For the most part, performing a marriage ceremony is a part of ministry that is enjoyable. It is full of hope and promise. Though sometimes it is difficult to remind the couple that this is a worship service. Some want it to be just about Hollywood’s shallow sense of romance.
There are two Old Testament passages that I have used in the wedding service. One is from the Book of Ruth. It is not set in a marriage promise. Ruth is the daughter in law of Naomi. They have both lost their husbands while living in Moab. Naomi wants to return to her home country of Israel. Ruth wants to go with her. Naomi tells her to stay in Moab and look for another husband. But Ruth insists on going to Israel with her. In verses 16 and 17 of chapter one, Ruth says that she will go with Naomi. She tells her “Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God. I will live and die with you no matter what.”
Even though that is not a husband and wife relationship, brides and grooms can learn a lot about the kind of commitment they are being asked to make to one another. Most couples make that promise with sincerity and resolve. But they have no idea how difficult it will be to keep that commitment. It’s easy for them to say “as long as we both shall live.” But it is more difficult than they can imagine.
It is hard for human beings to make that kind of commitment to another person. Neither person knows what the future will bring or the changes that will take place or the challenges that will confront them.
In part, that is why they make those promises in church. I know that destination weddings and beach weddings are popular. I do them if I have to. But I think the church is the best place to make those promises. (All right I am old fashioned.)
The other passage I like to use is from the very strange book of Ecclesiastes. In the 4th chapter the writer says that two are better than one when facing the sometimes difficult realities of life. Two can defend and protect and help each other and keep each other warm emotionally. Then at the very end he says that a THREE-fold cord is hard to break. All the time he was talking about two and then there is a third cord binding them together.
I don’t know if the third cord was meant as a reference to God or not. But I see it as a perfect illustration of what is happening when marriage vows are exchanged. God it the one who can make it possible to keep the nearly humanly impossible promises made on that day.
I saw a poster once that said, “Loved wedding.Now invite me to the marriage. God” Brides and grooms need to move over and make room for the third cord.