I was privileged this past weekend to give the homily for the wedding of Brian and Katie Manchester. Perhaps it will be of interest to others too.
Brian and Katie, this day has been a long time in coming. Your parents have been thinking about it for years, your friends have watched it develop and you have been wondering about it since at least the second date, if not the first. Now it’s here and you have given me the opportunity to say something to you today. I hope to say something that you will remember but I also hope to say something that challenges you.
We have heard from the Scriptures today that you are taking part in God’s grand creative process. When he created all that is, he chose to give to men and women, and only to men and women, his image and likeness. From this presence of God in us, he also appointed us to be stewards of his creation, to have dominion over the rest of the created order. He has given us a sacred trust and we continue to be charged with this responsibility of watching over all he saw fit to create. To men and women he admonishes to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth. We have been entrusted with much and we must be obedient to and faithful to God’s will for us in this manner. The way we do this, says Genesis, is through the sacrament of marriage. You are entering into a God-ordained institution today. You are no longer Brian and Kate, but you are now Brian and Katie – united together by your vows. From two comes one.
Katie, not only are you a beautiful bride but you are also a compassionate nurse, a comforting face with healing hands to those hurting and suffering. You have the stewardship of bringing health and healing to those who need it most. Just as God himself is the Great Physician caring for the souls of all people, you are entrusted with the care of human bodies, and with the cure of the human souls who inhabit those bodies. Your work is passionately human and material, yet with divine and spiritual ramifications. Few of us will know first-hand the depth of your experience with humans and the human body and its impact on human souls. Your work allows you to be God’s hands to the hurting. Do not forget that you stand in the place of God as you care for others.
Brian, you are here today as groom but you are also here as a seminary student. You have the privilege from God of intensely studying holy things in a way that is not the norm for most Christians. As you learn about God through his holy Word and through his good creation you are fortunate to draw closer to the one whom is simply the great “I am.” As you come to know God personally and deeply you are given more of God, allowing you to go further into his holy mysteries. Your course of studies allows you to enter, if you will, the Holy of Holies – the very dwelling place of God that many people are not fortunate enough to enter. Your studies allow you to contemplate the deep things of God (Job 11:7). Do not take it for granted.
Katie and Brian, collectively your study and work runs the spectrum from the human to the divine. Katie, you work in a world that is utterly human. Brian, you study topics that touch upon the divine. Katie, you work in a world that shows forth the beauty of God’s creation as well as its frailty. Brian, you study about the depravity of human nature and about humankind’s tendency to flee from God. Again, together you are experts on the divine-human reality of all of creation. This allows you, together, to understand in a particularly acute way the nature of Jesus Christ as the God-Man: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8). Like no other human before or after him, Jesus Christ understood what it was like to be both divine and human. As the Creator of the universe he condescended to become a mere man, to take upon him the burden of sin, purchasing the salvation of all humankind. He and he alone, is the consummation of all things human and all things divine. He and he alone, is the one who knows most acutely what it means to be both human and divine, to have those natures joined together into him.
Like Jesus Christ, Katie and Brian, you have an opportunity to bring together the human and divine. By joining together in holy matrimony the two of you unite into one a knowledge of and ministry to the utterly human. At the same time, you are able, together, to worship and commune with the supremely divine – God himself. All of this is to say that your marriage, like Jesus Christ, will be human and divine. From the divine standpoint you need to humble yourselves just as Christ humbled himself to be born as a man. In humility you will think of one another in the same manner as you think of yourselves. You will no longer think only of your own needs but of the needs of the other as well. Jesus’ humility was so great that it led to the cross. May your humility be so great as to lead you to Christ, the source and summit of your humility to one another.
From the human standpoint you need to realize that you are exalted by God, made in his image and likeness, given responsibilities as stewards of God’s creation. You must see Christ in one another, desiring the good of each other because not only is Christ in you but he is in the other as well. Jesus Christ must always be the focus and source of your shared life together. You must also realize that neither of you is perfect. I assume that you have learned this already since only a few dates into a relationship it becomes quite clear that the other person is far from perfect. Though imperfect, it is your task in marriage to strive to become more perfect as a spouse. Just because you may never attain the greatest heights of your yearning that is no reason not to strive to do so.
Thinking again of the divine presence in your marriage you must always place yourself as worshipers and servants at the feet of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Together you need to worship and serve God, individually you need to worship and serve God. God must be at the center of your marriage for your marriage serves as an image of Christ and the church. The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians that marriage “is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (5:32). The way in which you love one another in marriage will serve as a sign to the world the love that Jesus Christ has for the church. Just as the church is a human institution, made up of all the justified living and the glorified dead, it is also an utterly divine institution – the very bride of Christ. May your marriage be a sign to the whole world that Jesus Christ gave his life for the salvation of humankind. May your human-divine marriage be a faithful sign of the human-divine church of Jesus Christ.
Katie and Brian, you enter into a sacred trust today. As you have already heard spoken, today you become one in heart, body and mind for mutual joy. You become a helper and comforter to one another. If God wills, you become the parents of future children and their nurturers in the knowledge and love of God. You are two humans entering a most divine institution, may you look for strength to Jesus Christ, the God-Man.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.