Essay / Misc.

Words, Words, Words: A Homily for Katherine and Peter van Elswyk

I write this while sitting in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, waiting for my flight back to Los Angeles after officiating at the wedding of and celebrating with Kat and Peter van Elswyk. What a great day, graced by an unseasonably early dusting of Minnesota snow. Having known Kat and Peter for just over four years, I’m only a little tempted to be sentimental about how the “kids” are growing up. I have been privileged to perform four weddings this year, all of which were for former students. Teaching in Torrey and working with these honors students is joy enough but to get to marry them? Priceless. I feel like I’m living in a Mastercard commercial. For this blog I’ve chosen to share with you all the wedding homily that I gave for Kat and Peter. Though the homily is catered to them, I trust that it says something pertinent to us all. Enjoy!


In a world where words are traded cheaply and oftentimes lack value and validity, Katherine and Peter, you have already and will continue to exchange words today that are, in fact, vows—promises made primarily before God but also before your family and friends. Words matter, but you both know this already. You have chosen two biblical passages to be read here today that demonstrate the emphasis that you yourselves place on words and the Word. The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1 talks about a kind of wisdom that stands up against the foolishness of the world. Though the world would not listen to wisdom, that is, God’s message of salvation as revealed through his son Jesus Christ, God chose to use the foolish to preach in his name. In fact, Paul refers to the very content of the Gospel as “folly.” Of course, we know that the Good News of Jesus Christ is not foolish but it was and continues to be so to those who do not believe. While the Jews sought signs and the Greeks sought wisdom, God was making himself available to everyone in the person of Jesus Christ the Savior. For God’s foolishness “is wiser” than the wisdom of men and God is strong in weakness.

Peter, you know how to use words. You are a natural philosopher and debater. Yet, it will not be your words that effect change in the world or even in your marriage to Katherine but it will be in your “foolishness” that you will make a difference in the world and in marriage. When words fail you, and they always do, it will be your humility that speaks louder and more lovingly than your well-reasoned words. It will be your lowliness that is the greatest testimony to God’s goodness and grace. Peter, you will need to learn how to talk less with words and more with your manner of life. You will need to show your love for Katherine through your actions as much as by your words.

Katherine, you too know how to use words, for in acting you know how to make words that are not your own, be your own. You know how to take words that are written as scripts and make them so effective that they appear to be unscripted. In part, you use words to turn fiction into reality. This is not necessarily bad unless you misuse such a gift and such talent to create a world in your marriage that does not mirror the reality of your marriage. Katherine, you will need to be wise in your word choice, using words that reflect your deepest emotions and words that most accurately represent your feelings. As Peter strives to listen, you will need to be precise, for Peter prizes the craft of speaking. Do not act your emotions out before Peter but reveal yourself to him in wisely chosen words.

Furthermore, and most importantly, keep your hearts and minds attuned to the Word—Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The so-called “wise” world rejects our words that direct them to the Word. God uses fools to preach folly to the foolish. But don’t be misled. Our words do matter and they serve the purpose of pointing ourselves, other Christians and all persons to God himself. Though the world thinks that we are fools, we are not. Though the world thinks that our words are foolish, they are not. Katherine and Peter, in your marriage you need to use words to build one another up, to help instill true wisdom into your marriage. You must use words to help one another grow in the knowledge and love of God. Your words to one another should bring light and life to your marriage. Yet, do not only use your own words but spend time in the Word of God, the Scriptures. Let the words revealed there become your own words. Let the words revealed there point you to the living Word who “became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Word gave us his revealed word so that our words would be wise.

So many words! But, you both enjoy words and know how to use words! Let the words that you say to one another here today, let the marriage vows that you make to one another today, be some of most important words that you have ever uttered. Believe them. Live into them. May the words of your mouths and the meditations of your hearts be acceptable in his sight. Live up to Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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