[Text: Ephesians 5:1-2; 22-33]
Lauren and Dean, to walk in love as Christ loved us is to offer up your life as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. The marriage that you will enter today will provide you with ample opportunity for such sacrifice.
Unfortunately, when people hear “sacrifice” they think of death and suffering and such. But that is not the nature of the sacrifice. That is the nature of this fallen world which rejects God’s love. Sacrifice at its heart is just love, self-giving love, pouring out self for the other, seeking the best for the other, giving one’s heart to another. This is what Christ has done for us.
And that is what you both get to do in marriage: to give of yourself to the other, or rather, to give yourselves to each other, and as God wills, to give yourselves together for the sake of your children.
But the shape of the sacrifice that each of you will offer is determined by the fact that marriage is to portray the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church.
So, Dean, in union with your Lord, who named you His very own in the waters of Baptism and feeds His life into you with His body and blood, and seeks to transform your thinking by His Word, in union with Him, He calls you today to love Lauren. To nourish and cherish her, as He cares for His body the Church. He doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. He covers over the church’s faults and failings with the garment of His own righteousness. He does not accuse His bride, but summons her to live from the gifts He gives. So He would have you be to your bride.
So, Lauren, in union with your Lord, who named you His very own in the waters of Baptism and feeds His life into you with His body and blood, and seeks to transform your thinking by His Word, in union with Him, He calls you to submit to Dean and reverence him in the same way that the Church seeks to submit herself to her Lord. This submission is not the destruction of freedom, but its very condition. As we submit ourselves to the Lord we find ourselves truly free, and as we resist such submission we end up slaves to our own passions. Christ would free you from your sinful passions and teach you to trust in Him by your submission to your husband, whom He has commanded to love and cherish you.
Dean, I confess that I do not know the extent of your sinfulness nearly to the extent that I am familiar with the sinfulness of my own daughter or as well as she knows my own – but since you share the same flesh and blood that we have, I know full well that one of the chief shapes that love will have to take in your marriage is the determination from the start to live in the forgiveness of Christ – that when Lauren sins against you, and Lauren, when Dean sins against you, then you must recognize from the start that all such sin has been answered for completely. You both have a Lord who went to Calvary’s cross to answer for every sin, and there’s not one that He’s not covered with His blood and forgiven. Thus, your calling as husband and wife is to learn to share this forgiveness with each other every day as richly and as fully as Christ has given it to you. That’s not an excuse for either of you to hurt the other with sin, but it is the recognition that the grace of God in which you both are called to live is stronger than anything either of you can do to hurt the other.
When you have lived your married life “walking in love” – that is, as the joy of the fragrant offering of your lives to the Lord – covered by the precious blood of Christ, alive in His forgiveness, then you will find that not even death itself, when it comes – and it will come – will be able to quench your joy. For those who walk together in the love of Christ know that death cannot separate them. It is true that marriage as we know it, comes to an end at death, but what follows in the life to come where the Risen Christ fills all with joy is not less than what you have shared together here in this world – it will be more.
Living in the forgiveness of God toward one another, seeking always to pour out your lives for each other, and together for your children, you will find that walking together in love has made your marriage be an image, an icon of the love of Christ and His bride, the Church, and that THIS is the only way to have marriage be all that it was meant to be from the beginning. Walk in love, as Christ loved us. Amen!