Marriage in the autumn years of life

Have you ever been in a situation before where you have had to put your foot down and be very firm, when someone you care for is making a big mistake.

Well, on Wednesday, Sheila the bride, and I found ourselves in this situation with G.

We caught him in the act of trying to marry somebody else; and the lady in question is a married woman, and we just knew we had to stop him!

Sheila this is all true is it not?

It was in this very church.

Let me tell you what happened.

I was standing here, G and Sheila were facing each other at the time, and I turned to G and I said, G, repeat after me….

“I G, take you Sheila, to be my wife…

He turned his face, looked straight at me, obviously concentrating hard on the words… and said

I G take you Sheila to be my wife!!!!!!!

I was very firm.. I said ‘No G, Sheila there, not Sheila here!

I asked G if he minded me telling this story today in my sermon, and he said he didn’t.

So Sheila you may be getting a husband who strays a little, but who is a very good sport!

Let me give you a challenge today…here are some words which describe G and Sheila. Which one LETTER is missing from these adjectives?

Gifted

Able

Romantic

Trustworthy

Humble

and

Sensitive

Hopeful

Excited

I

Loving

Affectionate

The missing letter was I

The words form an acrostic for G and S, and I was finding it so hard to think of the correct adjective beginning with I, as there are so many negative words beginning with I, such as impossible, inept, incorrigible, ignorant and none of these applied.

But then I realised there is no big, boastful or demanding letter ‘I’ in G and S’s relationship…it always seems to come out as US or YOU or THEM. They are so much loved by their families and their many friends and neighbours, because they GIVE so much love and support.

What a wonderful couple we have here today, seeking God’s blessing on their lives, and what a team!

When I asked G what he liked best about S he replied, she has an inner beauty as well as being very attractive. She is caring, compassionate, and very poetic.

When I asked the same question replied that she said “errrr”!

No seriously she said admired G for his personality, his obvious talents, his patience, his inner strength, and for being a good listener and conversationalist.

She forget to say anything about his rugged good looks, probably because I caught her off guard with my question, but I think we can all agree, that not only do we have a beautiful bride before us…but G looks devastatingly handsome too today!

In fact I’d go so far as to say that S has already brought out the best in G, just look at how she has encouraged him to stand CENTRE STAGE today! Usually he likes to hide himself away behind guitarists, singers and flute players.

When I was preparing my address for today, there was a story, which I couldn’t get out of my mind.

It’s a story of a gardener who one day noticed a chrysalis attached to the wall of his tool shed. He kept a close watch on it, and one day observed that the chrysalis had begun to open.

While the gardener stood and watched, the split grew longer and wider until eventually the head of the emerging butterfly appeared. For the next hour the man stood transfixed as he observed the tremendous struggle put up by the insect as it fought to free itself from its leathery prison.

At last with a mighty push and a twist, the butterfly was free, and slowly unfolded its wings to dry in the sun.

As he watched he saw the pale wings take on the most lovely and beautiful colours; and then the butterfly flew away.

A year later the same man came across another chrysalis, which was beginning to split, and he decided to help matters a little. Fetching a razor blade he very gently and carefully slit the chrysalis open, allowing the butterfly to emerge with complete ease.

The creature spread its wings to dry and flew away. But there was one big difference between the butterflies.

The second had no colours in its wings. The gardener recognised that a life without struggle can be a life without colour.

Firstly this story tells us something about actually embracing struggle, heartache and even suffering, (IF SUCH A THING IS POSSIBLE!!) so that a new and vibrant quality of living emerges. Yet it’s hard because at the time, we can only hang on in there and try to go through it bravely day by day, minute by minute. But some find on reflection, over the years, that struggles CAN bless us in many ways; they can change our nature, mould our character, even shape our spirituality.

Both S and G come to this day having known what it is to embrace and emerge from suffering. They have each been dedicated carers who have given freely of their time and their love; and consequently have been enriched themselves by their experiences.

Secondly this story says something to us about being patient and waiting on God’s time, rather than forcing change. All good things come to those who wait, so the saying goes…

G has been a bachelor all these years and you might have thought he would have taken a while to acclimatise himself to the discovery of true love, but it seems that he has taken to S, and her family, like a duck to water!

Everything fell into place and seemed so right, from the moment S and G met one another in 1999 at a Greyhound Folk evening.

Friends there soon began to notice that they always saved the last few moments for each other, at the end of the night so that G could escort S home, and this is how their love and admiration for one another grew.

You’ve heard the song, ‘Darling save the last dance for me?… well their theme tune was , ‘Darling save the last song for me!’

Much of the true essence of love read out to us by John, from Corinthians, tells of the qualities of love, tenderness and respect these two already possess

:- this is probably why G chose this reading because he recognised those qualities already in their relationship.

Many here today will testify today how perfectly suited these two are to each other. They are so compatible, sharing many similar interests and so many gifts, which complement the other, particularly their love for song writing and making music together, which they perform in local folk clubs.

'In her ‘Autumn years’ song, S writes

There’s a specialness about it

That can only be compared

To the richness of an autumn glow

Before the trees are bared'

And in her song, Reflections, sung to us just then by Marie and Steve, S tells of her love for G, and her joy since he entered her life.

When she showed the words to him, he said he felt very humbled that S could have thought these things about him. A few days later he composed the tune,which accompany the words. And so their song has reached fruition, rather like their love for one another.

This song also tells of their life together so far, comparing it to an open book, which contains the anticipation of the joy and pleasure of new pages unfolding. (Song on Pauline’s C.D. Golden Days and Friendly Faces)

But in a Christian marriage, there is a third strand a couple ought to consider.

In Ecclesiastes, an O T book in the bible, it says, ‘A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.’

The third strand being talked about here, which is so carefully and intricately woven into our lives… is the One who truly cements a relationship between two people, and that is God himself;

God’s ‘presence’ and involvement in a marriage brings stability, loyalty and steadfastness;

His word teaches and encourages us to get real with each other, and really communicate and be honest and transparent;

His love teaches us about mercy and forgiveness, when we sometimes fail to live up to each other’s expectations. (Never forget the healing power of those words, ‘I’m sorry I hurt you just now!’…It works wonders.)

A marriage is richly blessed when it experiences and recognises that God is indeed within that relationship, even if his presence has never actually been recognised or acknowledged as such or called by the name… God.

Today we pray that God’s hand will be upon G and S’s lives and upon their open book today, that He will oversee each page, so that all that awaits them both in the future will be even richer and more blessed and more colourful.

May your future, like that first butterfly, be in full technicolour for when two people are as willing as you both are, to put into and work hard at a marriage, it can’t help but succeed, even when massive obstacles stand in the way.

We wish you both, through all of our love and prayers this day the most blessed of marriages, and a long, happy and healthy life together.

And finally, G and S aren’t the only ones who can write poetry around here!

Garth gave me a clue a few weeks ago, that some of you in the congregation today might be taking bets on how long my sermon would last., and of course I’m not offended…in fact I am more grateful to him for being forewarned…

And so this last piece of poetry is dedicated to those of you who are carefully checking your watches as I conclude.

‘Garth, this marriage sermon has been precisely timed

And if I speak just five more seconds the money will all be (wait looking at watch) *****MINE!’