Meryl and Lee’s wedding

Well it was quite a wonderful day, though definitely emotionally intense for all concerned. I include here the text of the little spiel I gave, in case anyone’s vaguely interested.

Well it’s been quite a journey for both of you to get here. It’s always a bit nervewracking for couples on their wedding day, not knowing what to expect, so Lee you’ll be relieved that Meryl hasn’t gotten on any flights today, and no doubt Meryl you’re relieved that Lee isn’t taking shorthand on the proceedings for Monday’s MX.

But I want to share with you a quote that sums up what I would wish for you both on this day, a quote by a woman by the name of Edith Wilson. I have no idea who she is but what she says here is gold. “Marriage is not a lifelong attraction of two individuals to each other, but a call for two people to witness together to God’s love. The basis of marriage is not mutual affection, or feelings, or emotions and passions that we associate with love, but a vocation, a being elected to build together a house for God in this world.”

A vocation to build together a house for God in this world. What on earth might that mean? Are we talking about building a temple? A church? An ark? A three bedroom brick veneer? Well our traditional idea of marriage is very much as Edith Wilson describes; a lifelong attraction of two individuals, based on mutual affection, feelings, emotions and passions.

The problem with this view is not that it’s entirely wrong, but that it’s incomplete, it’s too small. Because let’s face it, if this is the God of the universe that is doing the calling, then the vision must be for something larger than just you two. If marriage is a vocation to build a house for God in this world, then it’s too small a vision to say it’s just about your love and affection for each other. Besides, any marriage that is built solely on affection, or feelings, is unlikely to last, regardless of what Hollywood will tell you, because feelings change, often several times in a day.

And so this quote refers to marriage as a vocation. The word comes from the Latin word vox, or voice, and vocare, meaning to call. Vocation, then, is not something that happens merely inside yourself, but is a call from outside of you. In the case of marriage we’re talking about a religious vocation, in the same sense as monks and nuns have a vocation (only without the celibacy thing). Marriage is two people who have been called together by God to demonstrate in a particular way what the love of God looks like in the world – to literally be the image of God’s love for others.

Because the God who calls us to love is Herself, love – not the kind of love depicted in a quirky romantic comedy, or the romance in the climax of a fairy tale or even a steamy sex scene. The love we see lived out in Jesus is an unconditional acting in the best interests of the other, a costly love that gives of itself seeking nothing in return. This is an active, creative, transforming love that does not allow suffering or injustice to go unchallenged, a love that looks outwards welcoming all people, especially those who think they’re not worthy, and a love that heals and reconciles brokenness of all kinds.

So your wedding today is not just about you. If marriage is a vocation to build a house for God in this world then marriage is not about you two sheltering each other against the world, it’s about you two working together for the good of the world. It’s about you two mirroring what God is like, and in so doing beginning the work of redeeming the world around you.

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