Fr. WB preached this sermon for a friend's wedding at which he officiated in TN this weekend. WOW.
The event provoked a few self-confessed interior conversions to Christ. The sermon has a lot to do with various of the reasons as to why I am going to marry the preacher...
God has given us Holy Matrimony to be an icon of the love of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, for us.
The opening of the prayer book service puts it very plainly. The bond and covenant of marriage is commended by Holy Scripture to be honored among all people BECAUSE “it signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church” (BCP, 423). His Church, his people… we who have been reborn into the new life of God’s own Son “by water and the Spirit” (John 3.5). By entering into this bond and covenant, Anne and Michael solemnly undertake to proclaim with their life together, the love of God for the world he made: a love perfected in the giving of his only Son to die on the cross (John 3.16).
Jesus poured out his life on the cross and thereby laid claim to a Bride, the one Church. He procured her redemption through his own suffering and bloodletting and death. His last words before he died were “It is finished.” In Latin: Consummatum est! It is consummated. The cross is the consummation of Christ’s divine love for his Bride, the Church. On the cross he is poured out completely. He holds nothing of himself back. His death is an ecstasy of pure love. Ekstasis in Greek means to stand outside of oneself. On the cross, the union of Christ’s Soul and Body, his very selfhood is ruptured in death. He undertakes this rupture of his own selfhood, out of the depths of his love for us.
That is what the union, the becoming-one of this couple (Ephesians 5.31), will tell the world. And that proclamation to the world is what makes their matrimony holy. To say that a thing is “holy” is to say that it is set aside for a special use. This is the special use of marriage: to show the world in what way God loves us: by uniting himself to us in life and in death. Never lose sight of that. Nor ever lose sight of this fact that goes with it: holy matrimony is not primarily about you. It is about you. But it is about you in that you are being set apart and sanctified in order to proclaim the love of God to a world in desperate, desperate need of that proclamation. Watch CNN for five minutes. You’ll see what I mean.
The world is going to hell in a hand-basket. And the only thing that saves from hell is the love of God in Christ: a love physically perfected, a love consummated, by the total self-surrender, the total submission, the unreserved outpouring of divine life on a cross in Zion. That divine love draws mankind so tightly to the breast of God that we are said thereby to be united to God – by being united to Christ in the ecstatic love of his outpouring of himself, in the consummation of the cross (Romans 6.5).
Marriage is not about you. It is about saving the world. Saving it by and in and through the power of God’s own love for all these beautiful, silly creatures he made. What makes Matrimony Holy, is its being instituted in order for us to share, in an incredible way, the Son of God’s saving of the world. Today this couple join together as one to share in saving the world, by sharing in the love of God that saves it. Friends, your love for one another must be empowered by the love of God in the stricken face of Christ. The love of Christ, and the love of the love of Christ, must be the wellspring for your own love for one another. If you allow the love of God in Christ to uphold and empower your own life of love, then your life together and your love for one another will be set apart – made holy – to proclaim redemption to a desperate and broken world; a world full of people crying out to be desired, yearning to be yearned-for. Keep your life rooted in the love of God in Christ Jesus, and your love for one another will overflow, and will meet the desire-to-be-desired and the yearning-to-be-yearned-for of the people who will see you and who will come to know you. By seeing the oneness of your life and love, people will see and come to know the healing, saving, redeeming oneness of God’s love for them in the ecstasy of Christ.
Let your mutual submission be immovably rooted in Christ’s submission unto death, and in the Church’s submission to his crucified Lordship. If you keep your love for one another wrapped up in this love, in his love, you will find that your love for one another will take on the redemptive character of his love: it will become immortal. To be sure: your love will rouse the fury of Hell, and the Devil’s wrath. Your life together will face challenges, as all good and holy things in this world do. But this is the blessed assurance: the power of death, the gates of Hell, shall not prevail against you and your love, because your love will be wrapped in the love of God. And his love forbears all, forgives all, conquers all. By keeping your love for one another rooted in the love of Christ crucified, you will keep yourselves rooted in the victory of his love. And in all these things, you will be more than conquerors through him who loved you. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus your Lord (Romans 8.37ff). To whom be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.