You will See it in Color
Dear Caleb and Carrie: Normally I would've gone on to say "family and friends," but I decided in this wedding sermon I would speak just to you two. O, the others can listen if they want, but I'm speaking just to you two.
You know that Jamey Johnson song I like "You Should Have Seen it in Color." When I first heard it this summer, it bugged me. In speaking of trying to survive a cotton farm in the Great Depression and getting through World II he sings the refrain:" If it looks like we were scared to death/ like a couple of kids just trying to save each other/ you should've seen it in color." But when speaking of his wedding, he doesn't. You see, I remember being scared on my wedding day.Until I came face to face with yours. Then I realized that wasn't fear back then. This is. If it looks like I'm scared to death, it's because I am.
Don't misunderstand; it's not because I think you're too young. I don't think I would feel any less scared were you 31 instead of 21. It's not because I think you're incompatible. I think fallen men and women are intrinsically incompatible till a life time of marriage reconciles them. It's not because I can't bear to see you leave home; no, this is as it should be. God made men and women for each other and "For this reason a man leaves his home and cleaves unto his wife." If I look looks like I'm scared to death, it's because you're a couple of my kids not trying to save each other but saved by another.
I have married one other person that I both baptized and confirmed; today for the first time I marry two. The altar you stand before today is not strange to you. You're here each Sunday confessing your sins, receiving forgiveness for them, eating and drinking the Body and Blood of your God and Savior. You know Him well and He knows you better. By joining you two faithful Christians in holy matrimony today, your Lord is bringing into existence a mini-Church. Caleb you're the pastor; Carrie you're the church.
That's good news; that's great news; nothing to fear here, is there? Only this: where Christ builds a church you can be sure the Devil builds a chapel. And the boards and nails he uses come from your own sinful natures. And though you're adults, though you think you know what those nails and boards are, you don't know them as well as your parents do. You've dated for years; you've been engaged for a year. "Carrie" and "Caleb" have long been paired names around here. But right now the Runkle's know their daughter and the Harris' their son better than they know each other.
Now it could get down right embarrassing for you Caleb if I started going into details here. Besides it would be unfair. I wouldn't have a like list for you, Carrie. Your parents would. But I don't have to get personal here; just honest. I can tell you from experience how the Devil used what I thought best and brightest in myself to build his chapel. I can tell you how he's led me to make arguments I didn't believe; pick fights I didn't want to have; and run rough shod over the sacred ground of marriage.
I'm not giving myself an out here. I'm not saying, "The Devil made me do it." I'm saying I who've instructed dozens of couples in holy wedlock; I've who've written dozens of sermons about marriage, love; and life; I who've probably read more books on marriage than either one of you have read novels, have made such a hash of it. I was and am absolutely helpless to stop the Devil from building his chapel. I hand him the boards; I hand him the nails; I even do the hammering. And remember; I've read the books; I've studied and even written papers on secrets to a good marriage, problems to avoid, yada, yada, yada. More than that, I have the Holy Scriptures which St. Paul promises "thoroughly equip" me for every good work, and yet Psalm 127 has proven so true: "Unless the Lord builds the house they labor in vain that build it."
You two won't labor in vain. Actually what I'm trying to rescue you from is laboring at all. I know; I know; everyone from talk shows to magazines tells you, "You have to work at having a good marriage." I've been there; done that, and all I succeeded in doing was building the Devil a pretty little chapel. Like Peter who was drop dead certain he wouldn't be the one to deny the Lord but became the biggest denier of them all, I who was certain I was strong to build my marriage proved to be without strength for the task.
Carrie and Caleb consider this. Your Lord gave you His only beloved Son to rescue you from sin, from death and from the power of the Devil. He gave you Baptism to drown your Old Adam with all its sins and evil desires. He gives you Absolution to send your sins away from you. And He gives You His Body and Blood not just for forgiveness, not just for salvation, but for life.and that married. Your Lord who gives, gives, and gives today gives you marriage.
Marriage isn't the State or the Church joining 2 people together. Marriage isn't two people joining themselves to each other. Those who try to do that look like 2 people in a burlap sack race: ungainly, uncomfortable, and sure to fall. Marriage is God joining 2 people together. Marriage is a miracle, and miracles are always gifts. You don't make a miracle; you don't pay for a miracle; you don't earn a miracle; you receive one. As you both know and show every Sunday, when someone gives you a gift the proper response is "Thank you."
If it looks like I'm no longer scared to death, it's because I'm no longer looking at you or me or what we can make of marriage. I'm looking at Jesus who created marriage and gave it to mankind. The Jesus, who Baptized you, who forgives you, who Bodies and Bloods you to Himself every week loves marriage not just before the Fall but after. He sends Adam and Eve out of Eden still married. The first sign Jesus gave of His Lordship was at the wedding of Cana where He blessed the wedding couple with hundreds of bottles of wine. He compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast given by a king for His son, and He describes His return for us at the end of the world as coming to take us to a wedding banquet.
Jesus loves marriage. I love, that my children are getting married; that God is giving you this blessed gift fills my heart with thanksgiving. Fear melts in the face of, "Thanks be to God." But what about the Devil and his chapel? What about the nails and the boards I'm always handing him? I know, and you do too, of nails and wood and a Church more potent than these. I know, and you do too, of forgiveness bigger than my sins, bigger than your sins, bigger than your sins against each other. I know of nails, and you do too, that pierced the flesh and blood of God so that He might bleed all over our sins and sinfulness. No one can find sins once covered by the blood of God. I know of a cross, and you do too, made out of wood stained by blood, sweat, and tears which ennobles, empowers, sanctifies, the blood, sweat and tears in and of marriage.
You know how in those animated bug movies they will suddenly give you the perspective of how small the bug world is compared to the real world? A boys hand will reach down and blot out the sun for tiny bugville. Well, compared to the church your Lord brings into existence today by joining you as husband and wife, that's the Devil's chapel, that's the boards and nails of yours he uses to build it. Sometimes it will look and feel that that chapel is huge, imposing, filling your marriage. Sometimes the nails will look unbendable and the boards unbreakable. To you and me they are, but not to Christ, not to His Church. Baptismal water rusts nails and warps wood. Absolution blunts nails and splinters wood. And the Body and Blood of God dissolves both. See the same hand of God that today gives you holy matrimony reaching down, picking up the Devil's chapel, and crumbling it like so much paper.
Back to the Jamey Johnson song. His favorite picture is his wedding one. That'll be yours too because here's where it all begins for you two. Here's where you leave your parent's home and start your own. It won't be identical to either of the homes you came from. It will be what poets call a cento. A cento is a poem produced by piecing together lines from the work of more than one poet resulting in a new poem. There will be Carrie lines and Caleb lines; there will be Harris lines and Runkle lines, but it will be your poem. But the rhyme, the rhythm, the theme will be that of Christ, the Church, and heaven itself. And you my dear children will see it all in color. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas