Marriage: why the ceremony’s so important

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Everyone these days is talking about same-sex marriage – and rightly so, since it’s such a big issue in our culture right now.  But today I want to give us a little bit of relief from the debate by mixing it up with something else about marriage.  I want to talk today about the marriage ceremony itself.

I’ll start with a full disclosure: I got married three weeks ago today.  It was without a doubt the most exciting and exhilarating thing that I have ever done.  And I simply adore my wife!  People told us that things would subside after a while, but it sure hasn’t done so yet – our love for each other is getting deeper and deeper each day of our marriage.

My dear wife and I were very particular about how we wanted our wedding ceremony to proceed.  A choice of a wedding ceremony is a deep and personal decision, and I want to talk about some of the reasons that were decisive in our own choice of our ceremony.

In short, almost all of our wedding ceremony came out of the Book of Common Prayer.  For those not familiar with this kind of a wedding ceremony, it is a very eloquent ceremony that cites numerous Bible verses, has numerous moments of prayer, and is reverential throughout.  The ceremony proceeds slowly.  It lays out the reasons for getting married, it cautions the couple not to enter into marriage for frivolous reasons, and it is deliberate about involving the surrounding congregation in the proceedings.

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Anxious Debate and a Thinking Response

ImageWhen I was a student at Wheaton College I, and all other students, were subject to “thePledge.” That is, we had to agree to follow the “Fundamentalist Five,” which were no drinking alcoholic beverages, no smoking tobacco (that there were other things one could smoke was just starting to dawn on the evangelical world), no use of playing cards, no going to the theater, including motion pictures, and no dancing. Neither my wife (whom I met there) nor I had problems with “the Pledge,” for that in general had been our lifestyle before Wheaton, the difference being that my family had seen those rules as culturally relative and thus not as absolute (we had, for example, made an abortive attempt to see The Ten Commandments in a drive-in theater, abortive because we left part of the way through due to torrential rain; my father would drink wine in France while on business trips, since teetotalism was not part of the Christian culture there), and Judy’s had seen them as absolutes. But in the view of our churches those who did those things were probably “not Christians,” including many mainline followers of Jesus. While never said officially in so many words, this atmosphere pervaded Wheaton, These were the boundary markers of “the faith.” However, even then there were signs of some breakdown: no less a fundamentalist than Bob Jones (I am not sure whether Sr. or Jr.) reportedly said of C. S. Lewis, “That man drinks liquor, and smokes tobaccah [so pronounced], but I do believe that he is saved.” Continue reading

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