Vows and Prayers

What is a wedding?

I’ve done a lot of weddings.

I’ve done weddings with thousands of people, and with three people.

I’ve done weddings with a symphony orchestra and with no music.

I’ve done weddings in the front of a cathedral and on the edge of a swimming pool.

The weirdest wedding I did was in a homeless shelter.

It was me with a couple wearing t-shirts and jeans surrounded by homeless people on couches.

The wedding did not start with the ringing of the bells,

but following a smoke break.

There were no flowers.

There were no dresses.

There were no pictures.

There was no music.

There was two people making vows to each other,

and a young preacher praying for them.

While we’re used to so much of what goes into a wedding,

at its core, a wedding is simply vows and prayers.

A wedding needs vows. For better and for worse. In sickness and in health. Till death do us part.

Sometimes couples who’ve been married a while come to meet with me and say, “He said this,” or “She did that.”

And I get to say, “Welcome to worse.” You said, “for better or worse.” This is worse. This is why we have vows.

The fallen human nature is a struggle.

You get on an airplane and if someone is taking up more of the armrest than you are, you resent them. If you have to hand them a drink, you resent them. If they snore, you really resent them. The fallen human nature yearns to be pampered all the time.

Yet in serving others, we learn love.

In taking out the garbage, we learn love.

In doing the dishes, we learn love.

In caring for an ill spouse, we learn love.

So vows are necessary.

But a wedding is not only vows, but also prayers.

Why? Because on its own a marriage will not make it.

The family that prays together does stay together.

I’ve done a bunch of weddings.

I’ve preached a bunch of wedding sermons.

I’ve done marital counseling.

I’ve led marriage retreats.

And yet I can say with certainty that even my marriage is not held together by communication skills or time together, but by prayer.

Right after converting water into wine at a marriage celebration, Jesus goes to temple and has a fit that some people are ripping others off. He says, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.”

Not a house of sermons. Not a house of music. Not a house to raise your children. Not a house to make friends. But a house of prayer. He was talking about the temple. But for Christians, this church building is not the temple, but we are all temples. You are each called to be a house of prayer.

There are a lot of books on marriage.

There are a lot of talk show hosts giving advice on marriage.

There are a lot of movies and tv shows poking fun at marriage.

And the bad news is that everything you’ve ever heard about marriage is probably true.

But a marriage is held together not by flowers and candlelit dinners, but a marriage is held together by vows and prayers.

Vows that last until your death.

And prayers that give your marriage life.

When the candles are extinguished,

when the food is consumed,

when the flowers wilt,

when the photographs are selected, framed, and hung up,

when the wedding dress is tucked away at the back of the closet,

when the wedding gifts are thanked for, enjoyed, or returned,

when all of that is gone,

when children come or don’t,

when aches and pains appear,

when trials and heartaches come your way,

the vows and the prayers remain.

A gift from God,

for a man and a woman,

for Eric and Kayla,

vows and prayers.

Yet they are enough.

Thanks be to God, they are enough.

Amen.