Sunday, May 20, 2012

Steve's Sermon for Susan and Andrew's Wedding

Matthew 19:4-6                                                                                                    May 19, 2012
“Two-in-One”                                                                             Susan & Andrew’s Wedding
         “So a man shall leave his father and mother…” Speaking from a personal point of view, it seems a little unfair that our Lord didn’t mention that a woman also leaves her father and mother. As I know your mother has pointed out to you often this week, Susan, here you are all grown up, a woman, leaving father and mother to be married. And here you are now getting married to a man who is leaving his father and mother to be with you.
         What your mother and I, along with Neil and Kathy, are accepting—in fact, we’re counting on it—is that God has planned this all from the beginning, from the start of creation. In the Gospel lesson, “Look how it all begins” is Jesus’ response to a group of Pharisees who came questioning Him about divorce. Instead of debating fine points of casuistry, He draws our intention to the original intent of marriage. God is “he which made them at the beginning male and female.”
         Jesus is citing Genesis 1:27 as He says God is the one who “made them at the beginning male and female.” In that verse about our creation it also says that God made them in His image. In fact, the two phrases are apposition. To be male and female unpacks and explains what it means to be in God’s image. God in Godself is neither male nor female, but for human beings to fully and completely bear the image of God we needed to be made in two genders, to be given as part of our nature the possibility of relating to each other across a fundamental distinction and difference.
         In that same place in Genesis God said, “Let us make human beings in our image.” We can debate this with any Old Testament scholars in the congregation, but I follow the long established tradition of the Church in saying that the use of the first person plural there is the voice of the Trinity speaking together. That “us” is Father, Son and Holy Spirit declaring their intent to create human beings to reflect the very plurality and relationship that is at the heart of who God is.
         As I began with, the Gospel tells us that Jesus quoted the creation account a little further on in Genesis 2:24, to say “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.” What that means is that the relationship between husband and wife is designed to reflect the difference within unity that is basic to God, who is both three and one.
         From all eternity the three persons of God enjoy the wonderful harmony of being and purpose that’s heard there in that “Let us…” by which they created human beings. It’s a perfect dance of being different yet being one. And God intends that marriage, that your marriage, Andrew and Susan, should reflect and become something like the image of that perfect dance.
         You are so much alike. Kathy remarks often and we the rest of your family and friends would all agree that this is a match made in heaven. You both are people born to academics. You both love things ancient and medieval. You both love the outdoors. You congratulate each other on use of the future perfect. Most of all, you share a deep faith in Jesus Christ and love the ancient, traditional ways of His Church.
         Yet you are different. You are male and female. You are extrovert and introvert. You are medievalist and classicist. You are Canadian and American! And soon you will have discovered (give me points there) that you are different in a myriad of other ways that you  only learn as you set up a home together and find yourself wanting to do things in different ways, whether it’s ordering a kitchen or raising children. Sometimes those differences will seem insurmountable. Yet the plan for you is that you will find, with God’s help, a blessed and beautiful unity across those differences.
         Susan, in your love for things Greek, you’ve come to appreciate the icons of the Greek church. They are paintings designed to be windows into heaven, pictures that we look through in order to see spiritual reality. One of the finest things I’ve learned in the past few years is that marriage is meant to be an icon of the Trinity. In desiring husband and wife to be “one flesh,” God means for your relationship, your marriage, to reflect His own perfect relationship of unity to everyone who looks at you and gets to know you.
         It’s a tall order. We are not God. It’s terribly easy for human beings to let our differences push us apart, even when we want desperately to be together, to be one in heart and mind. Jesus addressed that divisive spirit in us as He admonished the Pharisees and everyone else, “What God therefore hath joined together, let no one put asunder.”
         That’s the work of the rest of your lives now, to keep together what God has put together. You told us the other night that you met on a Pentecost Sunday. It’s clear that part of the work of the Holy Spirit that day was to bring you two together. Now as you stand together and offer vows to each other and hear your priest pronounce you husband and wife, the Spirit is at work again to sanctify that union He began two years ago. Then your task will be to let that same Holy Spirit work out and complete that union in all the years before you.
         It’s a tall order. We might wonder just what it would look like to reflect the divine relationship in a human relationship. Fortunately, the Lord doesn’t leave us in the dark about it. Susan, you love recipes and cooking. Andrew, you love music and singing. The Epistle lesson from I Corinthians 13 is the perfect recipe, the perfect score for what it is to be “twain,” to be different people, and yet to come together in a delicious, harmonious relationship in which you are one.
         Holy charity, divine love, is the heart, the glue of the relationship between the persons of God and my prayer is that it will be heart of your relationship, Andrew and Susan. It is charity, love, says the Apostle, which reaches across your “twainness” and holds you together. It’s charity that gives you patience with each other’s differences. It’s charity that makes you kind toward each other when you look at things in different ways. It’s charity that keeps you from envying each other for what one has and the other does not. It’s charity that banishes pride over one another as one of you gets better grades or earns more money.
         I can’t go through it all, but you heard it. It’s charity, God’s love, the love that exists between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that will keep you together. It’s the love by which God forgave us our sins in Jesus Christ, and it’s the love which will allow you to forgive each other when your differences cause each other pain.
         Please just remember that this love which keeps you one is God’s love. It’s His gift. It’s why the Psalmist said, “Except the Lord build the house their labour is but lost that build it.” You can’t do it on your own, but by His grace in Christ, God will build the house of marriage, of being one together, in the two of you.
         Then, as I said, you will fulfill God’s plan for you. Together you will be an icon of God’s own perfect joy and harmony, an icon of the Trinity. And doing that, you will also help fulfill God’s plan for us all. I think you know very well that it’s not all about the two of you. You’ve invited your friends and families to be here today and that’s partly because God’s plan is for everyone to enter into the loving life of the Trinity. Insofar as you reflect and image that life in your marriage, you are helping and blessing all of us to know and live in God’s life ourselves. Your marriage is meant to be God’s gift, God’s icon, to everyone you know, everyone you love.
         So from this day on, learn to be one. Discover what it means to be different and yet together in a holy love that will not be put asunder. Enjoy the harmony of the parts, the blending of the ingredients that are your separate lives, and let them come together to be a new and truly beautiful life in the image of God.
         May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, blessed Three-in-One, rest upon you to make you two-in-one now and always.
         Valley Covenant Church
         Eugene/Springfield, Oregon
         Copyright © 2012 by Stephen S. Bilynskyj


Janice Skivington said...

Steve, and Beth, I really enjoyed reading this sermon. How perfectly this sums and illustrates the essential point of a Godly marriage. thank you.

Douglas and Jennings said...

Congratulations to Susan and Andrew and to the families that prepared them for this day and their common destiny. Blessed be God who is all, and in all. -- Douglas, writing from Bunia, DRC