“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. But pity the one who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly or easily broken!” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
“Let Marriage be held in honor among all and let the marriage bed be kept holy and undefiled.” – Hebrews 13:4
“What God has joined together, let no one separate.” – Mark 10:9
“Above all these things (compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness), put on Love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” – Colossians 3:12-14
“Now abide, faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.” – I Corinthians 13:13
Have you attended a Wedding Ceremony recently? If you have and if it was a religious service, you heard at least one, if not all of the above biblical passages. I have officiated at least four weddings in the past three months, two were on the same weekend, and all were not in a Church sanctuary. Most of the last fifty weddings I have officiated or attended have been ‘destination’ or ‘venue’ weddings, but only one was called a ‘civil ceremony’. At that wedding, I was asked to have a special prayer time with the couple and their parents after the official ceremony. If the service is not in a church building, is it a religious service? Until, this weekend, I have never been asked the difference between a civil service and a religious service. Most wedding licenses ask which type of service I performed. The father of the bride at this last wedding asked me what was required by the state for the wedding to be official or legal. I have never been asked that question either in the 100+ weddings I have officiated. If a Wedding is a ‘tying the knot’ event, which service, civil or religious ties the knot tighter? I believe the essential ingredient of a legal, official wedding is Vows and Promises made between two persons with witnesses present including some authorized religious or civic leader. The difference between a religious ceremony and the civil ceremony is this; GOD is the primary audience and witness in a religious ceremony! A civil ceremony is the tying of two cords, but a religious ceremony is the tying of a three cord knot! God and Faith in God to provide the necessary ingredients for a marriage that lasts is the essential cord of three strands. This past week, I woke up in the middle of the night, with new thoughts and images of what Marriage should be. I am burdened and convinced that Christians or Religious persons have no better track record of letting marriage be held in honor by all. As the Church or as Christian parents, we are not preparing young people for this ‘high calling’. We are not offering the example, support, counseling, and training to Strengthen the Knot that is tied at the altar when Vows are exchanged, Promises are made, and Marriages are begun. May I suggest three measures Religious or Christian parents and churches may take to strengthen the Knot of marriages?
First, we must revisit and reeducate on the purposes and activities of dating and courtship. Our culture has redefined and dictated what dating and courtship is. A higher vision for Marriage should influence our dating and courtship practices. Second, Pre-engagement and / or Pre-marital counseling should be required and provided before any Religious or Christian Ceremony is performed by an ‘Officiant’. This can also be required before a Church facility is provided for a service. Third, “Date Nights” with child care provisions may be offered to married couples with some marriage strengthening teaching before they go out. I believe that Marriage is a Gift from God and I also believe there is a calling to Celibacy and being unmarried. In either calling, another difference between a Civil and a Religious ‘Marriage’ is this; to religious persons, marriage is a blessing to the couple, but ultimately it is a blessing that strengthens ALL Communities of persons. Married or unmarried, it is not good for any person to be alone. Religious or ‘Persons of Faith’ realize that Life and Community are invaluable Gifts from God. Only God can make two into one, and ultimately, only God can enable Community to unite and stay united! It may be an opportune time for Marriage Vows to be memorized and put into practice in all communities of faith!
‘I (your name) choose and receive you, to be my husband / wife or friend, brother, sister…
To hold dearly and protect’
From this day forward,
In plenty and in want (for richer, for poorer)
In joy and in sorrow (for better, for worse)
In sickness and in health,
Until death separates us.
Following God’s Will and with God’s Blessing I will make and keep these promises!”
IT IS TIME TO LET MARRIAGE BE HELD IN HONOR BY ALL, and COMMUNITY also!