Monday, July 23, 2012

For Lynnette and Mat

A boy goes to Sunday school and hears the story of the creation of Eve out of one of Adam's ribs. And the idea fascinates him. Sounds kind of like cloning to him. The next day he goes to school and in gym class the coach has the boys run laps. After a lap or 2 the boy feels a pain in his side. He's holding onto that side and he starts to slow down. The coach sees the kid dropping back and goes up to him and asks, "What's the matter with you, boy?" and the boy says, "I'm not sure, Coach. I think I'm having a wife."

Bible commentator Matthew Henry said of God's choice of material for creating Eve, "Not made out of his head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved."

And the Hebrew word God uses of Eve, usually translated "helper," really means someone complimentary, someone who supplies what the other lacks. In a military context it means "ally." So this isn't a relationship of master and servant, though marriage degenerated into that after the Fall, but it was meant from the beginning to be a partnership of equals, each supplying what the other needs; a team, in which each person has the other's back.

God also says that it is not good for a man to be alone. Science tells us married people tend to live longer and be healthier physically and psychologically. Despite all the jokes, married people enjoy more sex, have less stress and, on average, more money. And a lot of this is because, as I've said, it helps to have someone in your corner, someone who makes up for what you lack, someone who is part of you.

That unity is essential. The Bible calls it "becoming one flesh." That doesn't mean you cease to be individuals but it means you should act together, with one mind, as the parts of a body do. We speak of "hand-eye" coordination. When an athlete has it to a high degree, we call it "poetry in motion." When 2 dancers are in sync, we call it grace.

Grace is also a theological term. It means God's undeserved, unreserved goodness toward us. It is also the way we should act toward each other--graciously. But that is hard to maintain. So we need God in each marriage, as the source of the grace we need to live with each other.

Mat and Lynnette have that gift of grace. Part of that is in the form of something a lot of new couples don't have--a history. They knew each other back in high school. They were friends back then and when they met up again in recent years, it was as friends. And God let that blossom into something deeper, stronger, more intimate. And they have decided to invite God into the next phase of their relationship.

That's a good thing because, as scripture tells us, God is love. Which makes sense when you read the first account of creation in Genesis. Where it says, "And God created humanity in his image; in the image of God, he created him; male and female, he created them." Just as the Triune God is not one person but 3 who are one, so too the image of God is not reserved to males alone, nor to an isolated person but to 2 people or more, a family or a community, provided they are one, united in love.

Lynnette and Mat come together here, in the presence of the God who is love, in the name of Christ, who promises that he will be in the midst of 2 or more gathered in his name, and through the power of God's Holy Spirit, God within us, to make vows and promises with their lips that have long lived in their hearts. When you are in love, your heart tells you that you will stick with that person as long as you live, through thick and think, whatever comes your way. The church just dresses those promises up in their Sunday best and offers you an opportunity to declare what is in your hearts before God, family, and friends that they might share in your joy.

We also present these promises in rite and ritual, the time-honored way in which the physical gives form to the spiritual and the spiritual gives meaning to the physical. There is no magic being performed here, just poetry and actions proclaiming what already exists in the hearts of Mat and Lynnette and the love and blessing of God distilled into words, made manifest in joyful ceremony, and symbolized by unbroken circles of gold. As the rings encircles their fingers, they symbolize not merely Lynnette and Mat's love for each other but the other loves that encircle them: the love of their families, of their friends, and of God, whose love encompasses us all.

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