Will and Kate’s isn’t the only marriage that should reflect a kingdom
June is wedding month. That shouldn’t surprise us, since the month itself is named for Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage.
There are other reasons for June wedding popularity: School is usually out by then; the Christian Lenten fast is past and feasting may begin again; and if you go back far enough, you find that women planned to have their first child by the next spring in order to get their strength back by the time of fall harvest.
Thus, June weddings, but weddings more than June is what we really care about.
The wedding of William and Catherine just over a month ago transfixed people to their “tellies” all over the globe. (Thank TiVo for the extra sleep in the US of A.) They did it well, the royals, and they did it right—beautiful but not ostentatious, classic yet modern, worshipful and personal. While no one could hope to emulate the wedding in all of its grandeur, anyone marrying should take note of its features.
The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, preached the wedding homily, and it was a lesson for all preachers at any wedding. For one thing, it was brief. Let us all praise brevity as the soul of wit, to cite Shakespeare (which is especially apt in this case). Let us also praise wit as the substance of soul. The bishop got it right on both counts.
Here’s a bit of his wit (preserving British spellings): “A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this: the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.
“It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. And people can dream of doing such a thing but the hope should be fulfilled it is necessary a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love.
“Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. It is possible to transform as long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom.”
The good bishop reminded us all that every marriage is in a sense a royal one, in that the man and woman are each king and queen in a new creation story, the possibilities of the future flowing through them. The larger point points to more than them, just as Will and Kate represent more than themselves.
Every marriage should point beyond itself. Just as this royal wedding pointed to the kingdom of Britain, every marriage should be a visible hint of the kingdom of God. How is God’s rule to be pictured in the most intimate human relationships and in the most sacred institutions of society? Marriage should show forth the sacrificial love and faithful devotion of God to the world by the imperfect witness of husband and wife to each other and to whatever family comes of that love.
Weddings are not public celebrations of romantic love that we wish to last forever untouched by time and tide. They are community events of consecration in which couples covenant together, and with God and those gathered, to live in a way that befits their faith and reflects divine love. They are declaring that they will grow toward one another, not apart from one another. The vows in effect state: “I will from this day forward only become who I will be with you, and never without you.”
Such vows reach high. So should marriage.
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