“Marriage is a public institution, not simply a private relationship.”
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – February 4, 2021
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. John 6:51 (NRSV)
As a pastor, I have officiated many a wedding, and few moments in life can compare to the joy and wonder of that special day. Years of longing and anticipation find their fulfillment in that single moment, opening to the couple a new season of life together. They do not forget who they were the day before, but from that day on their lives will never be the same.
One of the challenges of leading a wedding is writing and delivering the sermon. In just a few minutes time, how can one possibly begin to do justice to the mystery and beauty of the moment? As the beaming bride and proud husband stand before me, with a room filled with their closest family and friends behind them, what is the one thing they need to hear more than anything else? Do they need an icebreaker? Possibly. A funny story about their life together to relieve the tension of the moment and let them catch their breath? It couldn’t hurt! Yet I am convinced the one thing they need to hear more than anything else is likely the last thing on their minds: this day, and your marriage, is not about you.
Marriage is not the fulfillment of individual longings and dreams but is a life lived for the good of your neighbor and the healing of the world.
In my Christian tradition, the couple faces in three different directions during the service, and I believe these movements carry more significance than we might imagine. To begin, they stand side by side, facing me. In this moment, I am reminding them of the truth of God’s Word and the holiness of marriage. That it is God’s idea and a gift he gives to them! In a sense, their orientation is towards God in worship. From this place they then turn and face one another, exchanging vows and pledging to live a life of love and fidelity to one another. So often, our vision of marriage ends here. Life with God, life with one another. Yet this vision is profoundly incomplete if we do not see the way these are both connected to the third and final moment. The service concludes with the bride and groom, side by side, facing out.
Marriage is a public institution, not simply a private relationship. The way you live your life as a couple is meant to be a form of Christian discipleship. It is a way to daily model your life after the example of our Lord Jesus, who lived not for his own sake, but gave up his life for the life of the world. You and your spouse choose daily to model this way of life towards one another. Yet do not miss the invitation before you today. As a couple, you together face out towards the world, giving your life away in love and for the glory of God.
Father, help me to see the ways you are inviting me to live my life facing outward, offering your healing and hope to a broken and needy world. Amen.
Does your marriage currently reflect and incorporate all three directions mentioned above? Choose today to face God in worship, one another in mutual love, and outward in faithful service.
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