Summary: Beginning with a scriptural look at why marriage is such an important gift for us, moving on to how marriage looks like a model for our response to the gospel, ending with what this means and how we can join in the glory this leads to.
Marriage – Marriage is more than a gift… it is God’s plan for His church
Sunday 10th June 2012 – 9:45 – St John’s, Hedge End
Readings NT – Ephesians 5:15-32
OT – Jeremiah 31:31-34
Gospel – Matthew 19:1-12
Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak through them;
Take our minds and think through them;
Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for Yourself, Lord Jesus.
So, what am I doing here? Apparently I was christened here just under 31 years ago, I can’t remember it, but I am told this is true. My parents were married here some 33 years ago, again, I have no memory of this, I was not even thought of yet, except by God. Much more recently my wife, Nicki and I have been joining with you here at St John’s in worship for about 6 months. We would like to thank you all for a very warm welcome and a real insight into your church life. Evidently the “welcome course” Chris has been running has been working wonders.
This service marks an official end to our time here. So when I was asked to speak it seemed fitting to talk about transition. The ultimate transition we face is death, marked in church by a funeral service. This seemed to me to be slightly morbid, bearing in mind that it seems I have survived 6 months at St John’s I thought something a little less final. Another obvious transition that springs to mind would be Jesus’ ascension. But with Pentecost being only a fortnight ago this seemed, to me, to have been well covered lately. So what to speak about then, it then occurred to me that this is not just a transition but a journey, I began to think and pray about what it might mean to speak about the Exodus and pilgrimage, only to realise that Chris might not be too fond of you all getting up and wandering off through the wilderness.
It became apparent that a massive transition many of us face and a long and winding journey for all those who embark upon it, is that of marriage. Marriage ticked all the boxes for me and with this being the place my parents were married it seemed ideal, but what to say about Marriage? Surely we all know about marriage and weddings? Well so I thought…
By the way, if any of you are not familiar with us yet, my wife can be spotted by the blinding radiance from her very new shock of pink hair. I may well be speaking about forgiveness in marriage in a few moments.
What is Marriage?
The oxford dictionary says marriage is, the formal union of a man and woman, typically as recognised by law, by which they become husband and wife. The Pastoral Introduction in the Common Worship marriage service reads, …Marriage is intended by God to be a creative relationship, as His blessing enables husband and wife to love and support each other in good times and in bad… marriage is also an invitation to share life together in the spirit of Jesus Christ. However according to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale marriage is the 3rd most stressful thing that can happen, only 5 points less stressful than the death of a spouse and amazingly 25 points more stressful than a prison sentence of 1 year or more. It is possible that the studies used here are looking more at weddings than at the lifelong marriages themselves. But nevertheless there is a definite sense that marriage is not something to be taken or entered into lightly.
What the Bible says
Our readings this morning were all relating to a covenant of sorts, or more significantly a marriage. To fulfil our part in a covenant requires dedication. Last Tuesday 5th June at the thanksgiving service to mark Her majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams talked at length about dedication. He said that to be dedicated means to remove ourselves from all other uses, to be totally available to that purpose. That the joy, pleasure and fulfilment we can receive is in working towards the benefit of those we are in covenant with. In our lives this ought to be God and in the case of our marriages, our spouse. It is this level of dedication that is required to enjoy the full fruits of the gift of marriage.
Our Gospel reading this morning was from Matthew 19. This was another of those occasions when the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus into false testimony and blasphemy. Jesus, being the fulfilment of the mosaic law, had radical but not alien responses to their questions that drew on the Hebrew scripture to bring the people closer to God’s will for their lives. I just want to take a few moments to look at some points from within this passage before I move on to what I believe God wants me to share. In verse 4 we read Jesus saying “have you not read…” this is in response to a vital question about life’s most important institutions, marriage and family, Jesus quotes as His authority the account of creation in Genesis. This suggests to me that Jesus viewed the creation record as historically true and divinely inspired.