If you watch TLC on your television for any amount of time, you can learn a lot about any given subject…but you sure get an education when it comes to weddings. Although love remains a constant, wedding ceremonies are not.
For instance did you realize that at one time weddings did not take place in churches? That is right, they used to take place on the steps of a church or at someone’s home. Until the 1800’s it was rare to see a wedding in a church. Furthermore, even when weddings began to become more common in the life of a church there were many preachers greatly opposed to allowing a bride to walk down the middle aisle (as if she were a queen instead of a humble sinner). So that is why many churches at the turn of the century were designed like ours with two side aisles and no middle aisle .
Of course, wedding fashion has changed a bit as well. For many years, veils were out of fashion as well as long trains. During World War II couples frequently eloped and went out of state to get married. Many wore their best Sunday clothes instead of tuxedos and long gowns.
Wedding customs have also changed a great deal even in the short time since I’ve begun performing marriages. For instance 20 years ago everyone threw rice at weddings and now out of concern for bloated birds now people tend to blow bubbles instead. The old saying used to be that the mother of the groom was supposed to wear beige and keep her mouth shut but within the last few years her status has become somewhat elevated with the new practice of the groom walking his mother down the aisle. Oh yes, there have been changes in wedding customs, and there have been more than a few changes in marriages as well.
Another way that marriage has changed has to do with women working outside the home. My Grandmother used to complain that men were the only ones who could talk about retirement, because after retirement women continued to do the same housework they always have. Well, I guess you can see where I got my crankiness from, but I think that Grandma would be pleasantly surprised to see how much the role of men and women in marriage has changed in the last 20 years. For example, although women still do many household chores, men are helping out more and they are taking a great deal more interest in their children. It is not uncommon to see men cooking in the kitchen or caring for their small children. They are as capable of changing a diaper as their wives are. To their credit most modern women are less likely to go berserk over the discovery of a dust bunny lurking under the bed, while men do not find it an insult to their masculinity to clear the table and wash dishes. Both partners in a marriage have learned to define themselves less by the neatness of their homes then by the development of their lives together.
But although the order of our homes may have changed, although the size of our families may have dramatically decreased, although many situations that accompany our marriages have been altered, some things have stayed the same. And the most important of these stable unchangeable foundations is Love. Love is the root of all of our meaningful relationships. Not only our relationship with our spouse, but also our relationship with our parents, our friends, our children, and our God. In fact you might say that it was God who started this whole love thing way back in the Garden of Eden. According to the book of Genesis God had created the whole world, the animals, the plants, the fish in the sea. But although it was good, it was not enough and so God created human beings. The purpose of these newly created beings was to nurture God’s creation and to give God companionship. Therefore, God created male and female in his own image…with a heart and the ability and the desire to love God and God’s creation as well as one another. In fact, he loved human beings so much he gave them free will, a mind of their own and gave them a choice as to whether or not they would return his love or not. Which just goes to show you that God is a bit of a risk taker as well.
Later, after human beings proved to be a bit of a disappointment, God did not give up on his contrary creation. Instead in an effort to heal the breech that had developed between God and humanity, God sent his Son Jesus. And although Jesus himself never married he did give himself to the world as a bridegroom.
The early church often talked about Jesus as a Bridegroom and the Church as his bride. The implication being that the love between God and the church is a sacrificial one, each one willingly to make sacrifices out of love for the benefit of the other. I guess when you think about it then it was only natural that the Apostle Paul later used the love of God and the willingness of Jesus to submit to the cross as an example as the way things should be in our marriages. Often misquoted Paul told women to submit themselves to their husbands, but he also told husbands to submit themselves to their wives. Christians to submit themselves to one another, citizens to submit to the government and slaves to submit to masters. We might come to the conclusion that Paul was not one to challenge the existing social order. But the point Paul was making is that although we are shocked and disheartened by all this talk of submission, because of the example of Jesus, Paul didn’t think that submitting oneself to someone else was a terrible demeaning thing to do.
In fact, if we were to put Paul’s verses of submission to modern meter and verse…They might sound something like “Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river deep enough.” The point the song is making is that true love is willing to go to great lengths on the behalf of its beloved. If you doubt that’s true— parents just think of the great lengths you go to on behalf of your children…you’ll even change their messy diapers. Spouses, admit it you would go to great lengths to help or protect your husband or wife. And that’s the same thing as saying “You are submitting your life to the one you love.. Paul lifted up submission and humility to a virtue when he said “Christ Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross.
And you have to admit it, despite the notoriety of the Apostle Paul’s controversial writings … Paul did have some pretty wonderful things to say about the subject of love. Check out 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
We spend a lot of time making fun of married life but the truth of the matter is that a good marriage is one of the best things we can enjoy in life. It addresses our deepest most basic needs, it offers us a partner in life who will be patient, who will be kind to us, who won’t gloat or belittle us, who will not be rude, but who will be tender and understanding, someone who will hold us accountable while at the same time nurturing and supporting our dreams and aspirations. A good spouse who will not keep track of our mistakes but will forgive and forget and move on.
A good marriage is a wonderful thing: something to be hoped for, something to be appreciated, something to be treasured but it is made better when we allow God to be a part of our lives. Whether we are single or whether we are married, each one of us needs a close relationship with God. And the good news is that no matter what our marital state God offers us this kind of friendship. God offer us his unconditional love and forgiveness, support and strength every day of our lives in places and situations that even the best spouse can never be. Human beings are limited by time and space, God is a spirit, God is everywhere, God is always available to us 24/7.
For better…”For worse, for richer or poorer.. in sickness and in health…to love and to cherish….We shall never be parted by death from God” This is His Solemn vow….Amen