Thursday, March 14, 2013

Wedding Script

My son-in-law and my daughter wanted the Gospel message to be integral to their wedding ceremony, in the hope that the words and vows spoken there would reach any among the guests that might not know the peace, joy, and fulfillment of life as the Bride of Christ.  My sister has asked that I post the transcript of the ceremony to this blog.  Here it is:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to witness and to celebrate one of the most wonderful occasions in life, commemorating what is, according to their own testimonies,  the second most important decision, the second most important commitment of Patrick’s and Elisabeth’s lives.  Why the second most important?  Well, we’ll get to that in just a few moments, but I would like to share just a couple of brief paragraphs from the inspired Word of God in which He shares His design for and His thoughts concerning this holy union between a man and a woman that we call “marriage.”

Ephesians 5:22-33

Marriage Like Christ and the Church

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

In just a few short sentences, the apostle Paul paints one of the most profound pictures of marriage and its purpose that can found anywhere, in any book, movie or any other media.  Listen to what Paul says as he quotes Genesis 2:24 in describing this holy union: For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  You see, as God indicated almost as far back as the beginning of time, and as Paul understood so very well, the relationship shared between a married man and woman is so close, so intimate, that the two of them can no longer be considered as individuals, but instead become part of a greater whole.  Paul then follows his quote with a startling declaration concerning this very special relationship: This mystery is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.  You see, marriage is a gift to us in many ways and on many levels, but perhaps the single greatest gift this beautiful relationship gives us is a picture of God Himself, and of the closeness He desires with His children.  Paul uses the word mystery here to describe an idea that was only partially revealed to the prophets Old Testament, but that found its fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. 

God referred to His chosen people as His bride multiple times throughout the Old Testament, but it was not until the resurrection and ascension of Christ that the full scope of this mystery became clear.  In John 14, 15, and 16 Christ comforted His disciples with the promise that if He left them, He would send the comforter to be with them – a promise that was realized with the gift of the Holy Spirit that dwells in each and every believer.  

So, the mystery is that marriage and the intimacy within marriage are a physical picture of the spiritual intimacy that God desires with us,  and that is available to each of us, if we would only place our faith in His Son as our lord and savior. 

Let us pray.

Our Heavenly Father, we thank You for creating this day and setting it aside for Patrick and for Elisabeth.  Lord, I thank You for the gift of a beautiful daughter and for the 21 wonderful years in which You entrusted her to her mother and me to care for her and to nurture her and to enjoy her company.  I thank you most of all for calling her to yourself and for the assurance that we have of spending eternity with her in Your Kingdom.

I thank you Lord for Patrick; for bringing him into Elisabeth’s life in the nick of time – in Your perfect time, just as she was beginning to despair of finding a righteous man with whom she might share her life.  I thank you Lord for Patrick’s openness and humility, for his devotion to You and Your Ways, and for his caring, gentle, and nurturing spirit.

Lord I thank you for the gift of marriage and for how much it reveals to us of Your loving nature.  I pray that you would bless Patrick and Elisabeth as they stand before You today, that you would stand in their midst today and for all time, and that you would grow and strengthen their faith and their marriage until it shines like a blazing beacon proclaiming the truth and hope of Your Gospel.

Bless us this day and forgive us our sins.

In Christ’s precious name, Amen.

As Paul describes the mystery that is marriage, it becomes apparent that, just as Christ and the believers that make up His bride - His church - each have their own roles, a husband and a wife each have their own roles within marriage.

Elisabeth: as the wife of Patrick, you are not only Patrick’s companion and helper; you represent the glorious body of believers that Christ Himself died to rescue from the bonds to and the penalty for sin.  And just as all in the church are called to subordinate their own will and desires in obedience to the will and commandments of Christ, you are called to set aside your own pride and desires and to live in submission to your husband.  Now I know that words like “obedience” and “submission” have almost become four-letter words in our individualist society, but they are qualities that God holds in very high esteem, as His word plainly indicates to us.  Listen to the picture God’s Word paints of the gentile woman, Ruth, who is held up in Scripture as the ideal wife of Proverbs 31:

Ruth 3:7-9 

7 … when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then [Ruth] came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! 9 He said, "Who are you?" And she answered, "I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer."

In placing her life and fate in the hands of Boaz and pledging to be a servant wife to him, Ruth echoed Boaz’s own words back to him.  You see, just weeks before, Boaz, impressed by the humble and caring spirit, and by the faith of a gentile woman, had offered a prayer over Ruth, that she might be blessed by the one true God, under whose wing she had come for shelter.  God, in His turn, arranged for Boaz himself to become the instrument of that blessing.  And just as Ruth trusted completely in God and in the man who would become her husband, you are called to trust in Patrick as your husband, to place yourself in his hands under God and to rely on his care for you to meet your needs within marriage.

Patrick: in this day and age, it can be very difficult for a woman to subordinate her own will to that of her husband, but you can be the one to take that burden from your wife and turn it instead into joy.  As Elisabeth’s husband, you are not only her provider and the head of her household; you are a living representation of Christ, and of His love for His sheep.  You are called, not to lord it over your wife and household as many in our generation tend to do, but to love your wife unselfishly as Christ loved us; seeking not to humiliate or degrade us, but to care for us, protect us and glorify us in the eyes of all the world.  Christ Himself tells us that his yoke is easy and His burden light.  Today, humility and unselfishness are not considered to be concepts that “sell,” but they are character traits that are so valuable to God that He modeled them for us Himself in the person of His Son:

Philippians 2:4-8 

4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Patrick, there is an old saying:  “Happy wife – happy life.”  If you would have a wife who can be truly joyful at the prospect of submission to you as her husband, you are called to love my daughter with the love that Christ has for His church, placing her needs before your own and even before your very life, ruling your household with gentleness and humility.

Both of you:  Here we finally come to the reason that this day is the second most important day in your lives, and the vows you are about to take are the second most important promise you have made or ever will make in this life.  Listen to the words of Solomon as he instructs us on the importance of companionship in this life:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 

9 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10 For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11 Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

Interestingly, Solomon repeatedly uses the number “two” to describe the importance of human relationships:  Two are better than one.  If two lie down… Two can resist… Then he suddenly says a strange thing:  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  Three.  In engineering, when we want to make something strong, we make it out of what?  Out of triangles.  Three.  You see, the writer of Ecclesiastes understood that the strongest of all two-person relationships are really three-person relationships.  The center strand of Solomon’s cord is the Lord.  The apex of the triangle is the Lord.  The third person who is really the first person in the strongest of two-person relationships is the Lord.  And the most important decision you have ever made or ever will make is to put your faith in and trust Christ as Lord.  This may sound counter-intuitive, but the more of yourselves that you give to the Lord, the more of you is left over to give to each other.

And so lastly, and most importantly, Patrick and Elisabeth, I call you and God calls you to love Him first, to keep Him in first place, and to make Him the highest priority in your lives.  God first; each other second; yourselves last.

Do you, Patrick, pledge to live by these things that I have spoken to you, to love Elisabeth sacrificially and to care for her as God has instructed you, and to love God first as His Word has commanded you?

And do you, Elisabeth, pledge to live by these things I have spoken to you, to love and obey Patrick as God has instructed you, and to love God first, as His Word has commanded you?

Then each of you repeat after me:

I, Patrick, take thee, Elisabeth, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee myself to you.

I, Elisabeth, take thee, Patrick, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee myself to you.

Patrick and Elisabeth, the rings you exchange on this day symbolize the eternal love that each of you enjoy as Children of your Heavenly Father and the life-long commitment that you make to each other this day.

Patrick: place Elisabeth’s ring on her finger and repeat after me:

With this ring I thee wed and with it I bestow the treasures of my mind, heart and hands. May this ring forever be to you the symbol of my growing love, and may it serve as a constant reminder that I choose you, Elisabeth above all others, to be my wife, until death do us part.

Elisabeth: place Patrick’s ring on his finger and repeat after me:

With this ring I thee wed and with it I bestow the treasures of my mind, heart and hands. May this ring forever be to you the symbol of my growing love, and may it serve as a constant reminder that I choose you, Patrick above all others, to be my husband, until death do us part.

Patrick and Elisabeth:  By the power vested in me by the State and under God, I now pronounce you man and wife.  What God has joined, let no man put asunder.  Patrick, you may kiss the bride J

In one of the last intimate moments Christ shared with His disciples before going to the cross, Jesus got up from the supper table, wrapped a towel around His own waist and began washing His disciples’ feet.  When He had done so, Christ instructed His disciples that they should do the same for each other.  In token of their unselfish affection for one another, and of their intent to live in service to Christ and to each other, Patrick and Elisabeth would like to begin their marriage by ceremonially washing each other’s feet.