Dear Leo and Bethany, family, and friends gathered here today, grace to you and peace from God our Father and your bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Scripture begins and ends with marriage! Genesis records the beautiful, naked, shameless love of Adam and Eve. They were literally made for each other! Revelation records the beautiful, intimate, eternal love of the Lamb and His Bride – the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God – radiant like a most rare jewel. All along the way between that first couple and the eternal union of Christ and His Bride, the Church, husbands and wives are given and taken in marriage as are you, Leo and Bethany, today.
You see, that’s who Jesus is, our bridegroom who comes to us and takes away the sin of the world. That’s the intimate love the bridegroom gives to His bride, the church. 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. That’s how He has brought you into His family, Bethany long-ago at a young age, Leo, at this time in the celebration of the resurrection, as you have both taken on His name and received Him in Holy Baptism.
With breathtaking, sacrificial love Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Leo and Bethany – you continue to be loved like that by your heavenly bridegroom! Leo you are now to love Bethany like that as your bride! In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves His wife loves Himself. As Christians are one body in Christ – so husbands and wives are one flesh. The love of Christ is to be over and under and around and in the unity that He gives today.
So, Leo – and all husbands here today – lend your ears to another word of God through Solomon in Ecclesiastes concerning God’s gift of marriage.
Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun (9:9)
Enjoy life with the wife whom you love… Make no mistake husbands – some of the joy absent from marriage and therefore from life comes from us not loving our wives as God wills. Husbands you are to love your wife like Christ loved the Church – laying His life down for her. There is no small bit of toil in God’s definition of the love of a husband. This is not the world’s perspective of love as a feeling. This is a vigorous, suffering intensive, putting your wife first, active, doing love. You are to put her needs first in genuine care – in words and deeds – whether you feel like it or not. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love… This love is to be given even as the wife whom you love seeks always to put your needs first – ordering her life with yours – lining up with you – seeking to please and honor and respect you. Make no mistake wives – some of the joy absent from marriage and therefore from life comes from omissions in these God-given responsibilities. It is not love as the world gives but love that is defined by the sacrificial love of God in Christ.
Husbands – if you thought of your wife’s failings just now – repent. Wives – if you thought of your husband’s failings just now – repent. Jesus is speaking to you, in your vocation – in your station – with our tendencies of self-centeredness and self-justification. Here is where both husbands and wives always and daily fall down and constantly need the gifts of God to lift them up. It is only in Him that we have forgiveness, only living in His loving grace that we can approach anything close to being a loving husband and wife as the Scriptures describe, for it is only by His grace that we enjoy such lives of love together.
Leo and Bethany – in the weeks and years ahead you will each acknowledge to the other – “I’m sorry” – “I didn’t understand” – “I was thinking of myself and my time” – “I should listen to you more closely.” As this happens in a Christian marriage there is the Christ who comes in Bethlehem’s stable and gives Himself in death and resurrection – “I forgive you!” Jesus teaches us to pray for it aloud every day in the fifth petition – Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us (including our spouse).
Happily ever after. That’s fairy tale language – even for marriages here on this earth – even for your marriage – for you will both say – until death parts us according to the will of God. That which Jesus has won for you – for us is no fairy tale. You are now joining in marriage as husband and wife but together and with all the saints of God we will always be the Bride of Christ.
Whether married or single on this earth – the love that we will receive from Him eternally is more than we can know here. It is great love, steadfast love, perfect love, everlasting love!
Happily ever after – forever and ever – world without end – that is the reality of the love of Christ – with Christ in paradise. His open tomb throws beautiful light on the burning core of His love for us.
May our Father in heaven grant you faith to receive your bridegroom, the resurrected Christ, with the open arms with the same joy and zeal that you enter this day, joined together with Him in perfect love that only He brings, as He keeps you in His grace that loves and forgives through His death and the life together He gives in resurrection glory. As He draws you closer to Himself you will be drawn closer to each other!
He did His first sign at the wedding in Cana – tuning water into fine wine in abundance! At this wedding He comes speaking wine into His blood with His forgiveness in abundance! At this feast the Bridegroom gives His Bride a staggering gift of love through which He continues to present you to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing – but holy and without blemish. Perfected in His love.
In the name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen