Close friends of mine have recently become engaged, and they have graciously asked me to celebrate for them on their wedding day. Their announcement and invitation have required me to consider, again, what lies at the heart of the marriage event.
Competing voices in our community – more strident and condemnatory with each media thread – claim marriage as being about children, or tradition, or love, and demand our consent, even our obeisance.
Always beware those who are certain beyond doubt and then mandate our compliance.
Whenever I celebrate a marriage, I talk about covenant – a choice to act in hope, founded on love. Covenant reflects God’s hopeful choice in loving us, a hope that welcomes, restores, heals, chastises, forgives (and seeks forgiveness), and loves.
The vows at the heart of the covenant are two people choosing, in hope, to love each other, when they are at their best, and when they are not.
“All that I am I give to you,
all that I have I share with you;
whatever the future holds,
I will love you and stand by you …”
When the vows are spoken, we hear an echo of the voice of God.
When the community surrounding the couple affirms those vows, we hear God’s voice again. The marriage covenant is surrounded by witnesses, whose role it is to encourage the couple with love and care, champagne and casseroles.
We act in hope because we know that some marriages will not endure and some will break. We know that there is injustice, even violence, in some marriages, which is intolerable.
We hope, because God embraces us in hope. Where might this hope lead us, as we live in our communities and bear witness to our God?