Summary: Wedding for an older couple - not Christians. A short sermon as is appropriate for such a setting
I want to talk about marriage. Marriage is one of those old institutions that seems to be losing its popularity these days. Have you noticed? People are choosing to live together but without necessarily having the long-term commitment involved in the sorts of public promises that Frank and Janet are about to make to each other today.
Marriage is something instituted by God for both our personal benefit as well as for the benefit of the society in which we live. For example, making these vows and promises publicly helps us in our resolve to keep them. And then as we keep them society benefits through the stability that lifelong marriages provide.
But that’s not what I really want to talk about today. What I want to focus on today is the wisdom we find in the passage we just had read for us from Ecclesiastes.
Ecclesiastes is a small book in the middle of the Bible. It’s part of what’s called wisdom literature. In other words it’s the reflections of someone on life, on the good and bad things he’s observed over many years. In it we find his conclusions about the search for meaning and significance. And it’s a very realistic book that highlights both the futility of much of what people do, as well as the hope that comes from knowing that God is there, caring for his people.
Well, in this short passage before us today he reflects on the futility of those people who think they can live as individuals isolated from their fellow human beings, living for themselves the way so many people do today. And then he compares that with the joy of being in a partnership with someone else.
First he observes how the solitary individual works alone, always with something more to be done, another challenge to face, all by themselves. He notes that although they may become rich because there’s no-one else they have to care for, no children to put through school and university, no brothers or sisters to look after, still, they never find real satisfaction from their wealth. In fact as they look at their life they realise that the wealth they’re building up is all for nothing. There’s no-one to share it with and no-one to leave it to.
On the other hand when two people join together in an enterprise there’s companionship, there’s mutual help in their work, assistance in times of trouble or need. And of course in the cold of night there’s the warmth that one gives to the other.
It’s a great picture isn’t it? One person lying alone on a cold winter’s night will be huddling under the blankets, knees up to their chin, trying to keep warm while two lying next to each other feel the warmth of each other and sleep comfortably throughout the night.
But notice that final comment in the passage. Not only will two withstand an attack where by themselves a person may be overcome, but notice: a threefold cord is not quickly broken. What’s this threefold cord business? I’m quite sure he’s not talking about a "menage à trois". Nor is he talking about a couple having their first child. No, I think what he’s saying is that two people joined together under God, with God as their head will be a force to be reckoned with.
One of the reasons Frank and Janet asked me to take their wedding was that they wanted to have a spiritual element to their marriage. They wanted to make these promises not just before you and me, but before God. Well, I think that’s a pretty good way to begin a marriage. And I pray that they’ll continue their marriage with God always present in their thinking and in their words and in their actions. It’s that threefold cord that’ll make all the difference when they get to the difficult times. It makes a huge difference knowing that God is standing with you when life gets tough and particularly when your partner is in a situation where they’re depending entirely on you. I hope you’ll take this spiritual side of your relationship seriously and begin to develop it in the years to come.
Finally let me just remind you of what we read in the first reading today. "4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." If you can match up to that standard in your love for one another you’ll be doing well.
Let’s all pray as I commend Frank and Janet’s relationship to God in prayer:
Heavenly Father, be with Frank & Janet as they begin this new phase of their life together. Give them a growing love for one another. Help them to be patient with one another, kind, humble, seeking the welfare of the other before their own. Help them to be slow to anger and quick to forgive that their marriage might be a source of joy to them for many years to come. Amen