Congratulations on your wedding today, Eric and Sarah!
Eric and Sarah, you are a wonderful match! Thanks for asking me to say a few words at your wedding this afternoon. Here are my notes:
Eric and Sarah, it is a JOY to be here celebrating this day with you. Thank you for asking me to share a few reflections on marriage. Eric, your parents have been faithful friends to me for 35 years, and I have known you since before you were born. I will never forget watching you lead a musical procession of children around and around the house, wearing only a superman cape and diapers. Sarah, you’re getting a super guy.
Eric and Sarah, you have both been raised by parents who know the reality of grace, who live out the gospel in their daily lives. So you already know what I want to say: Marriage is the gospel made visible.
First, the gospel is the Incarnation. As we have been celebrating throughout the Christmas season, Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, not a God who is remote from us. The doctrine of the Incarnation is the model for how we love one another. Eric and Sarah, love one another as Christ has loved you. Model your love for each other on the Incarnation. This means taking the first step in reconciliation. Don’t wait for the other to make the first move. Relocate to where your partner is. Enter into your partner’s pain and suffering. Embrace your partner’s weaknesses, even in their worst moments, be with them, for them, walk beside them, take their life into yours, just as Christ has done for you. There’s an old song, “Walk a mile in my shoes.” An Incarnational approach to marriage means walking not only a mile, but a lifetime, in the other’s shoes.
Second, the gospel means God is love. Through Christ we discover that God is Triune, a communion of three Persons. What the doctrine of the Trinity means is that God is love. The doctrine of the Trinity is also the foundation for a Christian understanding of marriage.
We were made for this Trinitarian communion. This is the image of God we carry, as recorded in Genesis 1, “male and female he created them.” Your love for one another is the expression of the image of God. Your marriage will be a visible word, a witness of the loving character of God for the watching world. And may God in his grace bring children to share in your communion, just as he already has brought you to share in his own.
Third, the gospel means that Jesus is Lord. He is the Victor; he has triumphed over every power in heaven and earth. Because Jesus is Lord, all things will work together for your good, as Paul wrote in Romans 8:
Nothing “will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39)
In the person and work of Christ, all things in heaven and earth are redeemed, re-made in a new creation, re-created from the inside out. Through the whole course of his life, from conception to ascension, and especially in the triumph of his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ maintained a union of humanity with God, or as theologians like to say, a union of his human and divine natures in unbroken communion and love with the Father.
As Jesus held God and humanity together in the union of his divine and human natures, so he will hold onto your union together in him. From this day forward, Eric and Sarah, you are one flesh. Never give up on this marriage union. In the grace of Christ it will hold, even as you pass through the fires, face the floods, and wait through the darkest hours of the night. He is there with you. He has been there before. He will never give up on you. He will never let you go. He will see you through. He is Lord of all.
Fourth, the gospel means that we’re included in Christ. Because Christ has joined with us in our humanity, becoming one with human flesh, we are brought into the life of God. Christians are those who are awakened to the reality of Christ and who embrace the reconciliation he has accomplished for us. Eric and Sarah, in Christ, you have married into the divine family.
Yet we embrace a reality which is both “already” and “not yet.” We are already in Christ, but we do not yet see fully who we are in Christ. In your love for one another, you regard each other not as you are, but as you will be in the grace of God. As we read in 1 Corinthians 13:
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
After the Ascension, at the right hand of the Father, Jesus Christ bears, believes, hopes and endures all things on your behalf and in your place. In the same way, Eric and Sarah, believe and hope for each other. Regard each other not according to the flesh, but as a new creation. Your hope for one another is based not on what others see in you, nor on what you see in yourselves, but on the new creation that is hidden with Christ in God and will be revealed at the last day. Such hope can never be shaken.
In these and many other ways, just as with the gospel, so with marriage. Your marriage vows — like the gospel — are all about relating to one another in unconditional grace.
So make the Incarnation your model of reconciliation with each other. Your marriage will manifest the reality of the loving communion of the Trinity. Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth, and He will see you through your darkest hours. You are included in Christ and your life is hidden with Christ in God, so hope all things for each other. In other words, love one another as Christ has loved you.
I like to think that Jesus began his public ministry at a wedding in Cana to signal to us that marriage is the gospel made visible. Eric and Sarah, this is why we rejoice with you today!
PS: Here’s a longer version, “The Gospel on a Napkin” (pdf) I wrote first, before trimming it down to what is reproduced above. And here’s a link to the “Reflections on Isaac and Rebecca” and “Charge to Couple” that I wrote for my own wedding nearly 25 years ago.