To be human is to be in relationship. To be human is to share our lives with those around us, to one degree or another. Some relationships are with casual acquaintances. Some are with a BFF. Some are parent-child. And for some of us there is that one special relationship in our lives, the one person with whom our life is inextricably blended, the one we choose to call our life-partner. The challenge in all these relationships is living them out with harmony, respect, and mutuality.
How we live in relationship to the world around us is the predominant issue of Scripture. And there are so many things said about that. Sometimes it would be easier if there was some sort of shorthand way of describing how we are to live in relationship with our neighbours instead of long lists of rules and regulations. Turns out there is. One simple word. Love.
There is an old Jewish story about a rabbi who was asked to explain the whole Law while standing on one foot. It was a set-up, a challenge the questioner likely thought impossible. “Simple,” said the Rabbi, lifting up one foot, “love God with your whole being, love your neighbour as yourself”. That is how we live in relationship with God and with the people around us. By loving them, which means by acting in a loving way towards them.
X & Y, you have come here today to promise your lives: the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the easy and the difficult, to each other. Marriage, to use classic language, is a holy estate, not to be entered into lightly. To use athletic language it is also a marathon. Not a sprint with a sudden spurt of energy soon over but a marathon, an endurance event. And like any marathon there are times of relatively easygoing where the course is flat and smooth and times where the going is hard, where it feels like you are hitting the wall, where it takes great strength of will to keep putting one foot in front of another, to keep moving forward.
Because let us be honest, marriage is not always easy. In marriage we put our lives into the hands of another. In marriage we make ourselves more vulnerable than in any other relationship. And we do that while knowing that neither of us in perfect. We do it knowing that there is no guarantee of success, that while the road will sometimes be smooth and straight there will also be potholes and sharp curves and construction along the way.
Indeed, given all the challenges and all the stories about relationships gone bad that float around the world today it sometimes amazes me both that people take the risk of entering into marriage. And even more amazing is the fact that it works so often!
Marriages work, when they work, not because of magic but because of effort. Marriages work because of love, because the partners choose to love each other as they love themselves. When we choose to love our partners, to accept our partners, flaws and all we are choosing the reality of life, the reality of relationship.
X & Y, as you stand here to promise your lives to each other know that you are not alone. This room is full of people who have come to witness these promises but who have also promised to offer you their love and support. And beyond that there is God. In the book of Ecclesiastes there is a passage that talks about how life is easier when not dealt with alone. The passage ends with the line “a threefold cord is not easily broken”. God is the third strand in the braided cord that is your marriage, the strand that adds strength and stability even when the other two are stretched to the breaking point. May you be blessed by each other. May you be blessings to each other. And may God bless you in the life that you share. Amen.