GOD’S WEDDING GIFT
The Marriage Sermon of Daniel Nelson and Alyssa Moreno
Daniel, Alyssa, in preparing to officiate at your wedding, I often found myself thinking of my own. It was a long wedding—I remember my incredulous Uncle Nat remarking after the ceremony: “Well, one thing sure: You definitely tied the knot!” But it was a memorable wedding, and today one memory stands out above the rest. Towards the end of his sermon, our pastor quoted Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is what he said: God gives you Christ as the foundation of your marriage.
Truly, this is an amazing statement. It tells us that God cares about your marriage—that he is committed to it. It tells us that he cares enough to lay a proper foundation for it. And most importantly, it tells us who that foundation is: his only-begotten Son. On this your special day, Christ is God’s wedding gift to you both.
It is true, of course, that God gives many gifts to his children. The apostle Paul wrote, “By God’s doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption—that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’” This list could be much lengthened. But the great thing to understand is that all of God’s gifts are found in Christ. You remember the Persian wise men who came to worship the infant Jesus. When they arrived at his dwelling-place they opened their treasures and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This is what God has done: He has opened up his treasure—which is Christ—and out of that treasure given all manner of precious gifts to his dear children.
Let us therefore take a few moments to consider four very special wedding gifts that God is giving you today; gifts that are foundational to your marriage; gifts that are found only in the one BIG gift of his Son.
The Gift of Wisdom
First, in Christ God gives you the gift of wisdom. In our time this gift is especially valuable. It is no secret that many in the Western world, having turned from the God of the Bible, no longer understand the meaning of marriage, or its great value to society. Accordingly, many people have grown afraid of it. Some even hate it, seeking to replace it with other arrangements. But as a Christian couple, God has given you wisdom. You understand that marriage is a mystery—an institution created by God at the very beginning of the world, but whose deep meaning was unveiled to us only at the coming of Christ. Now that he has come, we can see what marriage really is: it is a picture of the spiritual union between Christ and his Bride, the Church.
Again, such wisdom is priceless. It enables you, Daniel, to understand your role as a husband: Like Christ, you are to love, lead, protect, and provide for your family—both spiritually and physically—at whatever cost—even, if necessary, at the cost of your life.
This wisdom enables you, Alyssa, to understand your role as Daniel’s wife: Like Christ’s Bride, the Church, you are to be his companion, his helper, his intimate beloved, the mother of his children, and the keeper of his beautiful home. Could there be a higher calling—a nobler career—than that?
This wisdom also enables you both to understand what is happening in this ceremony. For just as God, through the preaching of the gospel, joins Christ to his Bride in an eternal and indissoluble bond of fellowship, so too does he join you today in an indissoluble bond of fellowship that will endure until you enter heaven itself.
The Gift of Purpose
Secondly, in Christ God gives you the gift of purpose. It is true, of course, that the enjoyment of your love is an important part of God’s purpose for your marriage. But that does not exhaust his purpose. Far from it. He designs, for example, to use your marriage to sanctify you both—to subdue and purge the sinful self-centeredness that lurks in the breast of every son and daughter of Adam.
He designs, Lord willing, to enlarge his eternal family by giving you children—a gift that will REALLY subdue the sinful self-centeredness that lurks in your breasts!
He also designs to make your home into a miniature Garden of Eden, a Paradise of peace, order, security, and delight, so that from time to time the walking wounded of this fallen world may find sanctuary and healing in your midst. Your marriage is not for you alone. Its purpose is to advance God’s Kingdom—to conform you, your children, and even your neighbors to the image of his Son. Happy is the couple that consecrates their marriage to this high purpose.
The Gift of Pardon
Thirdly, in Christ God gives you the gift of pardon. Pastor Bonhoeffer wrote, “No human fellowship, least of all marriage, can survive without it.” Alyssa, today you are marrying a sinful son of Adam. Daniel, today Alyssa knows she is marrying a sinful son of Adam—and she is marrying him anyway. As a Christian couple, you understand there will be moral failures. Invariably, you will hurt each other. You will hurt your children. You will be hurt by your children. Because of the power of indwelling sin, such failure occurs in all families. And because of it, many marriages break apart, or quietly sicken and die. But, God has given you Christ, so that that might not happen to you.
Long ago, the prophet Zechariah wrote, “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse from sin and impurity.” That day has come. Our Lord’s sacrificial death on a Roman cross has opened God’s fountain for sin. It is an ever-flowing fountain, dispensing forgiveness, pardon, renewal, and fresh starts for all who are willing bathe themselves in it.
Daniel and Alyssa, because God is committed to your marriage, he will draw you to this fountain over and again. When you sin, you will know it—and you will also know what to do. You must get alone with Christ, confess your sin to him, and then confess it to your beloved. The Bible promises, “Confess your trespasses one to another, that you may be healed.” Would that every family in America would come to this healing fountain of life that is found in Christ alone!
The Gift of Power
Finally, in Christ God gives you the gift of power. In just a moment, you both will be taking some pretty lofty vows: to love, to cherish, to be faithful to one another, in good times and bad, till death separates you. But where will you—poor, weak creatures that you are—find the strength to do that! I am reminded of a famous haiku by the Japanese poet Issa: O little snail—inch by inch climb Mt. Fuji! If you haven’t already, you will soon find yourselves feeling like little snails. Or, if you prefer a more Biblical metaphor, you soon will find yourselves feeling like worms! Yet God commands you to climb Mt. Fuji. He commands you to succeed in this great covenant, to fulfill his manifold purposes for your marriage. How will you do that?
The answer, as you well know, is that you will not. He will do it through you, and he will do it through Christ. Jesus taught us this very thing. He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing.” So then, without him, you cannot climb Mt. Fuji.
But if you abide in him; if you speak with him each morning—privately and as a couple in your love seat, perhaps with a cup of Tetley tea in your hands; if, day by day, you exchange your weakness for his strength in prayer—then you can. The apostle boldly declared, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! See to it, then, that you cleave Christ—this One whom the prophet Isaiah called the Mighty God—and you will indeed climb Mt. Fuji!
Taking the Plunge
Among the many gifts waiting for you in the fellowship hall is a card from Linda and I. On the bottom half of the card there is a deep blue ocean, filled with pink hearts suspended in it rather like jellyfish. On the top half of the card there are two people, a man dressed in black and a woman dressed in white. They are holding hands, they are smiling, and they are falling, headlong, into the ocean. When you open the card, the greeting says, “Congratulations on taking the plunge.”
This afternoon, God congratulates you on taking the plunge. In these dark days—when there is so much confusion about marriage, and so much hostility towards it—it takes courage to take the plunge. Happily, you have found that courage. It was God’s gift to you, through his Son. And just as you have found courage in his Son, so too you will find wisdom, purpose, pardon, and power in his Son. As we have seen, all God’s gifts come to us through his Son. His Son is the great gift, the One Big gift.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!