Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Sermon for the Marriage of Bec and Lisa

Sermon preached by Revd Dr Simon Woodman
on the occasion of the marriage
of Bec Baran and Lisa Best
Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church
30th September 2017

Ecclesiastes 9.7-9
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Put on nice clothes and make yourself look good. Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil.

The ancient authors of the Jewish wisdom literature knew a thing or two about life; and the shadowy unknown author of the book of Ecclesiastes, from which Emma just read for us, is no exception.

We don’t know their real name, we don’t know their age, we don’t even know for sure their gender. But what we do know, is that they were very wise. And one thing they knew, was that the world keeps turning, with joy following sorrow, and sorrow following joy, just as surely as the seasons follow each other.

Probably their most famous passage is the one which begins,
‘For everything there is a season,
a time for every matter under heaven,
a time to be born and a time to die…
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…
a time for war and a time for peace…’ (3.1-8)
You know the passage; if you’re of a certain age, you might even be singing it.

But in chapter nine, where our reading this afternoon comes from, the author turns their wisdom to the theme of marriage, and most particularly to the joys of a loving wife.

And here’s the thing, here’s their great insight into marriage: life may be uncertain; with none of us knowing what tomorrow may bring; but if you have a wife who loves you, that, at least, is certain. That is something you can build your life on, even if everything else is subject to change.

Wealth may come and go, health may come and go, but a loving wife has the potential to last a lifetime. As Bec and Lisa have just said,
   for better for worse,
   for richer for poorer,
   in sickness and in health,
   to love and to cherish,
   until we are parted by death.

Marriage is a wonderful mystery, where love, that most fickle of emotions, takes tangible shape in the most permanent of forms, to the extent that it can transcend even life itself.

People have often asked me why it matters so much to me that Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church should be the first Baptist church to register for same sex marriage. And my answer is always the same: it’s because I believe that marriage matters. There have been those who have tried to suggest that in some way we have devalued marriage. But I couldn’t disagree more.

Marriage, it has always seemed to me, is part of the glue that holds society together. It’s not for everyone; but those who make their public commitment to live faithfully in love, offer us all a great gift, that brings joy and community far beyond the happy couple.

And of course marriages look different for different people, some couples have children, and some don’t; some get married very young, others leave it very late; some have husbands, and some don’t, some have wives, and some don’t.

But what all marriages have in common is that they make love central; as two people agree that they will love each other at least as much as they love themselves, and as they promise that they will continue to do this, to the best of their ability, whatever happens next.

And in a world where so much is uncertain, a conscious act of selflessness, where love is made central, offers a powerful antidote to the selfishness and cynicism which can permeate so much of our lives.

As I said, marriage is gift, and it’s a gift given not just to Bec and Lisa, but to all of us. And this, it seems to me, is worth celebrating, and celebrating before God.

After all, Jesus himself was a guest at a marriage celebration, and his first miracle in John’s gospel was turning water into wine, so the party could continue long into the night.

It has been a joy to get to know Lisa and Bec, and to share with them in their journey into love; and as they have made their promises today, we have all responded to the invitation to join them in celebrating the love that has been given to them.

So, as the write of Ecclesiastes wisely puts it:

‘Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart,
for God has already approved what you do.’

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