Kaleb and Jesse, you are about to embark on a great adventure together, and there are significant ways in which your lives are changing in this ceremony. You enter this building in one fashion: single, unbound to one another, and by the exchange of vows before this congregation, you each become something new, something different, something that you were not before. Because God’s Word is powerful and efficacious, He has shared that magic with us. While all words mimic this power of God in some ways, some make this more obvious than others. In baptism, God places His name on us, and whatever happens after an individual is baptized, His name is indelibly pressed upon them forever, even if they rebel and reject that grace. In baptism, God authorizes us to name individuals with His name, but this is how naming works all over the place. Just as God named parts of His creation, so too, Adam named the animals, and whatever He called them, those were their names. Our words are powerful and efficacious. Parents have a new baby and name the child, and that child now has that name. We really ought to be a bit more amazed with this magic, especially with some names going around. How did you get that name? Magic. Today in a similar fashion, Jessie, you are taking Kaleb’s name.
But while we rightly point to the dramatic change that is about to occur in the course of this service, I want to point to something that will not be changing. I’ve made it a point over the last year or so to begin the first session of all my pre-marital counseling with a request that the couple take turns and tell me their testimony. How did they come to know Jesus? How is it that Christ is their God and Savior?
We eventually get to talking about roles of husbands and wives and personality quirks and family backgrounds and asking who gets to balance the check book and those sorts of things, but really all of that only makes sense if we’ve covered even more basic ground. It doesn’t make much sense to spend a lot of time on the tail lights and the seat belts or even the brakes on a car if the engine doesn’t even run. And the engine for all of life is Christ. Knowing God the Father, through Jesus His Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit is all that matters. In Him, we find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and glory. And apart from Him, everything is dust in the wind, meaningless, hopeless, just a lot of kindling and clutter.
So this is the point: Kaleb and Jessie, in God’s providence you were born into homes where the grace of Jesus was lived and loved and shared. And by God’s grace, you have partaken of that kindness through the years. Sometimes it’s tempting to think the boring, ordinary testimony of covenant kids is just that: boring and ordinary. But that really doesn’t do justice to the grace of God. Sure, we thank God you didn’t rebel. We thank God you weren’t a prodigal son or daughter. We really do. That is grace. But the fact of the matter is even if you can’t remember the moment you first believed, even if all you have ever known is the grace of Jesus, you are still a son and a daughter of Adam. You’re still a sinner. And even if the most rebellious thing you ever did was leave a few hairs out of place once, you’re still a sinner in need of grace. Even if the worst thing you ever did was say “gee whiz” when you stubbed your toe, you’re still a sinner in need of the supernatural cleansing of God.
This is because all sin is rebellion, all sin deserves the eternal wrath of God. The wages of sin is death. But the gift of God is eternal life to those who believe. So all sin deserves wrath, but all grace comes from one place: the cross of Jesus. There’s no other grace, no other source, no other fount. How precious is the flow that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus. This means that your salvation is just as miraculous, just as mind blowing, just as earth shattering as any mass murderer or prodigal son. The reason why there really is no such thing as a boring testimony is because every single human being is either destined for heaven or hell.
And every descendent of Adam is born hanging over the pit of eternal darkness, deserving death, deserving the wrath of God, deserving to be left in their sins. And whether you were snatched from the fire in your mother’s womb like John the Baptist or hunted down on a Damascus road by Jesus, it’s all mercy. It’s all the kindness and goodness of God.
What will not change as take your vows today is the fact that you are sinners washed in the redeemer’s blood. What will not change is the fact that you belong to Jesus, that He has claimed you, He has named you. He has set you apart and clothed you in His own righteousness. As enormous an undertaking as marriage is, the biggest event in your lives is already behind you. The biggest event in your lives was your salvation. You have already died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).
Many things will change today and in the coming days, months, and years. And while there may be occasional fairytale lives, most people face trials and challenges in one form or another. And Hebrews says that God chastens the sons that He loves. That means that if God loves you, He will put challenges and hardships in your path. Those may be financial or health difficulties, hard providences at work or in your family, strained or broken relationships, or particularly difficult sins and failures you find in yourselves or your children.
But in Christ, not only is the biggest event in your lives already behind you, so is the worst event also behind you. You have already died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ died, you died. When Christ was raised, you were raised. This week the Church celebrates the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God. And Paul says that is where all believers are, with Him. Christ has ascended, and that means you have ascended. Set your minds there in heaven, where Christ is, so that when Christ our life appears, you will also appear with him. The point isn’t to ignore this world or to pretend this place doesn’t really matter. Rather, the point is that Christ’s Kingdom is coming; the new life of God in heaven is coming and invading this broken, sinful world. And if you have been raised with Christ, then His life is your life, and his mission is your mission. So put to death your members here: Do not be angry with each other; do not lie to each other; refuse to speak filthy words and don’t let them into your home, destroy the sinful tendencies in your own lives here because Jesus is on a conquest of this world.
But you already knew that. You’ve been on that mission for years, and that doesn’t change today. Today you’re called to team up on that mission, to become one flesh on that mission. So put on love which is the bond of perfection; put on tender mercies; let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly; and whatever you do in word or do, do all in the name of our Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through Him. Words are powerful and efficacious. But you already knew that because you’ve already been named in Christ, you have been named Forgiven, Loved, Righteous. What changes today is actually entirely in keeping with that Word, that name of Christ on you. This is your story, your name, together in Him, for Him, and for His glory.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.