Friday, September 14, 2012

Marriage: where the whole community must play their part

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

I threatened them at the rehearsal with a long, theologically convoluted sermon lasting at least 40 minutes … of course I was only joking … I don't intend to go on for much more than 30 minutes …

Any way, to start with the deep theology … Some of you may remember a movie from a few years ago called the Wedding Crashers … for those who haven't, without giving anything major away, it is about a couple of young men, played by Vince Vaughan & Owen Wilson (no relation to any of the Wilsons of this parish I'm sure), who make a habit of going to weddings to which they have not been invited. They have it down to a fine art: they know that between the fact that most of the bride's side of the family doesn't know the groom's; and given that there's always a few distant relatives or friends invited that most don't know or haven't seen in years make it easy to fake one's way into a slap up meal followed by a good party! At this point you might want to look around and be sure that you really know the person sitting next to you … although, now that I think of it, I do seem to recall that the ushers were checking id's at the door, so perhaps we're all ok!

The downside for the two heroes was that they had to go to an awful lot of wedding ceremonies in order to get to their free grub and entertainment … as a result of which, they became very familiar with the readings that are typically used at weddings … and in fact they used to place bets with each other which 'luvy-dovey' readings were likely to come up in order to while away the time!
I suppose it is not surprising that the two boys have so quickly become familiar with the readings used at weddings … because we do use rather a limited number of them … all ones about love & commitment & until death do us part … of course there are other passages of scripture that concern marriage and relationships that are not quite so 'rosy' … they don't get mentioned at weddings … no one picks the one about Adam & Eve getting into all that trouble in the garden & Adam pointing the finger at Eve … or any of the many passages about the prophet Hosea's unfaithful wife Gomer … or about what a difficult woman Jezebel was & all the problems she caused for her husband … or how the great romance of David and Bathsheba was founded on adultery, deceit, and ultimately murder … and you certainly never hear any of the passages dealing with the pain of childlessness, siblings fighting with each other, floundering relationships, bereavement, worrying about where the next meal to feed your family is going to come from, money worries, keeping a roof over your head, or problems with the in-laws!

The reason I'm thinking of the less romantic biblical passages is because we had a real doozy of one at our mid-week Communion on Wednesday night … the reading was from 1st Corinthians and in it St Paul is advising his readers that they really shouldn't be too concerned about getting married, because: 'those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that.' Perhaps someone should have shared those particular words of wisdom with the happy couple before today … but it is too late now! No, don't shake your heads! Look at it like this: if you back out now, you have to give back all the presents and you still have to pay the hotel!

But all jokes aside, St Paul is right: those who marry will experience distress in this life … they will have worries that only come to those who are sharing their life with another in the intimacy of marriage … they will have joys too … and I thank God that for most of us the joys outweigh the sorrows … but it is inevitable that the sorrows will come … and when they do, they may seem, for a time at least, to be more than one can bear, too much to cope with in spite of the joys that have come before …

And that is where the rest of us come in … there is a reason why most people choose to marry in Church, before God, community, and family … and the reason is not so that they can give everybody a good day out … although we appreciate that, of course, and I thank you for that in advance! But there is a much deeper reason for celebrating marriage in such a public way … not only is a public declaration of their commitment to each other … but it is also a recognition that there will be times that they will need help … and that the places where they expect that support to come from is their family and friends, the communities in which they live, and from God … God of course needs no reminding of the help he will offer to Dawn and Sean in the good times and in bad … even though it is perhaps no harm to remind them that when times are rough, they should remember to lean on him in prayer … and that it is also only right to give him thanks when times are good … but we, as representatives of their family, friends and communities, we may need reminding that we as a whole are duty bound to support them … to be there for them at those times of distress … and to do our best to not be the cause of distress … and certainly not be the ones to throw stumbling blocks in their way, especially any temptations that might cause them to stray from their commitment to each other that they are declaring here this day. It is the job of us all to make this marriage work … not just the happy couples's … it may primarily be theirs, but we all have a role to play ...

There's another scene in the Wedding Crashers where the Owen Wilson character displays his uncanny talent for looking at a gift wrapped package and guessing what is inside … but at a wedding the greatest gift is marriage itself… it is one of God's greatest gift to us … most of us have no way of knowing today what lies under the wrapping for these two young people as their marriage goes forward from day to day … but they do have the assurance that it is a gift, every day of it … & I hope that they will also have the re-assurance of knowing that everyone here is committed to ensuring that they daily feel truly blessed by that gift … something that I pray for them in the name of God + Father, the Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

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