The Holy Marriage of Thomas and Maria
Saturday of Trinity 13, 2018
University Lutheran Chapel, Boulder, CO
Held at Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Loveland, CO
In the Name of the Father, and of the X Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I’m well aware that the sermon at a wedding is like the safety briefing before airline travel: we all know it has to be there, but we’re also just waiting for it to be over so we can get on with the real thing.
But this impatience of ours is not good, because it hastens us to forget that the real thing, the only thing, is God’s Word. Only God’s Word lasts forever. God’s Word was here before us. God’s Word created the universe. God’s Word created marriage. And God’s Word created each of us. We are, in this sense, each of us, words of God. Creatures of him who spoke the world into being from nothing.
Marriage itself is also a word, a thing spoken into existence by God. This is why St. Paul says: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Like all words, it refers back to its speaker. But this mystery, this word, is profound, because Christian marriage points us back not only to the existence of a generic First Cause, but to the compassion of God who loved us when he did not have to and gave his only Son for us when he was not bound to.
What I say to you, Thomas and Maria, on your wedding day, I also say to myself and to everyone in this room: Be wise. Recognize what is real and true and lasting, and what is not. “The grass withers; the flower fades. But the Word of our God stands forever.” The only thing that is real and true and lasts forever is Christ, the eternal Word of God made flesh.
Only God’s Word lasts forever. If you make your marriage about yourselves and the love you share, you will fail. No closed system perpetuates itself. This is what’s wrong with popular romance. The Romantic image of lovers is the couple facing each other and looking longingly into each other’s eyes. Such a posture is only sustainable when we see each other as words of God. When we see that there is more, a mystery that refers to Christ and his church.
From now on, Thomas, when you see Maria you see Christ and his church. You see in her your own body. You love her at the expense of yourself and your ambitions. It does not matter if she is worthy of this love or not. You were not worthy that Christ should love you, yet he loved you and gave himself up for you, and forgave you all your sins. So also you will die to yourself and live for her, putting her needs first, and covering her faults and claiming them as your own.
From now on, Maria, when you see Thomas you see Christ and his church. You see in him your head. You will order yourself under him, receive his love, and respect him. It does not matter if he is worthy of this respect or not. If he is failing, you will still find a way to respect him; just as when you are failing he will still find a way to love you. “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” Again the Holy Spirit says to you: “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”
The world balks at this and cries “misogyny” because it hates God’s Word and does not know the love of Christ. It knows only power and self-preservation and caring for others so long as I get some satisfaction from it. But Christians are unapologetic for God’s Word. They know the sacrificial love of God in Christ Jesus. They live by the forgiveness of sins. They know that God means what he says and that God knows what he’s doing and that he is good. Fads change; cultural norms come and go. Only God’s Word lasts forever. Therefore take his word to heart when he says to you this day: “Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
In a world where family life seems to grow uglier and uglier, Christian marriage and family life stand out as a beautiful thing. I don’t care what men say or what supreme courts decree. The living God says that the marriage of a man and woman is a good thing like no other. There is nothing else like it. In the book of Proverbs (18:22) we read: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.”
And yet for all that—and please allow me this final thought—marriage is at best only a temporary reality. True, there are times when it can feel like heaven, but even then it points to something more—an eternal communion with the God who gives forgiveness, life, and salvation to all who believe and will receive him.
People talk about being together as lovers forever, but it’s just not true. Your vows today are not forever, but “until death us do part.” You will not be married forever. Anything to the contrary is not truth but sentimentality.
“Well, that’s not very Romantic, preacher.” Perhaps, but it is true. And if romance is not true then it is a con. Sentimentality has taken over how people view marriage and family life now so that no one knows what it is anymore. But Christians do, because God, who invented this holy estate, knows, and his Christians listen to him.
You will not be married forever. Jesus says so. And I think that this is more Romantic than blathering sentiment. You see because marriage is a provisional reality, a mystery that pertains to Christ and the church, you only have this life to be married. You only have this once to give yourselves to this high and holy work. The hour is coming when no one can work. In the resurrection, we will surely be with those who have died in faith in Christ, and that will be better than anything we have here, even marriage. Then it will be time to rest. Today it is time to work and be married and to enjoy life with the wife of your youth. Make the most of it. Be quick to forgive and to be forgiven. Stand not only face to face as lovers but side by side as believers before your Lord, hearing his Word and receiving the body and the blood.
The marital estate will not last forever. Only God’s Word lasts forever. Eternal life in Christ is yours not by a life well lived or a marriage well-made but by repentance and faith. And because marriage is a mystery that points us there, it is even okay that there are people missing today. Maria, we wish your parents could be here. Thomas, mom will rejoice on that day when she gets to meet your dear bride. If this life were all there is, we would have no cause for hope this day, and the bitter would outweigh the sweet. But God’s Word endures forever. His saints shall rise again. We rejoice, especially today, that there will come a greater and more glorious wedding feast with all who belong to Christ through faith and the forgiveness of sins.
The Lord hasten that day. Come soon, Lord Jesus. Amen.
For a great marriage devotional by Rev. Andy Richard click here (less than $5 a copy).