Marriage of a couple who met through church

I was at a wedding recently of two dear friends, and I thought that the sermon preached by the Vicar, Janet Appleby ,was a very appropriate message for all couples on their special day. She kindly gave me permission to print it here.

I first want to say what a great joy and privilege it is for me to be here. It cannot be often that a Lent Group is the setting for a romance but I believe that was where N and N got to know each other. It has been a delight to watch N & N's love grow and how they have both blossomed from having found each other. It is also a rare privilege to conduct a marriage between church members so it is also wonderful to be celebrating with the church family today as well as N and N's families & friends whom we are delighted to welcome here too.

N and N's marriage is a sign of faith in God and each other, of trusting love and hope for the future we can all rejoice in. However, it is not an easy option. Like all worthwhile things in life, marriage comes at a price, sometimes a high one. It is a risky business to say, ‘All that I am I give to you and all that I have I share with you’ as N and N will do shortly. So I am glad that there are so many people here to support N and N in their life together. Note end of preface to service booklet.

Another source of help which is available to us all, if we only ask for it, is of course God and I would encourage you to develop the habit of praying together even if just briefly and occasionally. N and Ns have chosen two very helpful readings for us about God and marriage. The first letter of John reminds us that wherever love is there is God. So as we celebrate the love that is between N & N, God is present in a special way today. Indeed this whole service is in the context of God’s faithful and forgiving love and we will shortly be asking for God’s blessing on N and N's life together. Secondly we heard a reading from Colossians which is itself a good recipe for a healthy marriage. Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience are all important ingredients to learning to live well together. If N and N keep to these ideals then their marriage will indeed grow and flourish.

I just want to say a little about two of those words – kindness and patience. It took me many years to fully realise the greatest challenge for me of being married, which was that my husband is not perfect and I cannot make him so. You may have heard that joke about the three ingredients of a wedding 'aisle altar hymn' which too often mean 'I'll alter him', or her of course but there's no pun there unfortunately! It takes a lot of kindness and patience to keep going once we realise that our partner's irritating little habits, which we thought we could change, are here to stay. Then there's the humility of recognising that we ourselves are equally disappointing to their ideals!

Even worse than those habits was when I realised that I was looking for something in my husband that he could never provide. In the headiness of first romance I thought I had found someone to supply all my needs, so I struggled in the early days of marriage, for I was looking for someone to fill that empty space deep inside, someone who would fully know and understand me. Fortunately, however, I did eventually discover that it was only God who could fill that emptiness I felt, only God who could and would completely understand me and always be there for me. St Augustine realised it too when he was converted later in life. You may know the prayer he wrote: 'O God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.'

Sadly we live in a culture which has elevated romantic love to such heights that my confusion is a common one. I have met too many younger people who have given up on an relationship when the first gloss has worn off, failing to recognise that they are chasing an illusion. For they are looking in the wrong place, they are expecting romantic love to fulfil what only God can do.

So I am greatly encouraged by the faith N and N have in God which makes them less likely to make the mistakes I did. However, no one is perfect and even they will find times when patience wears thin and meekness flies out the window, even if not as often as I do! The reading reminds us how God freely forgives us, running to meet us with arms outstretched, if we but turn to him, giving us a model for how we should treat one another. So when we fall short of our high ideals, as we will, we need to be able to swallow our pride, to say ‘Sorry’ and try to change our ways, and always forgive one another freely. When we find any of this difficult then praying about it and allowing God’s healing touch into the situation can really make a difference as we let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.

Two short readings but both worth taking away.

This care in making one another feel loved is good for all our relationships. For it is in loving one another that we grow and flourish and why an older married couple, or two lifelong friends, or a parent with a grown up child, can be beautiful to watch in their loving care of one another, a love which often spills over into care for those around them too. Our first reading ended 'If we love one another then God lives in us and his love is perfected in us.'

We pray that this will be true for N and N now and throughout a happy married life together. Amen.