Reverend Rebecca Newland
12 October 2013
This is a very special day is it not? How wonderful it is to be here with Mel and Tim as they make their vows to each other. For some of us we are also sad that Tim's father David is not with us on this special occasion. However, I believe that David's spirit is with us and he shares in our joy and pride. A wedding is a time of great celebration for it is about that most precious thing: committed, faithful, life long unconditional love. This type of love is so precious it is called a sacrament. A marriage between two Christians is meant to reveal God's love and grace to the partners but also to the community and world around. It is a sign of unconditional love, where each partner commits to the other's wellbeing and wholeness as long as they both shall live and it is God's love that makes this all possible. The more people, and all types of people, that want to get married the better!
Who would not want to be in a relationship where each person enriches and responds to each other and grows in tenderness and understanding as our prayer book introduction says? Who would not want to be loved and love without fear, resentment or irritation? But for those of us who have been married, have even been married more than once or have watched our married family and friends marriages we know all too well how extraordinarily difficult this all is. Our scripture readings present a very wonderful picture of love and commitment but also a very idealized one. Although in deference to Jesus Christ he did try and warn everyone that unconditional love and commitment looked a lot like suffering and the death of self.
Marriage is wonderful but it is also the most practical of relationships. It is earth, fleshy, messy, frustrating, difficult and blissful. When you and your partner make up after a disagreement or fight it is sublime. When your partner does that one thing that sets your teeth on edge you have to pull out all your reserves of patience and tolerance not to just scowl or shout at them in frustration.
So, having said how wonderful marriage is and how difficult it is all at the same time I now want to offer you some free practical advice. This advice comes with some experience and a great deal of love. I have married twice. Failed abysmally at the first and been pleasantly surprised and very grateful that the second is quite different. I have worked as a relationship educator and counselor in a previous life, studied scripture and theology, watched marriages be formed and fall apart amongst my family and friends and seen people I have married now divorced. I am still personally struggling at times with the joy and pain of it all but there are some basic things married people can do each day and for the rest of their lives that can make the difference. The difference between your vows standing the test of time, your marriage being a source of enrichment and blessing and this day being a very expensive party. So Tim and Mel:
First of all … put God first. I don't mean as a couple but as each individual. Tim make your relationship with your loving higher power the most important relationship in your life. Mel make your relationship with your loving higher power the most important relationship in your life. I say this not just because it is the great and first commandment. I say it because it will be a great relief for your partner.
So many people get married because they want someone else to love them forever. To always be there. They look to their partner to rescue and save them from a life of loneliness and potential sadness. They look to their partner to validate them. No husband or wife can do this every day and consistently. No human being will be able to do this consistently; they will be tired, confused, hurt, reacting to their own issues and not sure what to do or what to say.
Remember that first and foremost, human beings are meant to be one with God. To know they are one with all creation. That all their value and worth comes from the one fact that they are a loved child of God. Let God be God in your life, prioritize your prayer life and let your partner be the flawed, human, precious, goofy, oddball that they are. Don't put them on a pedestal and don't put yourself there either.
Second … take care of yourself. What I mean is step up and be responsible for your own needs and wants. Do not expect that your new husband or wife will know what you need. Learn what your body, mind and soul needs to live a life that is enriching, fulfilling and will be a blessing for others. Know yourself, be responsible for yourself and communicate your needs and wants clearly, calmly and confidently to your partner. Your partner is not a mind reader. Each person sees reality in their own quirky way. What may be bleedingly obvious to you is perhaps a black hole to your partner. And remember we are all mysteries to each other. Do not assume you know what your partner is thinking or they know what you are thinking. Ask questions, clarify information and be clear. Do not assume and especially do not react on an assumption. Help your partner to comfort, honour and protect you. They need your help to fulfill their vows.
Thirdly … having put God first, having taken care of yourself and been clear about your needs and wants, then out of all other possible human demands prioritize your partner. Put them before anyone or anything else. They are more important than your job, your vocation, your hobbies, your family and your friends. Your relationship will need energy put into it. You will need to find time to know each other more deeply, to experience life together and share about it. Have a date night each week. Have a diary night each week so you can make sure each of you know what is coming up on your plate.
Make time for sex and intimacy. Sex is good. It is a great and joyous blessing. There is nothing like the type of sexual intimacy that comes from a committed, secure, faithful relationship. It is sublimely beautiful and beyond compare. Do not get confused by what magazines, advertising and the sex party want to tell you about sex. It is not about physical gymnastics, multiple orgasms and super-sized equipment. It is a powerful and profound expression of vulnerability and intimacy where we express unconditional love and acceptance at the deepest level.
Fourth and last … forgive each other again and again and again. The good news that the church tries to preach is the good new of reconciliation. The message of Christ is about reconciliation, the coming together of the parts of a broken whole, whether they are relationships between God and humans, between individuals, between husband and wife, family members, ethnic groups or beliefs. In Christ's death and resurrection we are restored to God, to each other and the whole of creation. Reconciliation presupposes knowing what went wrong, admitting it could have been different and forgiveness. We all need forgiveness. We all need the blessing and joy of reconciliation, when we find ourselves one again after falling apart.
Tim and Mel you are embarking on the most extraordinary journey, a journey that has been travelled countless times by many others. Yet, this is your marriage, your life together. You can make it be what ever you want and need it to be. You can learn from others, your parents, your friends, but ultimately this is your creation, this is your new life as one. Your family, friends and church will be supporting you. God will be with you. May your marriage be truly blessed. Amen.