It is good to be single too. I enjoyed being single for 29 years!
Read July 22, 2011
“He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17
Kristin and Adam, friends and family, Father God, your Son and Holy Spirit,
Let me start by saying that I am extremely glad to be included in this ceremony for at least two good reasons. First, because I love these two people greatly. As our dean of the chapel says frequently about campus ministry, we fall in love often and we have to say goodbye often. I do fall in love with college students regularly. It is difficult to see them leave. So any chance to be involved in the lives of Adam and Kristin post graduation is a soul-warming blessing. My wife and I have had the privilege of offering them some marriage counseling these past few months. And the cliché is true, when you teach you really do receive more than you give.
The second reason why I’m thankful to be a part of this ceremony is because I believe in marriage so fiercely. It is no mistake that the Scriptures use marriage and family as a lens through which we can understand our relationship with God and our participation in the church. So as I share a few thoughts here about marriage I’m speaking first to Adam and Kristin, but I’m also speaking to my own soul, to my own marriage and to the rest of us who have much to learn about our love for God through the context of our love for each other.
We are all gathered here today to participate in one of the gladdest of occasions we can know this side of heaven. There is a delight we experience in witnessing the union of two people that little else compares with.
As I’ve imagined this day for several months, the picture I’ve held in my mind’s eye is of Adam’s grin spread from ear to ear with his face turned that bright red that many of us know well. For those of you who haven’t seen this, any time Adam has become the center of attention these past three/four years that I’ve known him, the fair skin of his face becomes instantly flushed with red. I’ve imagined Kristin’s face no less filled with light, and life and hope.
Yes, here you both are standing in front of all these people who have come from far and near. And we are all here because of you, because of the story of your falling in love, how your love has matured and how you have made the decision to commit your lives to each other and spend the rest of your days together. So I say, let your faces beam red and beautiful. This is most definitely your day.
One of the disciplines of marriage we talked about is choosing to be near and draw close to our spouses. Even though this homily is brief, we shouldn’t rush. Hold each other tight. Take a deep breath. Let’s linger here for a bit. [look around you, gather in this moment, treasure this day, absorb this place, these people, be near each other]
As performing artists the three of us know that it is possible to perform a dance or play a song without really being inside the dance or the song. We rehearse. We know our parts and we simply let muscle memory take over and suddenly the performance is finished and we have not found are way into the moment. We haven’t been present.
A wedding ceremony can be like this as surely as an entire marriage. Will your marriage be a lifelong journey of growing deeper in love? Of discovering more of yourself in the love and life of the other? As the years go by will you discover the particular love language each of you speak? Will you get better at listening and learning with each other?
Or will you let the busyness of life swallow you. Will marriage become a convenient arrangement of two good friends who happen to live in the same house and share a few children?
The bad news is that there seem to be more reasons today not to get married than to make this commitment. We are surrounded by examples of broken marriages, suffering families, exhausted parents, bitter spouses and indifferent spouses.
Yet, the Good News is always bad news before it is Good. We need to understand what we are being saved from before we can conceive of how much help we need to live our lives.
The Good News is that your marriage has great promise. My wife and I have gotten to know you. We’ve heard you talk about what you love most in each other. We can clearly see that you are in love. The Good News, however, is greater than your own love. The Good News is that marriage has less to do with being in love with each other as it does with being in love with God.
Yes, today is your day. Today you are both on display, but the best News is that it is truly the person and love of Jesus Christ that is on display through you. The Psalmist declares, “look to him and be radiant so your faces will not be ashamed. (Psalm 34:5)” If you are smiling today, if any of us are excited and glad for you it is because we believe that the Author and Perfector of our faith is here. He has brought your stories together. And so we are looking to him. We are gazing at Christ through the beauty of the two you. Adam, you are God’s gift to Kristin. Kristin, it is God’s good pleasure to give you as a gift to Adam. Together, you are a gift to the rest of us and so we join into your joy.
The only way you can be alive to each other in this marriage for several years to come, the only way to grow deeper in love with each other and to be present in each other’s lives is if you maintain the discipline of being present to Christ, looking to him, taking him into your hearts and minds and living through Him.
The Apostle John calls this, “abiding.” “If you abide in me and I abide in you, you will bear much fruit but apart from me, you can do nothing” Jesus says to us in chapter 15 of the Gospel of John.
Jesus tells us earlier in chapter six of the Gospel that we must eat his body and drink his blood. When the disciples heard this, they agreed this was a hard teaching. Indeed, what did Jesus mean? The Lord’s Supper, eating the bread and drinking the wine is the most significant practice where we as Christians regularly set aside the busyness of our lives. We bring our anxious selves to the table and eat, we imbibe, we clothe ourselves, we draw close, we remain and dwell inside of, and we abide in the very person, the very being of God.
In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is the person who is most brightly put on display. Yet the Lord’s Supper is not just a weekly or monthly practice. This is also our daily sacramental invitation, to sit at his table to eat of him and to abide in Him.
Here is the key of what I want to say to you today: we can abide in each other only if we first abide in Him.
When the Scriptures speak about a man leaving his father and mother and cleaving to his wife so that they become one flesh, we are not assuming that you will dissolve into each other. By becoming one in Christ you do not lose what makes each of you unique. That is adolescent infatuation. We’ve all witnessed relationships where the two people disappear into each other, where neediness grabs onto neediness, loneliness onto loneliness.
Instead, in Christ each of you come to this marriage with a fountain-of-living water-and-life flowing through you. Christ is alive in each of you and here is the Mystery of being one in Christ:
Kristin, I’ve heard Adam describe what he loves about you. You are the trusting friend; the patient one. The friend who believes the best of others. The friend who is kind and easy to be with. We all know you as a hard working artist, a dancer and a dance teacher, but the only way for you to discover more about your particular uniqueness is if you abide in Christ and if you abide in Adam through Christ.
Adam, Kristen has also described what she loves about you. You posses an integrity and a concern about what is right. You care deeply about important ideas. We know you as the musician and the growing church leader. Yet, the only way for you to discover more about your particular uniqueness is if you abide in Christ and if abide in Kristin through Christ.
I am very close to the Roman Catholic view of marriage. Catholic’s believe that like the Lord’s Supper, marriage is one of the sacraments. And what is sacrament? A sacrament is that which edifies, that which appropriates the life of Christ into our own lives. Through the Sacraments we become more like Christ. The mystery is that through the joyful, fiery furnace of marriage Adam, you will become more you, the fuller and more true Kenneth Adam Nelson as you fall more in love with Kristin. And Kristin, you will become the fuller and more true Kristin Benner Nelson as you fall more in love with Adam.
Of course I am talking about genuine marriage, the real sacrifice of love that no film or radio song can capture. I heard a man from India once say, “In America, you shop for wives. In India we marry and learn the discipline of love.”
You’ll have the opportunity to get to know the worst about each other. You’ll see the darkness and you’ll be tempted to judge each other, to hold grudges, to doubt, to grow apart and let indifference define your days. We charge you today: do not let any numbness or deception, indifference or bitterness take foothold in your home. The discipline of marital love requires the grace of our persistence in loving and especially the love that comes through forgiveness.
This is another glimpse at the mystery of Biblical marriage: while the rest of our society participates in marriage contractually, while many agree to remain in a marriage as long as it lives up to their expectations—as long as it meets their perceived personal needs—the Christian marriage, instead, is empowered by something that no other religion or philosophy offers: you have access to the radical power of forgiveness. You are able to make the covenant till death can part you not on your own strength, not from the resources of your own kindness, or generosity. Christian marriage is radically counter-cultural in the sense that you are both called upon to forgive each other daily. As you abide in Christ, as you fall deeper in love with each other, you posture your lives toward each other through the discipline and indeed the joy of daily forgiveness. You must forgive Jesus says seventy times seven. The fountain of love and life flowing through you is this fountain of forgiveness.
Our confession is that all things were made by Christ. All things were made through him. All things are held together in him. We believe that if Christ were not seated on the throne, all of the cosmos would fall apart. Likewise, your marriage will be held together when the Christ of radical forgiveness remains on the throne of your hearts.
I close with this prayer from Colossians 1:9,10
“For this reason we will not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.”
Let it be so Lord Jesus. Amen.