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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thomas & Alana Wedding Homily Transcript by Suhail Stephens

Thomas and Alana, this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
It is with great anticipation that you have looked forward to this moment. Alana, about a week ago you memorialized your own excitement in that hallowed cyberspace called Facebook, writing to Thomas for all the world to see and saying – and I quote – “Wow Exclamation mark. I get to call you quote husband unquote in like 8 days triple exclamation mark. I'm so incredibly excited triple exclamation mark. Triple heart emoticon.” To which, two hours and forty seven minutes later, Thomas, you replied “It barely feels real exclamation mark I hope I can get my head around it before next week... squiggly face… I love you exclamation mark

As you have fallen in love, it has been a delight to see your joy in each other and most of all, in the prospect of marriage. Marriage is a divine institution – God’s idea, birthed in his very imagination, upheld and honoured by his word, and uniquely embodied in you as you stand here on this your wedding day. In the presence of these witnesses, you shall be joined together, and the two of you will become one, to be regarded – as C.S Lewis says – “as a single organism.” It is God who joins you together and what he joins together, no one can separate. 

As such, marriage is not something to be undertaken lightly. It is entered into before God and is accountable to Him. It is a permanent state of affairs whose vows and commitments are to be faithfully honoured – regardless of prosperity or adversity - till your dying breath. Your marriage – the profound mingling of your hearts, souls, minds, and bodies; indeed of your whole lives – is a picture of the unbreakable union Christ has with his church - whereby as the Apostle Paul says, “We are members of his body, of His flesh and of His bones.” 

Today is rightly a celebration of this great and sacred mystery, and it’s a celebration imbued with holiness, a day that will forever be set apart in the trajectory of your lives. God is here. And just as Jesus first revealed his glory at a wedding, by turning water into wine, he is here with you now, in the power of His Spirit, excited and eager to affirm and bless your union; that you two, similarly, may be turned into something new.

When I asked you if there was a particular verse of scripture that resonated with you, you shared Philippians 1:6: He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. It’s a wonderful verse that characterizes your relationship and will likely be a theme you revisit many times in marriage. 

Thomas and Alana, it is obvious that God has initiated a very good work in you. You are a relationship of his making, the work of his hands, and an answer to each other’s prayers. There is already such an abundance of goodness between you. It’s been inspiring to see your passion for Christ and his kingdom, the honesty and maturity of your communication, and to see how well your personalities complement each other. And who could forget the passion with which you love each other – emoticons, exclamation marks and all, these two are crazy about each other! Thomas, your willingness to move to Winnipeg; Alana, your willingness to join a new church community – these are things our self-centred, entitled culture scoff at, but this mutuality of support and your prioritizing of one another is the best kind of crazy, and will serve you well. 

God has indeed began a good work in you. We recognize and rejoice in it, and give thanks for all that has brought you to each other in this moment. 

And though God’s work will always be good, as you well know, this does not mean that it will always be easy. Marriage is a unique and powerful mirror by which God reveals the truth of who you both really are. Without any illusion, you will come to know the reality of yourselves and each other - you’ll see the very best, and the very worst.  

Our world says that when the latter happens, once the giggles and goose bumps of being in love subside and happiness fades, that you are no longer bound by the commitment of marriage and are free to look elsewhere. No! Especially in these moments where weakness is revealed, where shades of darkness are exposed, remember that this, too, is a good work of God. Your marriage is doing what it should, helping you discern darkness that you may know where the light of Christ needs to shine. 

Thomas and Alana, through marriage, God will reveal darkness in you - some of which you are aware of and some of which you never even knew existed. Regardless, welcome these moments. Vulnerable and difficult though they may be; consider them pure joy. For in this revealing, God’s desire is not to shame, harm, or disappoint you, but to heal, strengthen, and transform you; that you may become whole. God has chosen and called you together to serve each other in this ministry of wholeness, day after day, forever

So, as you navigate darkness, remember that coming face to face with the truth of things gives you the privilege of loving truly and being truly loved.. Be utterly devoted to one another. Be truthful, diligently attending to and nourishing the trust between you. Be completely humble and gentle; patient; and bear with one another in love, not keeping a record of wrongs but forgiving from the heart. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. And pray with and for each other, in full assurance that even the darkness is not dark to God; the night will shine like the day; and he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.  

Remember, too, that marriage will bring out your very best. Notice, affirm and celebrate each other’s interests, talents, and character. Recognize and honour differences in personality, preference, and ways of being with others and with God. And encourage, even rejoice in each other’s growth, blessing one another to shine with all the strength and beauty that God has purposed. May your marriage be a safe place where both of you become all that God wants and has destined you to be, trusting that in Christ, all things hold together; and that it is to his glory and for your good that you go from strength to strength till you each appear before him.

Finally, I encourage you to continually receive each other as good and perfect gifts of God, trusting that he knows your deepest needs and desires, and that in giving you to each other, he is giving you the absolute best. Just as he did when he turned water into wine. May you savour and enjoy each other to the fullest. May your marriage age well. And may you be filled with the love of God, knowing that it is his delight to join and sustain you – that the fullness of his joy may be in you, that your joy may be complete. Amen.