Friday, 23 September 2011

My next wedding sermon

Over the years I have conducted a fair number of weddings.  However, I only have two basic marriage sermons, which I rotate.  Yesterday I came up with the concept for a third.  I will call the couple John and Jane (although I have just made up those names).
Today you move from a relationship built upon attraction to one built on commitment.  You see it is not attraction that will hold your marriage together, but the commitment to the promises you have just made.  With these words that you have spoken, and later when this marriage is consummated, a covenant is formed.  It is a covenant that is binding for as long as your spouse is alive, and you will only be freed from it if they are unfaithful.

Dating someone is built upon attraction.  Presumably as you got to know each other you realised that there was a spark between you.  You found yourselves thinking about each other and looking forward until the next time you met.  If, during this time of going out with each other, you lost that spark you were free to break the relationship off.  If, during this time of dating, you had met a suitable person you were more attracted to, you had the option of ending this relationship and pursuing them instead.

John, Jane will not be the last woman that you are attracted to.  Jane, John will not be the last man that you will be attracted to.  However, as you marry you are foregoing your right to pursue anyone else.  You have made your bed, now lie in it.  If you leave your marriage for someone you find more attractive it is adultery.
There is a fundamental difference between attraction and commitment.  Attraction is about what the other person offers me, commitment is about what I give the other person.  I want to suggest that the model of a relationship built on commitment rather than attraction is found in the love that God offers to each one of us.

You see we have done many things that make us unattractive to God.  Yes, he has made humankind with value.  We are made in the image of God.  But each one of us has rejected him.  The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23); and that all have, like sheep, gone astray and turned to their own ways (Is. 53:6).  The Bible even says that we have become worthless (Rom. 3:12).  So God is not interested in us because of what we have to offer him.  His love is built upon his commitment to us rather than our attractiveness.

While we have given God many reasons not to love us he loves us with a passion.  He invites us to experience a loving relationship with him.  He offers to accept us as adopted children with the full right of heirs.  So deep is this commitment that he gave his one and only Son, to die for our guilt, that we could experience his pardon.  Amazingly, as he washes away our guilt and clothes us with the righteousness of Christ we become a 'masterpeice' (Eph. 2:10).  How foolish we would be to refuse to let Christ be our king and so miss out on enjoying such love!

John and Jane, you are now entering a relationship built on commitment rather than attraction.  I hope that you will always be attracted to each other, indeed I hope that your attraction towards each other will grow as the years go by and your love matures.  But more importantly, I hope that with God's help you will remain faithful to the promises you have made here today.  Promises to love and to cherish, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death seperates you.
Let me finish by telling you about a man who took his wedding vows seriously.  Robertson McQuilkin was the president of the Columbia Bible College. Unfortunately his wife, Muriel, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. In March 1990 Dr. McQuilkin announced his resignation in a letter with these words:
My dear wife, Muriel, has been in failing mental health for about eight years. So far I have been able to carry both her ever-growing needs and my leadership responsibilities at CBC. But recently it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me and almost none of the time I am away from her. It is not just "discontent." She is filled with fear - even terror - that she has lost me and always goes in search of me when I leave home. Then she may be full of anger when she cannot get to me. So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full time.

Perhaps it would help you to understand if I shared with you what I shared at the time of the announcement of my resignation in chapel. The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel "in sickness and in health ... till death do us part." So, as I told the students and faculty, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of debt. Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more; I love Muriel. She is a delight to me - her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual distressing frustration. I do not have to care for her, I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.

A friend visited the McQuilkin's a month later.  They witnessed his 'gentle, loving way with his dear wife, who understood little of what was going on' and later wrote, 'The memory of our visit is one of lingering beauty.  Such beautiful Christlike love did not just happen! It came from the inner resolve of a young husband who had determined forty-two years before ...'

Listen to Roberston McQuilkin as he publicly explained his decision to resign from his job and care for his wife.


1 comment:

nao said...

wonderful Roberston's speech...