessly changed, all those cuts and bruises they selflessly cleaned and kissed better, all those meals they selflessly cooked, all those times they selflessly waited for you whilst you did some activity that you enjoyed, all the times they made their own clothes last that little bit longer so that they could set aside the money to buy you that thing you desperately wanted for your birthday. You stand here today because of all their hard work, and I’m sure if you asked them they wouldn’t have had it any other way, because that is the nature of real love and it’s an echo of the love of God!

So, today is both a wonderful and serious occasion. For in a few moments, you two will utter the words “till death do us part.” If all goes to plan, then at no other point in your life will you ever utter those words again. You will never say them when you renew your mobile phone contract or buy a house or choose a holiday destination. You’ll never say “til death do us part” to your employer, your MP or to the president of your local badminton club.

The only decision that has bigger and more far-reaching consequences for you or indeed for any of us, is what you do with Jesus Christ and the offer of eternal life that he makes to the world.

For you two today, I know that decision is settled, as you have both humbled yourselves before Jesus, taken him at his word and are seeking to order and live your lives enjoying fellowship with him and following him wherever he leads you.

So what do I say to you on such a day as today? I am not a married man, so I have no firsthand experience of how to resolve arguments over who has how much of the duvet or how to manage the different expectations of both your families. I have no top tips on how to deal with the famously called ten-year itch, if and when it comes knocking at your door.

That said, I still have three things I want to say...

Today as you commit yourselves to God, commit yourselves to each other and step out as a new family unit into the community, I want to remind you of three things. These three things are not rocket science, nor are they things that I dreamt up on a rainy August afternoon. They are plainly there for all to see in the pages of the Bible. They are deep and profound truths to help sustain you through all of your married life together, because they are foundational truths, woven by God into the very fabric of reality. I am saying nothing new, I am simply echoing and resonating with what creation has silently proclaimed since the dawn of time.

Firstly, as you commit yourselves to God today, remember that you become what you behold.

I’m a schoolteacher at an all boys comprehensive, and on non-uniform days, I see my classroom filled with a load of wannabe mini-Rooneys, wannabe mini-Ronaldos, wannabe mini-emo band musicians and wannabe mini techno-geeks. The kids I teach idolise their heroes and they order their lives, whether consciously or unconsciously around the desire to become like them.

Your souls have been rescued from the empty way of life passed on to us by our culture and awakened to know the greatness and the goodness of God as seen in his eternal Son Jesus Christ. He has called you both up and beyond yourselves into a new world that is coming when this life is over. All of life is about preparing for that day when you, along with the rest of the human race, will meet him face to face. So now fix your eyes on this Jesus, humble yourselves before him, love him, study him, follow him, serve him and obey him all the days of your lives and encourage each other to do the same.

Chris, your greatest duty as a husband to Becca is not the household DIY, but joyfully by your words and example to point her to Jesus as often as you can.

Becca, your greatest duty to Chris is not the dinner on the table, but joyfully by your words and example to point him to Jesus as often as you can.

Talk about what you read in the Bible together, pray together regularly, lovingly and humbly point out to each other when you are going astray, confess your sins and renounce them before God together. And resist the temptation, of which many fall foul, to sell out and live for the shrivelled vision of a comfortable, me-centred life.

The beautiful irony of this truth is that as you look to Jesus, the eternally life-giving and loving God, you will inevitably become more like him, you will love each other better than you could ever love each other by just looking at each other.

You become what you behold, so fix your eyes on Jesus.

Secondly, as you commit yourselves to each other, seek all your happiness in the flourishing of each other.

You see, when we are left to our own devices, we assume that the way to seek happiness and fulfilment is by putting ourselves first, making time for number one. When this happens, marriage looks more like a business contract than a marriage. We make sure that the desires of both parties are represented fairly 50/50. That the husband gets 50% of the airtime to do what he wants and the wife gets the same. But that was never the intention when God invented marriage.

God created human beings in his image. The living God: Father and Son in the oneness of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is echoed in the creation of marriage where man and woman in the exclusive fellowship of love are joined together as one. The Father and the Son are not vying together to make sure they get 50% of the airtime each. Rather, the Father says to the world Look at my Son, isn’t he wonderful and all the father’s delight is in him, such that he forgets himself. The same is true of the Son, who loves and honours the Father in everything, denying himself and being obedient to death, even death on a cross. And all this is done in the fellowship of the Spirit.

So too Chris, you are to be like God in dying to your own agenda, and rather to seek all your happiness in seeing Becca flourish as your wife, a mum and as an adopted daughter of the living God. Love her as you love yourself, for she is today becoming bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. Should you have children, the greatest gift you can give them is not the latest gadgets and gizmos, or fancy holidays, but to love and cherish their mother with all your might.

Becca, you too are to be like God in dying to your own agenda, you are not there to mould Chris into this or that image, but rather to love, honour and support him as a husband, a father and an adopted son of the living God. Should you have children, the greatest gift you can give them is not the latest gadgets and gizmos, or fancy holidays, but to love and honour their father with all your might.

Both of you are to be like God and seek your greatest happiness in the flourishing of the other.

Finally, as you step out into the community in new life together, love the world like God loves the world.

The Father, Son and Spirit are not introverted in their love, they are not selfish, they seek to share everything they have with creation, even with selfish creatures like you and me who stuck two fingers up in their face, they love to share and welcome back into this love all who will listen and welcome them into their hearts.

Your new life in the community is to reflect this same spreading goodness of God. You must love God first and best of all. Of all humans, you must love each other first and best, but that love must never become an introverted kind of love, the kind of love that back in your teenage years could see you spend all night snogging in a dark corner at the school disco, ignoring everyone else.

Chris and Becca; let your home be a home where the spreading, life-giving love of God is deeply and enduringly demonstrated. If you only love people like you, then you’re no better than anyone else, for even evil people have their mates round for parties. Let your home be a place where you not only welcome friends and family, but also those who are not like you: the poor, the needy, the disabled and the vulnerable; the annoying, the socially awkward, and yes even those few odd people who seem to have the knack of rubbing everyone up the wrong way. Love them well and continuously. Love them like God loves them and then you will be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.

It is an impossible task, and you’ll never be perfect, none of us are perfect. But with God’s help you will do valiantly and you will do enough.

So, in summary:
  • As you commit yourselves to God, Remember that you become what you behold, so fix your eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of your faith.
  • As you commit yourselves to each other, love each other like God loves God and seek all your happiness in the honouring of the other.
  • As you step out into the community as a new family, love the world like God loves the world, by giving yourselves not only to those who are like you, but also to those who are not.
Let's pray for you!!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

That was really lovely Richard!! Your speech about love and abnegation reminded me of Ruth and Naomi. Every time I read Ruth 1:16-17 I not only see Ruth’s selfless love towards her mother-in-law but also her faith in a God that would lead and take care of both. And the same thing must happen when two people decide to “become one flesh”: unconditional love, faithfulness and the love of God should be the essence of their lives. Blessings Rute

mackyton said...

Liking these cute couple rings. Simple and elegant! My friend is getting engaged in a couple of weeks. One of the lustrous New York wedding venues is booked by her family. Cuisines and catering are all finalized by her father. Table arrangements are of her taste. Bought designer attire and accessories for herself from bridal exhibition with me.