Written by The Rev. Bill & Dana Henry
God loves marriage. How do we know this? Because marriage between a man and a woman was God’s idea and his gift to us, it mirrors the relationship between Christ and the Church, and Jesus gave his first sign, his initial miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Our Anglican service of Holy Matrimony affirms this truth in the opening sentences where we read these familiar and beautiful words.
Dearly beloved: We have gathered together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.
Almighty God established the bond and covenant of marriage in creation as a sign of the mystical union between Christ and his Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and it is commended by Holy Scripture to be held in honor among all people.
The opening sentences go on to provide a four-fold purpose of marriage in what follows.
The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind was ordained by God: for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord; for mutual joy, and for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; to maintain purity, so that husbands and wives, with all the household of God, might serve as holy and undefiled members of the Body of Christ; and for the upbuilding of Christ’s kingdom in family, church, and society, to the praise of his holy Name.
The first purpose is for procreation and raising our children to know what it means to love God and follow Jesus. After being created in the image of God, God’s first command to Adam and Eve was to, “Be fruitful and multiply.” God has blessed us with three children, Wilson, Annie and Charlie. Anyone with children knows that this calling from God is not easy but, rather, filled with challenges, especially for 21st century parents raising kids in a fast-paced, ever changing culture! Thank God for the Church, the body of Christ! We love the baptismal affirmation of the congregation who responds to the call of, “Will all of you who witness these vows do all in your power to uphold these persons in their lives of faith?” with “WE WILL”. In what ways can you support the families around you who need your non-judgemental love and support? What are some ways that you, as a parent, would be willing to ASK for help from your church family? May the Church continue to partner with Christian parents to raise children who know and love Jesus!
The second purpose is joyful support within the marriage in good times and hard times. Our marriage, like all marriages, has had its difficulties. However, it has been our joy to be faithful in our marriage vows. We committed to, “love each other, honor each other, comfort and keep each other, in sickness and in health.” This is SO much easier to say than to do! Pride and selfishness get in the way and couples think or say things like, “I want my own way. I am right, you are wrong. I am hurt and will not forgive you. My pain is greater than your pain. My needs are more important than your needs.” Supporting the marriage relationship in the midst of conflict most often requires wise OUTSIDE counsel and support. Your marriage is worth the time and energy of seeking and visiting with a counselor. May Christian married couples continue to joyfully and faithfully support one another through both the good and hard times and to keep the vows they made when that entered into Holy Matrimony.
The third purpose of marriage is purity within the marriage relationship in order to maintain a holy relationship within the larger body of Christ. We have, as a pastor (Bill) and a licensed pastoral counselor (Dana) felt the burden in walking with couples who struggle to maintain purity as members of Christ’s body. Few things break our hearts as much as watching the effects and consequences that the world, the flesh and the temptations of evil have on Christian marriages. Few things bring us greater joy than to walk with couples as they resist those evils or receive God’s healing after poor and impure choices and are reconciled to each other. May the body of Christ support married couples in living their lives with purity and minister to married couples who come seeking healing in their marriage relationship.
The fourth and final purpose of marriage is to have an outward effect on the building of God’s Kingdom. The world needs strong, Christian marriages and families. They strengthen the Church and transform society. We (Dana and Bill) are humbled and honored to know that God can use our marriage to build his kingdom. We are excited to know that God can use our marriage, despite our flaws and weaknesses, for His purposes. We have come to know that God can and does redeem our brokenness with the atoning blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. May God continue to work in all Christian marriages for the building up of his Kingdom and the transformation of our families, the Church and society.
Perhaps the challenges and promises alluded to in the four-fold purposes is the reason why the opening sentences of the service of Holy Matrimony close with these sobering words.
Therefore, marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was ordained by Almighty God.
God loves marriage. If you are married, you can know that God loves your marriage. God has purpose for you and your marriage. We encourage you to look for ways that God can use your marriage for his purposes within your marriage. If you are anything like us, many blessings will come your way as you allow God to fulfill his purposes in you!
About the Authors: The Rev. Bill Henry is an Associate Rector at St. Stephen's Church in Sewickley, PA. Dana Henry is a Licensed Professional Counselor, practicing in the Sewickley area. They have been married for 27 years.