This wedding homily was delivered at St. Anne’s Anglican Church in Oceanside, CA on June 26, 2009. Jane and Alex were students of mine in the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University and I had the privilege of performing, along with Jane’s father, their wedding this summer. A beautiful day with a wonderful couple.
Jane and Alex, wedding advice often comes from both expected and unexpected sources. Parents are a great source of wisdom, given that they have many years invested in their own marriages. Pastors are also capable advice-givers, drawing from a rich and deep well of practical wisdom garnered from years of listening and counseling couples. By asking me to give your homily today, you obviously thought that a professor might have something useful to say to you regarding your future life together. The good news is that I do, in fact, have something to challenge you with today and hopefully it is useful. However, it is not original with me. It comes from a most unlikely source—a monk. Denis Farkasfalvy is the abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Dallas.
Denis, a good friend of mine, was forced to flee Hungary when the communists in the mid-1950s overran the country. He settled in Rome but at some point he and a number of his fellow monks found their way to the United States and, eventually, to Dallas where he is now the abbot of a thriving and beautiful monastery. I met Denis in 1997 and am fortunate to call him a friend. After several months of friendship and good discussions, I moved to Minnesota to attend graduate school. At the last meeting that I had with Denis before I left, he said something to me that did not make sense at the time. He looked me square in the eyes and said, “Don’t forget to bring your wife along with you.”
Well, there were two immediate issues: first, I did not really know what he meant; and second, I more or less ignored his advice simply because I thought, “What does a monk know about being married?” Come to find out… he knew a lot. What Denis knew, that I did not know at the time, was that by going on to graduate school in theology I was going to be learning a lot about God and his Word. My wife, on the other hand, was not going to be sitting in those classes with me, learning the same things. It was my responsibility, if you will, to bring her along with me. Basically, as I came to learn, Denis was simply saying to me, “Be a good husband.” In this case, I was wrong. This monk did know what he was talking about, despite his never being married. It took me about four more years to learn truly what Denis was saying to me that day. So, Jane and Alex, let me challenge you today by simply modifying what Denis said to me, “Bring each other along in your marriage.”
The biblical texts that you have chosen to have read today offer some great challenges. In fact, you will likely fail to keep fully these exhortations but that does not mean that you must not try mightily to live up to God’s expectations for your marriage. Like Jesus Christ himself, the apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, places love as the highest virtue: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Jesus commanded us to love God and our neighbors as ourselves. He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jane and Alex, you must love one another. Does this seem too obvious to be said on your wedding day? Perhaps, but your love, which is so strong today, will need work to always be so strong. Do not take for granted your love for one another. Attend to it and cultivate it. By growing in your love for God, you will grow in love for one another. As we heard from the Song of Solomon, set each other as a seal upon your hearts and upon your arms for when this is done, “love is strong as death.” Bring one another along in love.
Furthermore, Paul admonishes you to be patient, kind, humble, gentle, generous, peaceful and truthful. Though the apostle sets love higher than these virtues, the Scriptures certainly expects each of them to be prevalent in your marriage. Though love may cover a multitude of sins, these virtues will help keep you from sinning against one another. A marriage characterized by these virtues will be a testament to those around you of your love for God and the centrality of God in your marriage. It is not too much to suggest that should you pursue these virtues from this day forward, your marriage may be like the spring spoken of in the Song of Solomon, characterized by those elements that God finds beautiful: a blossoming and fragrant love evidenced by joyful singing and abundant spiritual fruit. Therefore, bring one another along in virtue.
Finally, and certainly most importantly, make God the foundation, the center and the end of your marriage. As Paul writes to the believers in Ephesians, “be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Jane and Alex, you both know Christ and I know that you both desire to make him the focus of your own individual lives. Now, as you marry, resolve to make him the center of your married life. That Christ himself gave himself up for you makes it illogical and incomprehensible that you would not give yourselves back to him sacrificially. Jane, you do this most directly by submitting to Alex, just as you submit yourself unto the Lord. Let Alex be the loving and caring husband that he desires and is called to be. Do not view this submission as coming from a place of weakness but as coming from a place of strength. That is, that you love God so much, that you are so spiritually mature that you will give yourself wholly and willingly to Alex, imperfect though he is. In your submission to Alex, you will demonstrate to the church of Jesus Christ and to the whole world what it is for us as believers to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ. Your submission to Alex is not a sign of weakness; it is an icon to a broken and dying world that Christ loves us and gave himself up for us. Jane, this is a noble task, allow God himself to give you the grace necessary to fulfill this holy calling.
Alex, your responsibility in this regard is as great. You are to love Jane in the same way that Christ “loved the church and gave himself up for her.” This should appear to you, Alex, to be an impossible task and it is, apart from the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit working in you and through you. Let God fill you so that you can love Jane as you love yourself. Nourish and cherish her just as Christ nourishes and cherishes the church. It is for this reason that you are leaving your father and mother and becoming one flesh with Jane. For marriage is not an institution created by governments or even the church. No, it is God’s own sacrament and we are told in Genesis that God created it so that man would not have to be alone. Alex, by calling you into this marriage, God is showing you that you need Jane, that you are somehow incomplete without her. She has been given to you by God, just as Christ was given for the church. Do not take her for granted; imitate God’s love for you when you love Jane.
Jane and Alex, bring one another along in your devotion to God, as you love one another. Bring one another along in cultivating virtue. Bring one another along in love. Heed the advice of a wise monk, bring each other along throughout all the days of your life together. In short, Jane, be a good wife. Alex, be a good husband. By doing so you will honor the vows that you make today and you will honor God. Amen.