Last week I performed a wedding along the Potomac River in the late summer afternoon sun. Lucas, the little ring-bearer predictably and adorably forgot to process down with his pillow so as the bride marched to ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ the congregation could all hear Lucas’ mother whispering/shouting: ‘Lucas, Lucas get down here right now.’
The bride’s sister played a tender clarinet solo and, being a professional musician, it was impeccable.
The bride’s friends read tender texts from Kalil Gibran on the nature of love.
The couple’s friend spoke tenderly about their love and wished them well with the advice that all will be well ‘if they just keep loving each other.’
It was all beautiful, tender, romantic and COMPLETELY unrealistic.
As all weddings almost always are.
After I read scripture from 1 John 4 about God being love, I launched into my wedding homily. I don’t reuse homilies from couple to couple but I do repeat a few key points, and my aim in the wedding sermon is always the same: to quash the sentimentality that so often renders wedding ceremonies ‘beautiful’ without being truthful.
Because of course, as any (happily or unhappily) married person can attest ‘just loving each other’ is empty, naive advice. Marriage is work and risk. Marriage is sacrifice- that’s how Jesus, an otherwise single dude, can be an example of the love between husband and wife.
Were it as easy as ‘just loving each other’ marriage wouldn’t be a vocation that required vows to enter.
This is part of what I told that couple:
Marriage is a high-risk adventure, for a life lived together can expose the worst in people, all the intricate flaws that come with human nature. No matter how many times we have sat in chairs like these and listened to people like me announce “Dearly Beloved,” these are daunting promises to make. Marriage is risky business. Today the two of you are not just saying ‘I do’ to the person standing next to you; you’re also saying ‘I do’ to whomever or whatever that person is going to become- something that is unknown and unseen to the both of you. That is the risk you take today, but as far as the church is concerned it’s a beautiful risk. It’s an act of faith.
It’s this commitment to the unknown- at least in my view- that make weddings the beautiful gesture that they are.
It’s this same commitment to the unknown, this act of faith, that appears to be waning. According to the NY Times, for example, lawmakers in Mexico proposed the creation of short-term, renewable marriage contracts with terms as brief as two years. Which I guess makes marriage less a sacrament and more like a Best Buy service agreement.
Here’s the article from Sunday’s paper.