Eyck, Jan van, 1390-1440. Arnolfini Wedding, detail, from Art in the Christian Tradition
I began this blog a few years ago, with the title above as it's theme. It seems time for me to shift direction a bit in my offerings, to more visual images and meditations, and less essay. As a fitting conclusion to this chapter, I'm sharing the message I gave for my dear friends' wedding earlier this summer. May it be a blessing...
Well, here we are. It’s your day.
Jamie and Guy. Often we forget that there are not just two mentioned in that phrase; but three:
Jamie, you are how our God, your parents, your experiences, and your community have formed and informed you...
Guy, you are how our God, your parents, your experiences, and your community have formed and informed you...
and the relationship between you, the mysterious “and”, which you, your experiences, and your God has been forming since you met each other and is now sanctified before these witnesses on this great day.
Some have explained the trinity of our God as Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit as the “and” between them. The Spirit is the gift from Jesus, in us, that allows us to enter into this sacred relationship of Father and Son; to be adopted into God’s eternal family.
Recognizing “and”---the Spirit between you--- is so important in the beautiful sacrament of marriage. You are two individuals, and by becoming married you do not stop being two individuals, but rather you add another “being”: the spirit of love and commitment to each other.
This third “person”, the spirit of your marriage, will take on a life of its own, and will influence each of you, and those around you, in exciting new ways. And this person must be attended to. That is why “talking about the relationship” regularly is not just following good advice, but acknowledging the reality that this relationship must be heeded, nurtured, and disciplined, much like a child. You are co-creators with God of a brand new person in this world: “us”
Ecclesiastes 4:12 says: "And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken."
But it’s easy to forget that third “cord.” We have to learn to recognize what is me, what is you, and what is “us”... and what God is doing with each. By helping each other to become the individuals you are meant to be, you also become a powerful “us” that helps others become who they are meant to be. In other words, your marriage can reproduce your love in all those who are in fellowship with you, and it is beautiful.
Be let’s be honest: marriage can be very challenging. It can become easy to compete rather than cooperate with one another, trying to get needs met from each other that can be unreasonable. Despite what romance movies like to claim, you cannot “complete” each other...only God can do that.
Kahlil Gibran’s remarkable poem On Marriage contains these words:
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
We each bring a lot of personal needs to this incredible journey. We have strong patterns of relating, communicating and dealing with life’s difficulties that don’t always mesh with each other. It can be hard, hard work. You will learn more about yourself than you want to know.
So we need others, outside of “just us,” to step in and help, give perspective, or just give a break. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and this is just as true for the child that is your marriage. Even in our busy worlds, it can be easy for couples to get isolated. Lots of others can be around, but no one really knows what’s happening behind closed doors, and you can begin to feel very alone. Having people you can be a couple with, as well as people you can still be individuals with, is important to keeping your balance.
For marriage is very much like a dance, which means there is a need for closeness, a need for some space, and a coordinated effort to not step on each other’s toes. God provides the music and teaches us the steps; we have to work together to make it swing. And there are others on the dance floor that can help you stay in your lane together.
And just like a steps of a dance, it’s good to have some house rules. There are lots of versions of this, and you will create your own, but these are my favorites. If they sound like they are for kids, remember that is what your marriage is:
No screaming or whining
Use your words
Clean up after yourself...and the one everyone always forgets:
BE FUN TO BE AROUND
Jamie and Guy, you score big on that last one! And I know your hearts: you want to not only be fun to be around for to each other, but to all those who encounter you as well. You want your marriage to embrace all those that you love, and share the blessing of this “and” with everyone.
A Christian bishop of the fourth century, said this:
"Like a mother, it carries the whole world in itself.
Marriage can hold its head high and say freely to everyone,
all who have life because of it;
'Here am I with the children God has given me.'”
On the road to Emmaus, two disciples were walking together after Jesus had died, deep in conversation. But when the risen Jesus came up and walked alongside them, mysteriously, they were not able to recognize him. Even when He asked them to tell His story, even when He explained the meaning of all the events that they had witnessed, they still did not recognize Him.
It was only when He stayed and broke bread with them, that things changed: At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him.
There is something about breaking bread together, something altogether mysterious and wondrous, that enables us to truly recognize one another. In the spirit of this, it is so important to Jamie and Guy to share their table, their first meal together as a married couple, with all of you. They wish to say freely: “Here are we with all the people that God has given us.”
This is only the beginning of how Jamie & Guy wish to have this child, the spirit of their marriage, raised and growing among you.
So on behalf and Jamie & Guy and their families, you are invited tonight to share their table, and their hearts, together. We begin this shared table with the Communion. As we sing together, Jamie & Guy will serve one another, and then you all invited to partake in Communion as well.
Come to the Table.