A WEDDING MEDITATION
Jesus said: “A man will unite with his wife, and the two will become one. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Let no one separate, then, what God has joined together.”
“The two will become one.” Those are old and familiar words, but what do they mean?
I am reminded of a discussion in a seminary class many years ago. We were talking about heaven, and one of the students asked our elderly professor if people who were husband and wife on earth would be together in heaven. I still remember his wonderful answer. He said, “I don’t know how that will work. The Bible doesn’t really tell us enough about it. Jesus said there would not be marriage in heaven, but I think we would have to be together in some way. I sure hope so. Dorothy and I have been through a lot together, and so much of what I am today is tied up in my relationship with her. I don’t see how that can just end in death. If that relationship did not continue in some way, I don’t even know who I would be anymore. Jesus says the two will become one, and we have. After all these years, our lives are completely interwoven.” That is what those words mean. Those two individuals did, in fact, become one. He could not even imagine who or what he would be apart from that relationship.
It takes a while for that kind of connection to develop. That is why those other familiar words are in the service, those words which the two of you will say to each other, “To have and to hold… until death parts us.”
Jack Nicholson is a great actor and fun to watch in the movies, but he is not much of a role model. He will tell you himself that he is crude and obnoxious and selfish, and proud of it. It is not surprising that he is difficult to get along with. He was married and divorced years ago, and has since been in and out of several relationships, and has had countless one-night-stands. He has been a world-class womanizer, unable and unwilling to commit to any relationship. Jack Nicholson is not the kind of guy you would go to for advice on how to have a successful marriage. But he said something a while back that does testify to the goodness and rightness of the marriage commitment. He has lived what some would consider an ideal life– plenty of money, willing women available anytime, anywhere; and no chains, always free, never bound by any commitments, and no one telling him what to do. But he is well past 70 now, long past his prime, and living alone. He likes being alone, he says, and he can still have a good time whenever he wants, but he has regrets. I saw him talking about that in an interview. I don’t remember his exact words, but he said something like this: “I should have stayed with someone. I’m alone now, and that’s okay much of the time. But I am alone with my memories. I have had a good life, and it would be nice to have someone with me now who had shared that life, and we could have all those memories together.”
To use Jesus’ words, Jack Nicholson is thinking it would be nice if he could ‘be one’ with someone. My old professor’s life was probably not as full or exciting as Jack Nicholson’s, but he had something better; and more to look forward to.
Mike and Julie, today the two of you will become one by the promises that you make to each other. That process takes a lifetime to complete, but it is your whole life you are promising to each other. “Until death parts us,” you will say. You will promise to love and comfort each other; and to cherish and honor each other; for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for the rest of your lives. Those are also ‘old words,’ and some of them are unpleasant words to have to hear and consider on this happy day. But sooner or later, some, or all, of those words apply to every marriage.
I am reminded of what Michael J. Fox’s wife said after hearing of her husband’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease when he was only thirty. She described them crying together, and her saying to him over and over the words of her wedding vows– “in sickness and in health, in sickness and in health.” She is famous and gets quoted, but around the world, millions of other couples are quietly and faithfully fulfilling those same vows every day, in all kinds of circumstances.
Mike and Julie, we wish you the best on this day as the two of you become one. May God be with you and you with him in your life together.
Matthew 19:4-6 — “Haven’t you read,” Jesus replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favor look upon you; and so fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace, that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen.
–Marriage Blessing from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer