Luke and Christa,
Wow. We are finally here. And the fact that we are here is a testament, a glorious monument to the kindness and goodness of God. It’s what the Bible calls grace.
Every wedding is a testimony to God’s grace. Even unbelievers, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, and atheists may receive this grace from God. He smiles down on all human beings, and when a man and a woman become man and wife, it’s always a gift. It’s a gift of friendship, a gift of love, a gift of children and fruitfulness and blessing both for them and for the world around them. The gift of marriage in this sense is like the gift of sunshine and drinking water and good burgers on the grill. This is part of the way God made the world, and it is, as He said in the beginning, very good. God gives like this all the time: He makes the sun shine on the good and the evil. As Paul explained to the pagans in ancient Turkey, God has allowed the nations to walk in their own ways, but He has never left them without a witness, having given them rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, even satisfying unbelieving hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17).
And yet, these gifts were always meant as invitations. Later, when Paul stood in Athens, he explained the same thing, that God made from one man every nation of mankind, “that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26). The goodness, the kindness, the grace of God has always been an invitation to seek God, to feel our way toward Him, and to truly find Him. And Paul adds, “Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).
In fact, what we consider normal, natural, ordinary is far from it. It’s a sort of dullness, nearsightedness, deafness that doesn’t see the glory, the wonder, the magic in the world and doesn’t labor to find where it comes from. It’s as though we’ve found gold flecks along a small mountain stream, and we never think to follow the stream up the mountain to find the source. It’s as though we find fresh, sweet apples lying all over the ground, and we never think to look up to see where they’ve fallen from.
The Bible says that we don’t look too closely, and we don’t tend to feel our way toward Him because deep down we already know what we’ll find. In a strange, twisted irony, we know that we will find pure and unending goodness. And the more goodness we find, the more we will find that we aren’t very good at all. We will find that we aren’t the source of goodness, and that all of the goodness we have is from Him.
And this is what sets a Christian wedding apart from all other weddings. At the center of a Christian wedding we set the greatest monument of God’s goodness in the history of the world: the cross of Jesus Christ. For on the cross the infinite goodness and love of God was expressed, and in the same monument the ugliness and emptiness of our sin was revealed. But once again, in His goodness, He took our sin upon Himself. He took our pride upon Himself. He took our blindness, our dullness, our folly upon Himself.
A Christian marriage is not immune to any of the calamities and diseases that any other marriage is susceptible to. But what sets a Christian wedding and a Christian marriage apart is that it begins here, already absolutely sure of these facts: that there is no good apart from God, that we have no good in ourselves, and that the only good news in all the world is the revelation that God in His goodness has come for us, that His goodness is coming for us.
If you’ve ever been lost in an enormous house or field or forest in the dark, looking for something or someone you’ve lost, it’s terrifying and scary and soon feels utterly hopeless. But what if you’re trying to find someone who is also simultaneously looking for you? What if they are calling your name, waving their flashlight, coming towards you in the dark? You suddenly feel a great relief and hope, and you know you’ll see them face to face momentarily. Living in this world is like that. It is dark out, and there are many dangers, many ways of going astray. But the best news in all the world is that God is coming for us, He’s looking for us, and very soon, we will see Him face to face.
This is no silver bullet. This is not a magic ring or a lucky rabbit’s foot that waves away the hardships and difficulties of life in this world, let alone married life in this world. But it does give us hope. In a world full of sin and failure and betrayal and pain, marriage can seem like a pipe dream, like an old fashioned fairy tale, and for many it’s just not worth the hassle, the pain, the risks. But we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. There is goodness in this world, unmistakable, bracing goodness. And we are the seekers of that goodness. And so the great hope of Christian marriage is that we already have a deeper experience of goodness to hold on to. Because we see Jesus. We see the perfect love of God, and we see it in the face of our foolishness and pride. We are not good, and the mind-blowing thing is that His goodness just keeps coming anyway.
Luke, your job is to model this grace for your wife as a Christian man. It’s the grace of good gifts like flowers and chocolate and telling her you love her, but it’s also the grace of an alien righteousness, a pervasive goodness that you don’t possess but that completely possesses you. And what this means is that you can die freely, gladly for Christa. You can lead her by laying your life down for her because you have died and the life you now live is in Christ, in His goodness. So lay down your life for her. Your life is not found in you. Your life is hidden with God in Christ. And this manifests itself fundamentally in a joy and gratitude and humility and boldness that fills you, but that isn’t yours but just keeps coming. This is the joyful strength that will love and lead your wife especially when she is tired, when she is afraid, when she is disappointed. This goodness isn’t yours, and that’s why you can keep giving. There’s always more if you keep going back to the source.
Christa, your job is also to model this grace for Luke. But he needs you to model this grace as a Christian woman. This means above all else that you have been granted the power of beautiful fruitfulness. The strange thing is that you tap into this power in the same way. You lay your life down for Luke, but you do this in responding to Luke, in receiving Luke, in respecting Luke. In other words, your goodness is not in you either. Your goodness is from Another. Your life is not in you. Your life is found in Christ. Your meaning, your purpose, your goodness is from Him. And this frees you to give far more than you think you can because what you’re giving isn’t yours to begin with. You’re drawing from the infinite goodness of God.
Today, in the Christian Calendar, is the Feast of Epiphany. Epiphany means manifestation or a sudden burst of light. It celebrates the fact that when Jesus was born into this world, the Light of God shone forth from Him. This was particularly captured when the Wisemen showed up out of the East to worship Jesus, following that mysterious star. This was captured when Jesus was baptized, and God’s voice thundered out of Heaven: This is my Son! And this was also captured in the miracles of Jesus, especially that first one at a wedding in Cana of Galilee when Jesus turned the water into wine. Notice the goodness of God pulsating, gushing, breaking out everywhere. This is the God we serve. The God who has come, the God who is coming, the God who’s goodness overflows all the banks. He tells the best stories. And your story is already one of the best. So never forget this day. Never forget the goodness of God surrounding you. Look up at the stars, see the splash and glint of water, see glasses brimming full of wine and laugh and remember the goodness of God.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.