Marriage is given that children may be born
and brought up in security and love,
that home and family life may be strengthened,
and that society may stand upon firm foundations...
(from The Uniting Church in Australia Marriage Service)
The wedding service starts with some serious claims….. Marriage is given… that society may stand upon firm foundations.
In essence it is saying that this relationship which you are confirming today is globally significant! In this uncertain world of terrorism, the church is claiming that marriage is given so that society may stand on firm foundations.
Those claims are also a promise to you, Michelle and Andrew. They are saying to you that as a couple you are participating in something serious here… something beyond yourselves. It’s easy to feel we are very small, insignificant nothings in today’s world. It is not so. We are small, but the world is built upon us… and only on us. You have the opportunity to be significant pair of people in the world, not just a pair of nobodies who don’t really count, and not just a relationship that struggles to survive. You can give to the world.
There are some hints of this might work in the readings you have chosen today.
The Song of Songs, the first reading, is a love song. It tells how life can and should be between you. The pattern of your relationship is meant to be one of cherishing each other and delighting in each other. This is in direct contradiction to the way of so much of the world, where people are not valued and delighted in for their humanity, but are valued for their economic significance.
You stand against the inhumanity of the multinationals, the big institutions, and undemocratic government every time you love each other in the way of The Song of Songs. You humanise each other rather than use each other as objects. And each time you do that, you are that little more able to live like that toward others in your wider world, and you move the world in the direction of God. Each time you love each other you will teach your children the true way to live.
In your second reading we see the way Christian people were called to live together.
As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. We’re not big into the words humility and meekness in our society… we’ve lost the meaning. Humility and meekness as the bible uses them means living the way of God. The way of God is about compassion and kindness. It’s about bearing with one another and, clothing yourselves with love.
This stuff is not just to be lived in a marriage, but in any situation!. So if you will not live like this in your marriage, then what hope do you have! The New Testament is stating it as a basis for all living, so it is imperative in this most basic of relationships that you are committing to today. And again, as much as you live this way it will strengthen your own relationship and be a kind of practicing for your wider life and significance in the community. The marriages that are like this, have a ripple effect of inspiration and healing for the people around them.
To be very clear, let me repeat where I began. In this uncertain world, where terrorism and war, disease and famine, and plain ill-luck seem to roam at will, you are significant. The humanity and decency which is our only hope, and which will rescue us from these plagues, is grown and nurtured in relationships like yours.
Finally…. I have not said much about God. Really, what I have said is common sense. You could leave God out of it, and it would be true.
But I want to make one more claim for you today. Your relationship is not just globally significant, it is cosmically significant.
What the Christian Faith claims for marriage and society, and for Andrew and Michelle is ‘commonsense’ for just one reason. It is ‘commonsense’ simply because it fits the plan of God. It is how reality is made.
Reality, the land and sea, the trees, people, beauty… the world we live in… Reality is made for love, not for exploitation. Reality is made for the extravagant, giving, wasteful love of the Song of Songs, not the calculated profit and loss of the stock exchange. To live love in a marriage is to live close to reality. It is to be real.
So it is a healing factor in the world and it is a healing factor in us. It says in another part of the bible that the whole creations awaits the children of God. And that’s what it’s about. Living the way of God… living with love and compassion and kindness is good for the whole of creation.
And it brings us into the presence of God. Some of you will know the churches call marriage “sacramental”. It’s a fancy way of saying marriage lived with compassion, love and kindness is an act that brings us into the very presence of God.
I challenge you two, to live that. And I pray that you can. Live your ordinary, sometimes hard, sometimes boring life together. Love each other according to The Song of Songs and the ‘Song of Life,’ and be changed, and be somebody, and meet God.May God bless you both. Amen.
A note of caution:
Some people believe marriage is the only way to live. I disagree. There are those who are not married in the eyes of church or state, whose covenant together is more of a marriage than many who are formally married. And there are those who live alone. They too, play a role in the nature of our society. This sermon makes no exclusive claims for marriage. It simply seeks to say something about how marriage can be significant. Not all marriages are.