Mark and Valarie,
It would be hard to put into words the emotions that you have felt over the last few weeks.
Initially you tried to limit this wedding to the gathering together of around 125 people.
There were discussions about the food, the reception, the dance, the flowers, and this beautiful wedding.
All of that changed over night.
Discussions soon turned to how to cut down the size to just 50 people. There was no one that you did not want to see here today. But you managed to limit the number of people to about that number.
Then it happened again, we were told that there were to be no gatherings over 10 people. In the blink of an eye, you had to eliminate all of your friends from being able to come. And even worse you had to consider telling family members that they were not to come to your wedding.
Mark and Val, I am so sorry that you have had to go through this.
I am so sorry that your pastor had to be the one that kept telling you that you had to make these hard decisions.
I am so sorry that the elder board of this church had to at times tell you that what you wanted to hear and what you wanted to see happen was just not going to be done.
I am sure that through all of this your joy was replaced with sorrow; excitement was replaced by despair; delight was replaced by anger; and elation was overcome by anguish. And yet, in all of this you have known that your family couldn’t be happier for you. You have known that your friends can’t wait to celebrate together with you when this is all over.
In all of these things we have had a very clear reminder of the gospel. You might ask, how is all of this a reminder of the gospel?
The little bit of isolation that we have seen in the last few weeks is…
In Genesis 2 we begin to find the fact that God has instituted the covenant of marriage. It was initially instituted in a perfect environment – the garden of Eden. This is what we read,
Then the Lord God said,
“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” ...So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Yet, we all know that things would soon go terribly wrong. We read that Adam and Eve disobeyed the LORD and ate of the Tree that they were commanded not to eat from. Everything changed immediately.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
In the moment that Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, they were expelled from the garden and removed away from the presence of the LORD.
Over the last month we have all had a very small taste of what it feels like to be isolated from one another. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, all people were separated from God and from each other. (The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.)
In all of this, God began to reveal His plan to reconcile people back to Himself.
In 2 Corinthians 5 the apostle Paul has been talking about this reconciliation of sinful man to the LORD who is Holy. He says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
Mark and Valarie, each of you has been reconciled to God through Christ. And now, the LORD is uniting the two of you together through the covenant of marriage which is sealed by the giving of God’s Spirit.
In this union the two of you become one flesh (Genesis 2:24)
In this union the two of you will also become one in Spirit. We read in Malachi 2:15, “Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?”
Mark and Valarie, it is by the Spirit of the LORD that you are able to stand here before me today. It is because of the Spirit of the LORD that the two of you will be able to fulfill the vows that you are making here before witnesses today.
You are vowing from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law. In the presence of God.
Mark and Valarie, there are so many things about your relationship that gives me confidence in the vows that you are making here today.
In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul shows us the important role that the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. 2 Corinthians 6:1 says, “Working together with Him, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”
In the verses that follow, Paul shows us what it may look like to receive this grace in our lives. In Paul’s case, he describes a life of many afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless night and hunger.
When this happens in your marriage, how will you respond?
Without the Holy Spirit you may not endure. You may become angry, bitter and hard hearted. Without the work of the Holy Spirit in your marriage it would not be able to endure.
Listen to How Paul responds in all these things with the help of the Spirit, “...by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, and truthful speech.”
In all of this, Paul says that it is through the work of the Holy Spirit and by the Power of God that these fruits of the Spirit are present in his life. He goes on to say, “...with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”
Mark and Val, this marriage is going to be a strong marriage. This covenant is established upon a good foundation. Because of what the Lord is doing here today we can all have great hope.
Let me admonish you in light of 2 Corinthians 6:1 to work together with him and to not receive this grace in vain.
According to 2 Corinthians 6:3 to not put any obstacle in each others way and commend yourselves to each other and to all around you in every situation. Be filled with the Holy Spirit and the power of God.
Finally, open wide your hearts to each other and do not allow them to be closed off for any reason.