Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wedding Vows

As an associate pastor, I don’t get to do many weddings, but this past weekend I had the privilege of performing the ceremony for some friends. For the charge to the couple, I decided to do a straight exposition of their marriage vows. I thought this would be good for several reasons. First, I had never heard it done before and I would like to be in an audience where that was done. Second, I think the vows are important and worth considering in more depth. Third, I think most people have no clue what the couple is saying to one another. They are just looking at how pretty the flowers are.

In fact, recently I was at a wedding where I thought the vows had been a little…off. When I asked other people who had attended the wedding if they had noticed the strange wording, they had no clue what I was talking about. The most important aspect of the wedding had completely gone over their heads. So, here’s some excerpts of what I said on Saturday.

L and J, there are many components of the vows you will be making today. I’d like to focus on four.

1. Your vows contain a recognition of God’s Sovereign control over your life and specifically your marriage.

The first thing you will each say is this: “Before God who brought us together/and before these witnesses.” When you say it is God who brought you together, you are not just acknowledging that He had a special role in beginning your relationship. Rather, you are recognizing that this relationship is part of His overall sovereign plan for your life.

God is surely sovereign in the huge, cosmic sense:

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3).

But he is involved in the personal details of our lives as well:

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them” Psalm 139:16.

Today is an important day, but according to the psalmist it is just like every other day in that God has ordained it from the time before you were born. The truth that God is sovereign over every day of your life should not to fill you with a sense of fatalism but rather with a humble trust in His provision for the future.

There will be good days in your future. There will be pay raises, promotions, perhaps children, sweet times of following after the Lord, fruit in your ministry, joy in your relationship. When these come, you will recognize that it is not your own hand that has brought you to this point but the omnipotent hand of God.

There will be bad days in your future. Some would argue that a wedding is not the time to speak of such days, but I believe we must. God promises difficult times for His children. In your future there probably will be huge bills, accidents, conflict, illness of some sort, and, if the Lord tarries, even death. Today can be a day you look back on as you continue to trust in the faithful hand of your shepherd.

{Your vows contain a recognition of God’s Sovereign control over your marriage.}

2. Your vows contain a commitment to leave and cleave.

You will each commit to take the other to be your wife or husband/to have and to hold from this day forward.

The covenant you enter into today is a watershed event. From this point on your relationship with every other person in this room changes, beginning with your relationship with one another as you cling to one another.

Scriptural basis for this marital holding is found in the record of the first marriage:

“But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:20b-24.

You are vowing to strive for oneness. This is not easy. To be one with another person you must die daily to yourself.

{Your vows contain a recognition of God’s sovereign control over your marriage; they contain a commitment to leave and cleave}

3. Your vows contain a commitment to fulfill your God-given roles.

There is a part of your marriage vows that will be unique.

J, you will vow to love L as Christ loved the church, to give yourself up for her, as Christ gave Himself up for the church.

L, you will vow to love J and submit to Him as the church loves and submits to Christ.

I have been to weddings where the couple’s vows have been identical. Your vows are not because you recognize that God is calling you each to something very different in this marriage.

J, Paul’s words to you in Ephesians 5 are strong: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”

J, you are committing to fulfill your role as a servant-leader. This is not the leadership as the world views it.

-The world says a leader loves himself; God says a leader loves others
-The world says a leader takes; God says a leader gives
-The world says a leader is strong; God says a leader is weak;
-The world says a leader is self-confident; God says a leader humbles himself
-The world says a leader has a strong personality; God says a leader meek
-The world says that leaders are in a position of prominence; God says that a leader is to be like Christ who traded the glories of heaven for the humility of earth and, what’s more, the humiliation of the death of a condemned criminal.

And there, in the humiliating death of a criminal, we see the essence of Christ-like leadership. J, be a Christ-like leader for your wife. This is the difficult vow you make today that we who are here will hold you to as your brothers and sisters in Christ.

L, your vow is not easier.

Ephesians 5:22-24: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” Lori, these are not easy words to apply in your life. They are calling you to submit to John in everything as you would to God.

The world rejects this notion. It—and your own flesh—will encourage you to promote yourself. God calls you to promote your husband. The world calls you to find fulfillment in its pleasures; God calls you to find fulfillment in seeking Him. The world tells you to be independent; God calls you to Oneness.

Such submission is not always comfortable. Such submission is sacrifice.

{Your vows contain a recognition of God’s sovereign control over your marriage; they contain a commitment to leave and cleave; they contain a commitment to fulfill your God-given roles.}

4. Your vows contain a commitment to love and cherish the other in whatever circumstances you find yourself: for better for worse/for richer for poorer/in sickness and in health/as long as God gives us life

We have already talked about the various circumstances in which you may find yourself. But what you are saying here is that there will be a cherishing, a delighting, in one another.

We’ve talked a lot about vows and commitments, but these are not to be dry, obligation based commitments. They should be commitments that flow out of a heart that delights in the Lord Jesus Christ and loves to be obedient as you fulfill your wedding vows with great delight in whatever circumstances you find yourself.

A passage you were both wanted included in the ceremony speaks of the result of this sort of delight in God: “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as stars in the universe”

God in His grace works within us the desire and ability to do that which He has called us to do. As we do those things, we stand out from those around us. We shine like stars for His glory.

May your joyful obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ in your sacrificial love for one another cause others to confess Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

1 comment:

Grammy said...

Dear Daniel,
Your Gramps and I really enjoyed the wedding vows blog. It reminded us of some things we may have forgotten about through the years. He said it really gets down to the nitty gritty and is appropriately serious about things it needs to be. What a wonderful way to send a couple on their way as a newly united family. Thank you so very much for all the beautiful reminders!
We love you... Grammy and Gramps