Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Wedding Address

Heard on August 8, on the occasion of Lizzie and Justin's wedding. 
I am not sure what kind of sermon you wanted, girl friend. I am standing in front of Reverends from the Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran and Free Someone may be disappointed. I will try the "shotgun" approach. I hope at least one of them is satisfied. It didn't help for you to say in your thank you card that you are looking forward to hearing this sermon. the pressure is on. We worship a serious God. He is no-nonsense He is serious about His parties. When he throws one, he makes sure everything is perfect. The lamps are lit and full of oil, the correct garments are worn,the table is set, the wine is plentiful, and everyone there is : well , everyone there is undeserving. and there is joy. The Shepherd and the sheep, the lost coin, the Prodigal Son, all end in parties, and there is joy. As C.S. Lewis put it "Joy is the serious business of heaven." Did you ever notice how many parties in the New Testament signifying salvation are wedding parties? God is a serious God. We all know about the parables of Jesus as he taught. The parable of the sower, the weeds, the sheep and the goats, but what about those parables that were acted out? God is serious about his acted out parables These are the things God taught us as visionary or as actions of others that told us a story or taught us a lesson. Moses struck the rock in the desert twice and was denied the promised land until the transfiguration. God would strike the High Priest dead if the letter of his law was not followed on the precise day of atonement, He had to have the correct clothing, the correct bathing ritual, The sacrificial lamb had to be perfect. The scapegoat could never enter the camp again. When the wandering tribes of Israel camped the tent called the tabernacle where God dwelt was placed in the direct center of the camp. There was the sin of Achan, Joshua circling Jericho 7 times. The way the prophets acted toward Israel. And then of course, there is the the story of Hosea and his bride Gomer. Jesus himself did many acted out parables, such as the amazing circumstances of his birth,the fact that He pitched his tent or tabernacled with us or maybe, as the Cotton Patch Bible put it,He parked his mobile home next to mine, or better yet, as John phrased it with that amazing pronouncement "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." How about the raising of Lazarus, the feeding of the five thousand, the cursing of the fig tree, the stilling of the sea, the triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, the walking on the water, the sacraments of the church? These were all acted out parables. However , he left one particular acted out parable unfinished. I think that acted out parable should be called the "Parable of Justin and Lizzie." This is the parable that is out there before the watching world. My wife once called me a model husband. To look that up in the dictionary you will see that a model is a small imitation of the real thing. That might be an insult to me, but it is an incredible thing when you consider the Apostle Paul's command that 'Husbands are to love your wives as Christ loved the church." Your relationship is a model of Christ's love for his people. You see, marriage has its roots in the dirt of creation. It isn't some kind of lofty ideal, or religious concept, or some romantic illusion. Marriage is grounded in the dust of our origin, our being male and female made in the image of God. Marriage is about sex and food and drink and house and home and bed and table and children and community. It embraces the fullness of who we are as human beings - the good, the bad, the ugly. Marriage is about sin and grace and forgiveness and faithfulness. Marriage is the picture or the model of the unconditional love of Christ for his people. You are a model of Christ's love when you chose one who is undeserving, or better yet when your mother thinks they are undeserving. You are a model of Christ's love when you give all you have to provide for your family. You are a model of Christ's love when you warm the car in the morning, make a midnight run to the store to buy a pacifier that was lost, make the coffee, clear the sink, take out the garbage, respect one another's rule on toothpaste and toilet paper. When you are ironing clothes for the uptempth time, changing that diaper, You are a model of Christ's love when at night and its been a very long and trying day, all of a sudden there is a back rub. You model Christ's love when you Lizzie take Justin, or Justin you take Lizzie and you love them without mercy or a severe mercy as C.S Lewis put it, speaking truth. You are a model of Christ's love when you make your intimacy so supreme with no holds barred. ( for you see, Christ knows no boundaries in his relationship to us) that is what we theologians call Grace. You are a model of Christ's love when you know your spouse doesn't merit forgiveness for that sin, any sin,the big ones, the small ones, or even the ones that stab you in the heart, but you seem to remember to forget them anyway. Just as He tells us , to paraphrase Jeremiah, " I will be their God and they will be my people and I will remember their sins no more". You are a model of Christ's love when the bills are due, tempers are high, fear is looming and yet you still rejoice in the fact that you have each other. And maybe that is all you have, but that is enough. You are a model when the romance cools a bit and you remember that Christ love is in that "He gave" . His love is not a feeling, but an action, an action of dying to self and giving to the other. You are a model when the gates of Hell assail and all you can do is stand, yet you stand together. God is a serious God. He is serious about you. He loves you (action) he forgives, but also forgets. God is a serious God God is serious about marraige. It is the fundamental parable of Christ passion. . He loves her to death on the cross. It's the picture of the Church's passion for Christ. The Church drops dead to her life and lives joined to her Groom, to Christ. The church is Christ's Bride, drawing her life from His wounded side as He slept in death on the cross. . It is a great mystery as Paul would say, it is a great thing hidden and now revealed, that husband and wife embracing one other are a sign of this passion of Christ and the Church. You too. In your married life together you are signs for the watching world of what the unconditional, passionate love of Christ for the world is all about. And once you've got Christ in the picture, I dare you . take a look through your Bibles and you'll see it all over the place. As one fellow put it, The sensuous Song of Solomon, which the rabbis kept in a brown paper wrapper until you were eighteen. Now there's the passion of the King for his Bride on their wedding day. How 'bout the prophet Isaiah who said in chapter 61 verse 10: : For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels....As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a briedgroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. Then there is the wedding at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus did the first sign that revealed Him to be the creative/redemptive Word. There he changed 180 gallons of washing water into the finest wedding wine at a wedding party that was already three sheets to the wind. You see, God is serious about marriage. You have to understand, Your marraige is a cocktail hour to the great party. You are the pre show to the big show. Or to put it in concert terms, you are the warm up act or "Special Guest" to the starring act. What you see today and what we have witnessed is just a preview of the great picture at the end of the Bible . Lizzie, as you came down the isle you portrayed exactly what the Apostle John witnessed in that great scene . Rev 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. This is where heaven is seen as a glorified city, risen Church , processing down the aisle like a bride, being wedded to her bridegroom Jesus and a marriage supper of food and drink that has no end. I recently heard a devotional by Ken Klause of the Lutheran Hour report the following story. "A week or so ago, when I was at the 92nd convention of the International Lutheran Laymen's League (the organization which sponsors these devotions), I came across an article in the Greensboro News & Record. The story told how Danielle Starr and Anthony Mohney were married for one whole day. For one day the couple became husband and wife. Then, on the second day, Anthony died of cancer. The story went on to tell how Anthony's hospice team had planned the wedding and how the businessmen of that wonderful North Carolina community had graciously given everything necessary for the couple to get hitched -- even the rings. The story spoke of how Danielle, who had been told Anthony would soon die of his illness, had assured him, saying, "I'd rather be married to you for one day, than not at all." My first reaction to that story was to cry. It was a beautiful human-interest story. My second reaction to the story was to ask a few questions: Why did they bother? Why did a jeweler give away some expensive rings? Why did the folks who catered the meal offer up their services? Why did the tux people not charge for the rental? Why bother to do any of this if you're sure one of the principals is going to die? These were questions that bothered me -- a lot. Turning from what this very special bride and groom had done, my thoughts went to the Savior. I asked many of the same questions about Him I had asked about the newlyweds. Why did Jesus come into this world? After all, He knew how things would end up. He knew a friend would betray Him; He knew He would be rejected; He knew He would be beaten, whipped, crowned with thorns, and nailed to the cross. Why did Jesus come if He knew He was going to die? The answer to why the bride and groom got married and to why Jesus entered this world is the same: they were in love. Danielle loved Anthony, and she was willing to suffer a great deal to be with him. The same is true for Jesus. So we could be with Him, Jesus was willing to live, suffer, and die for us. Now, because of what He did, we can be forgiven, saved, and with Him forever. Because of what Jesus did, the story of Danielle and Anthony isn't over. " Justin and Lizzie, I have a request for you . Years from now, when the wrinkles come, when the hair turns gray,- Lizzie, yours will turn from age, Justin, yours will come from teaching a wild eyed 16 year old girl how to drive a standard and parallel park. But when the children are grown and gone, maybe tending to their children and the only sounds you hear in your home are the past echoes of laughter on the walls; Then Justin, I want you to look to Lizzie and say "there is my bride".and Lizzie look to Justin and say, "there is my groom". You see it really isn't over. The best is still yet to come. As I said, God is serious about His parties. Father, thank you for the commitment of Justin to Lizzie. May it last for ever. When things get tough, remind them to run to you, when the times are good, remind them to run to you. Protect them and keep them. And as this world watches these two, may they witness the dance started before the foundation of the earth. And may the world always , always hear the laughter of the redeemed. In Christ's name, Amen 

Dave Spotts
blogging at and

No comments: