a wedding homily
Kenny and Katelyn, by your own declaration you have come here, before these witnesses, to make a covenant. And covenant making is a serious thing.
From ancient times, covenants have been used to seal treaties and contracts and friendships. David made a covenant with Jonathan. Ruth made a covenant with Naomi. Jacob made a covenant with Laban. And of course God made a covenant with Abraham. And with us.
There are many ways to signify covenants. In the Bible we see people invoking God, making promises, setting up memorials, giving gifts, inviting witnesses, and sharing meals. We will do all these things today. In fact, the entire western tradition of weddings is intended to remind us that it is a covenant.
But there is one aspect of covenant making we often fail to consider, and it is the most important aspect of all. A covenant requires sacrifice. An animal was slaughtered and cut in half. In fact, that is the derivation of the Hebrew word for covenant, which means “to cut.”
We see this when God made a covenant with Abraham, dividing the pieces of the sacrifice and passing between them like a flaming torch, swearing by Himself since He could swear by none greater. This is how covenants were made.
The parties to a covenant would pass between the parts of the sacrifice, and in so doing indicate that the same thing would happen to them if they failed to keep the terms. Basically they said, by their actions if not by their words, God kill me if I break this promise.
As I said, covenant making is a serious thing.
We aren’t going to kill any animals here today. There will be no bloodshed. But Katelyn, you have already represented sacrifice by walking down this aisle, between the bride’s side and the groom side. By this you have signaled your willingness to sacrifice these relationships if necessary to preserve this new one. And Kenny, by precept and example you will show your wife and your family how this is done. To keep this covenant, both of you will make countless sacrifices every day, often before breakfast.
That’s because sacrifice is the essence of covenant making. And the sacrifice you both offer today is yourselves. You do not come here to secure your rights, but to surrender them. You must both give everything, setting aside the idol of your own expectations and extending grace and even mercy to each other through daily sacrifices of forgiveness, gentleness, patience and love. Do not fail to sacrifice your self-interests. Do not fail to set aside your anger. Do not fail to keep yourselves only for each other. These are the constant and necessary sacrifices of married love.
And there is more. Covenants included blessings and curses. So consider the curse first. In Malachi 2 we are told God no longer heard the prayers of his people because they had broken the covenant of marriage. The words he uses are treachery, faithlessness and divorce. So know this, few things will hinder your own relationships with God more than a broken relationship with each other. And nothing will cause more pain.
Know this too, there is a constant stream of blessing for you as you walk this path together. A good marriage is a safe and sacred space, a true refuge in a broken world, a good and generous gift from God himself. Here you should and will find solace and strength and sustenance. Treasure this. Embrace this. Seek this. Make time for each other. Listen to each other. Bless and encourage each other. In so doing, blessing and joy can flourish.
And remember marriage is not for your blessing alone. It is foremost a picture of a larger and more beautiful blessing, God’s own covenant-keeping love. For this reasons it is not merely a promise. It is a promise like God made to Abraham when He said “to your offspring I will give this land.” It is a promise like Christ made to the church when He said “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
By keeping covenant you will will come to better understand God’s love for you. By keeping covenant your children will first come to know what God’s faithfulness looks like. By keeping covenant your friends and coworkers will see a shadow of the truth that Christ loves His church so much He laid down His life for her and cherishes her across all time and through eternity.
The Apostle Paul speaks of this in Ephesians 5: 32. Speaking of marriage, he writes, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” So then he says to Kenny, and to each married man here, “see to it that you love your wife as you love yourself.” And to Katelyn, and to wives here, he says “see to it that you respect your husbands.”
And do this, all of you, to the praise and glory of God, who keeps covenant with His people.
Why marriage matters (Ben and Molly)
On covenant making (Brian and Rachel)
Covenant keeping, sanctifying love (Duane and Abby)
What God has joined (Jon and Sarah)
A wedding homily (Scott and Lida)