A Wedding Sermon for My Friends
HIS weekend my wife and I had the privilege of heading to Maine to celebrate the marriage of two dear friends, Sowmya and Zach. We’ve known them for many years and it has been a joy to see the Lord’s kind provision in their lives. Below is my wedding sermon.
Zach and Sowmya, this is a day you’ve waited for with a lot of anticipation, excitement, and probably some degree of stress. But later today you get to leave all of us behind. When you’re good and ready, you get to leave the party later, and none of us are coming with you.
Life is going to be a lot like that at times. You’ve got a lot of friends and family—but this day marks the beginning of what will be the most important earthly relationship you will possess. Treasure it.
Today the stories of your lives merge together like two separate books forged into one. We all love a good story, and yours is certainly one of the greats. The first chapter of both of your lives began in different places, different countries, different cultures, far apart. But Providence has been directing each line, shaping each sentence, turning each page, bringing you closer together, until now, at last, the two stories are no longer separate books—beginning at first, at a distance, and over the last several years, running parallel to one another—today they unite.
What could bring these two stories together? For Zach and Sowmya, their deepest union today is a shared belief that there is a Divine Author of their story. Your belief in God and in his revelation of himself in Christ, is like the spine of your book, it is what will hold your story together.
If you would forgive me, I would like to consider this analogy a little more in-depth. Many years ago, one author illustrated the Christian belief in God with Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Hamlet, as a character created by William Shakespeare, owed his entire existence to Shakespeare, the author of his story. We’re a lot like that.
If you follow this illustration you will realize there would be no way for Hamlet to ever know Shakespeare on his own. Hamlet couldn’t search throughout his created world and discover Shakespeare. No amount of research of his created world would render physical proof of Shakespeare’s existence. If Hamlet wanted hard scientific proof of Shakespeare—he couldn’t find it. He wouldn’t find Shakespeare’s shoes in the attic, or his journal on the dining room table. He would relate to Shakespeare in a very different way than he related to physical objects and persons in his own world.
In fact, Hamlet might be tempted to assume that Shakespeare didn’t exist at all. That would be understandable. He might take his whole world for granted and think it just came into existence on its own—not knowing that his universe and he himself would not exist were it not for Shakespeare. We can be a lot like that too.
The only way Hamlet could ever know Shakespeare is if the author of the story wrote himself into the plot. This illustrates the Christian belief in God, namely, that God, the author of our story, has entered the very world he created. The Apostle John said it this way, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”
In preparing my comments today I was reminded of a conversation I shared with an atheistic student at the University of Louisville during a time that I, April, Sowmya, and Zach were all leading a ministry there. After a long discussion the student said, “Okay, it makes sense that God must exist as a kind of first cause. But you have so many religions all over the world. Why doesn’t God just come down and say, ‘This is the one true way?'”
Christians believe God did just that.
Christians refer to the event of God coming down to show us the way with the word “Gospel.” The Gospel is the true story of how God has written himself into human history. I like to explain the one word “gospel” with six words: God loves, sin separates, Jesus saves. The Bible says that God loved the world he created. But left to our own devices, humans always choose “something other than God to make us happy.” The Bible calls this sin. Our rebellion, our disobedience towards him and our selfishness towards others, severs our relationship with the Creator. Like Hamlet, we couldn’t get to God on our own. So, God graciously wrote himself into our story.
The Apostle John writes, “And Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” We could never be good enough to restore our relationship with God, to fix our story. So God came down to us. He was born as an innocent baby. He lived a perfect life. And he died in our place to pay for our disobedience towards God and our selfishness towards others. And he rose again from the dead, defeating death and sin, and now offers us forgiveness and life. He is the way, the truth, and the life.
This truth is the plot change in your stories that has brought you together, and that binds you at the deepest level.
The Apostle Paul says that marriage is God’s design and that it points to the mystery that God has made a way for disobedient and selfish people (like the two of you – and all of us) to be made right with the Creator. Paul says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
Zach and Sowmya, your love for one another is a picture of the forgiveness and the relationship that God offers to the world through his Son Jesus Christ. I pray that this love will be nurtured by God and will only grow stronger and sweeter as the two of you grow older.
The Apostle Paul describes love this way, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”