Just at the moment, life seems to consist of weddings. Last Saturday I had a wedding, this Saturday I have a wedding, and the following Saturday I have a wedding. And they all involve couples who belong to our church. It’s a great pleasure to be involved in these three weddings..
Whenever couples come to me to ask to be married in church, I always ask them: Why do you want to be married in church? What’s special about a church wedding?
I shall never forget the honesty of one bride-to-be. ‘I want to get married in church’, she said, ‘because I love dressing up. I want to be able to dress up in a beautiful white dress and walk down the aisle for all to see’.
But the fact is that dressing up in a white dress in not peculiar to a church wedding. Many brides dress up in a white dress, for a wedding conducted by the registrar. Indeed, there is no reason why a bride should dress up for a church wedding.
What then is different between a church wedding and a wedding in the register office or some other secular wedding venue? Is it that in God’s sight couples are only truly married when they get married in church? Of course not, in God’s sight a marriage contracted in a register office or elsewhere is as valid as a marriage contracted in a church. After all, the institution of marriage is not something which is peculiar to church – for marriage existed long before the church.
So what then is the difference? Is it that in church we are making our vows in God’s sight? That argument doesn’t make sense. It presupposes that God is limited to church buildings – that the only things which he sees are things which take place in church. That clearly is a nonsense. The fact is that the vows a couple make in a register office or in a secular wedding venue are as much in God’s sight as they are when made in a church.
No, the difference between a church wedding and a wedding elsewhere is this: when a couple come to church to get married, they come seeking God’s blessing upon their union. And in a world where so many marriages break down – and in a world where there is so much unhappiness in many a marriage – there is so much to be said for knowing God’s blessing upon one’s life-together.
One of the Bible readings couples often choose for their wedding is the story of Jesus at a wedding in Cana. On that occasion the family ran out of wine – if ever there was a crisis this was it. But Jesus came to the rescue – he turned 600 litres of water into wine.
Gosh – As a minister I’ve got a got a good deal of experience of weddings, but I’ve never been to a wedding where there’s been so much to drink. Furthermore, it wasn’t just cheap plonk – it was the very best of wine – What a party that must have been! What a difference Jesus made.
That’s actually why people come to church to get married – not to experience water turning into wine, but to discover the difference that Jesus can make to their life together. They want him to transform what could otherwise be a legal partnership into a relationship which sparkles because Jesus is present. Yes, that’s what a church wedding is all about.