what God has joined

Here’s the homily from the Lewis-Gillary wedding I officiated at this last weekend.

A few months ago, Jon and Sarah sat around the table in our kitchen and told their story to a few college students.

My impression, and the impression of those students, was that their story was like a great chick flick. There were ups and downs. There were tensions to resolve and virtues to guard.

And so many romantic scenes—he sent her chocolates and roses while she was away in Paris and asked her to marry him on an overlook in the Sequoia national forest.

It felt like a romantic comedy, at times. But the most remarkable aspects of the story have to do with patience and pursuit, in a relationship marked by their willingness to wait and their capacity for self-sacrifice.

The on-again/off-again parts are not that unusual. But Jon’s persistence was, marked by deliberate choice and self-control. He waited while her love grew, and it grew as she saw his constancy—not just in loving her, but in serving others.

It would make a great movie.

But of course it is not a movie. And any movie is only a mere shadow of the greater reality we celebrate today, a reality rooted in the story of creation and the covenant-keeping love between Christ and the church.

Jon and Sarah, today this covenant becomes real for both of you. And you will find it has hard edges and unimagined challenges. You now begin the real work of loving each other, even on days when one or both of you will be unlovely.

So I want to remind you, and everyone here, that this is God’s work.

Genesis says “the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”

Adam was amazed and delighted, much as you Jon are today. “This is at last bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh,” Adam said. What an amazing thing. And the fact that God did it then and is doing it again today is the most amazing thing of all.

But there is more to the text. It continues in Genesis 2,

“a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

I’m know you have heard this. But I’m not sure you understand it yet. I’m sure I don’t.

So let consider for a moment what this mystery involves.

There is, for example, some leaving involved. A man leaving father and mother suggests economic responsibility and independence, of course.

But there is so much to leave behind. You both must leave behind other loyalties, other priorities, other habits of life. You will have to say no to old friends and even family on some days and say yes to new opportunities or responsibilities every day.

The patterns of your days will change tomorrow. You will make space for someone new, not just in your bathroom and in your bed, but in your thinking about every purchase, practically every decision.

And chief among the new habits you will create is the habit of holding fast, as the text requires.

This is not about being clingy. This is about being committed. This is a habit of the heart, an intention of the will, a celebration of the truth, and the truth is that God has brought you together for his own purpose and for his own pleasure.

Because it by his grace alone that you become one flesh.

This one-flesh unity in not merely physical. It is a deeper unity, an emotional and spiritual oneness that demonstrates how Christ is united with his church through forgiveness and patience. This is a unity others can see, and it is important.

Shortly after he was arrested by the Nazis, Bonhoffer wrote “a wedding sermon from a prison cell.” He said, “In your love you see only the heaven of your happiness, but in your marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility toward the world and mankind. Your love is your private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office.”

That’s why we are here today, really. To remind you and these witnesses that this joining is the work of God, and this union is for the glory of God. Your new job, you new office, is to make this visible in the world.

This one-flesh union, since the beginning of time, has marked a greater reality. It is so much more beyond our experience than a movie could ever be from an actual life together.

The text describes what this one-flesh union looks like: “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” There is a physical and an emotional aspect to this. And it requires you to trust each other more than you have ever trusted anyone before.

This vulnerability, and this courage, helps you create a safe space to practice the patience and forgiveness God has extended you in Christ Jesus.

Creating this welcoming, vulnerable space for each other is the work of a lifetime. Your new habits together should recognize this and enable this. Be very intentional about the time you spend together, learning to be honest with each other and trust each other. Make this a priority and guard it with a holy fierceness.

This is now the will of God concerning you, that by leaving other relationships and habits behind you will hold fast to each other. And as you become one flesh, you will demonstrate to all the world the overwhelming grace of God.

So be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Let us pray:

Father, we thank you for this couple and for this covenant they are about to make.
You have brought them here together by your good pleasure, and for their own. In joining them we know you intend to bring glory to yourself, as their love for each other reflects your love for your people.

May they rest in this certainty, and boast only of your grace. May they always love each other deeply, as love will cover a multitude of sins. May they welcome each other daily, offering hospitality to each other as they would to strangers, without grumbling or complaint. And may they use their gifts to serve each other, until the Lord himself welcomes us to his own table and to our eternal home.


Here is another wedding homily.

5 thoughts on “what God has joined”

  1. My favorite part is this paragraph “This vulnerability, and this courage, helps you create a safe space to practice the patience and forgiveness God has extended you in Christ Jesus.”

    One of my husband’s best qualities, and one that I personally benefit from, is his patience which seems to be inseparably connected to forgiveness.

    One of my favorite things about marriage is knowing that I can be myself in all the ugly, dirty, unpleasant ways and he will still love me. It’s extremely liberating.

    Btw, my husband and the groom share a name 🙂

  2. Reading through this again for the first time in a long time! Wally, it seems like your voice is the soundtrack of our wedding day–we were so thrilled that our videographer made your homily and prayer the voiceover on the majority of our wedding video. These words brought me back to that day! To this day, Jon and I still haven’t seen a wedding ceremony conducted with such eloquence and sincerity; we were SO luckly to have you as our pre-marital counselor and officiant!

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