By Dr. Mark Creech
Today (Friday, August 9th) is a remarkably special day for me and my wife, Kim. Our daughter, Meredith, will marry Jon Oakley of Smithfield, North Carolina. I have the unique privilege of performing their wedding ceremony. It is a great day for our family and we are not only super excited for Jon and Meredith, but full of joy and thanksgiving to God.
When Meredith and Jon asked me to perform their ceremony, I was deeply honored. It’s funny. When I was sharing the vows that they might choose for the wedding, Meredith said: “Daddy, I have attended the various ceremonies you’ve done and heard the vows you used all of my life. But it’s not every day that a father gets to officiate the wedding of his daughter. I want something specially written for me and Jon.” And so, I’ve spent the last couple of days penning a ceremony that is all their own. When this wedding is done, I’ll have to retire it.
To share that ceremony with you here in full would be too long. But as a part of my column for this week, I thought readers might appreciate, as well as benefit from its opening address. Keep in mind this is not the whole, only the opening address. The rest of the ceremony contains scripture, charges, and vows meant to give the happy couple the best start possible in their new lives together.
This is just a small way Kim and I can also share our family’s special moment with you. Moreover, we earnestly covet your prayers for Jon and Meredith.
In keeping with the couples request today to make this moment a cheerful one, let me begin this opening address with a short light-hearted story.
A young pastor was talking with an older minister about the challenges he would face in the ministry. And one challenge that especially fascinated him was the performance of the wedding ceremony. The young man listened carefully as an older and more experienced minister told him each step he should take. In conclusion the wise old minister advised, “Now if you ever do a wedding ceremony and you forget what to say, just quote Scripture. It’s always appropriate at a wedding.
Shortly thereafter this young minister had the opportunity to test his newly gained knowledge when a couple asked that he perform their ceremony. Everything went perfectly according to plan until that point in the service where the young pastor was to proclaim them both husband and wife. And suddenly, the young minister’s mind went completely blank and he couldn’t remember what to say to save his life. But the advice of that old minister then came back to him: “Just quote scripture. Just quote scripture” Unfortunately, however, the only scripture that came to his mind which he dutifully quoted was, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke. 23:34).
Ah, but standing before us today, just like all the other couples swallowed up by romance who came before them, Jon and Meredith believe that they know what they are doing. But they really don’t. And it’s a good thing that they don’t….because although it is true that marriage is full of many difficulties, many tests, many disputes, and many pains, nevertheless, it is also true that there is no bliss closer to that of heaven on earth than the glories of holy matrimony. It would be a travesty indeed if their fears about the struggles of marriage were to cause them to avoid altogether what God in his holy book deems to be the ultimate and most blessed bond made between his children.
Marriage is not simply about the union of two people who are in love. It is so much bigger than that popular depiction. Instead, marriage is the union of a man and a woman, bound permanently together by the providence of God, just as surely as Adam and Eve were in the Garden. Certainly every potential means for the greatest happiness is availed that couple who sees their partnership as something God has wrought from the outset. When God’s presence and purposes from the beginning and throughout the marriage are recognized and honored as the integrating force behind their alliance, every trial, every loss, every contest of life, like alchemy transforms their lead into gold, becoming something that builds their personal characters and draws them into a deeper, even sweeter and more intimate relationship.
As Elton Trueblood once suggested: A successful marriage is not one in which two people, beautifully matched find each other and get along happily ever after…It is, instead, a system by means of which persons who can be sinful and contentious are so caught up by a dream and an idea bigger than themselves that they work through the years, in spite of any of their disappointments, to make that dream come true.
Nothing is so wonderful than for a man and a woman to share this experience, while at the same time also sharing every joy and every blessing, big and small, in a lifetime together.
It is into this kind of holy covenant that these two people have solemnly agreed to enter this day and we are privileged to witness it.