[This was shared this past Friday evening during the wedding of Chase and Emily.]
Emily and Chase, as we've discussed together, the words from John’s gospel that you chose for today are part of those spoken by Jesus on the night of His betrayal and arrest to His disciples. They’re instructions to His Church and how we who confess Christ as Lord are to treat one another with the same self-sacrificing love with which Christ has loved us. But these words have true implications for marriage and for the two of you today as well.
That shouldn’t be surprising. Elsewhere in the New Testament, marriage is compared to the Church and the Church is called “the bride of Christ.” And in my own tradition, Martin Luther said that marriages and families are to be “little churches.”
The point is that the two of you are about to enter into a covenant, a sacred compact involving not just the two of you, but also God, the One Who gave you life; the One Who offers all who turn from sin and trust in Christ new, eternal life; and the One Who promises to never leave you nor forsake you, a promise guaranteed by Christ’s death and resurrection.
I was telling Vern and Kris last night just how much I’ve enjoyed getting to know the two of you. I so appreciate the relationship you have with each other, your openness, your maturity. You are both bright, accomplished. And you obviously love each other very much. It’s a privilege being here with you now.
But, if I may, I’d like to throw the cat among the pigeons for just a moment to say this: The two of you have so much going for you that it might be tempting to think that all of you’ve got going is all that you need.
That would be a mistake, which is why I was so happy when you were drawn to the words of Jesus from John’s gospel for today.
Jesus is telling His bride, the Church, the people with whom He has made an eternal covenant: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (Italics are mine, for emphasis.)
After being married forty-three years myself, I can tell you that marriage requires, it needs, the kind of love that Jesus has given. We must be willing to die for one another if our marriages are to work.
And that willingness must extend not just to the times when the health or well-being of our spouses are in the balance, but also to the mundane, everyday, humdrum places of life, the places in which the other’s habits get on our nerves, when life seems like nothing more than a grinding routine.
Even people who love each other can sometimes drive each other nuts.
Even people who love each other can find that our common enemies, the devil, the world, and our sinful selves, drive wedges between them.
It’s under these circumstances that giving each other the self-sacrificing love that our marriages require can become difficult, even impossible.
This is exactly where the third partner in the marriage covenant you’re about to enter into comes in.
A few blocks from here is Ohio’s capitol building. On the grounds of the building, in a prominent place, are these words of Jesus, from the Gospel of Matthew: “With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
Marriage, this covenant of lifelong commitment lived as God intended for it to be lived, would be impossible if we tried to undertake it our own, no matter how much men and women may love one another, no matter how many things they may have going for them.
But when a marriage is built on the God we know in Christ, all things are possible!
When two people together build their marriage and lives on Christ, they can face all that this life brings with joy, hope, and confidence.
So, Chase and Emily, as you begin your married life today, I offer one piece of advice: Build your marriage on Christ.
Find a church home in which you can be strengthened, assured, and challenged by the Word of God, where you can receive Christ’s body, blood, and forgiveness, and learn to serve each other and the world with a confidence that comes from the grace God bears for you through Christ.
Let God be your marriage partner and you will have the love, the strength, and the courage to be, together, all that you can be.
God bless you both!
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]