The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
Ecclesiastes 4:8-12 (ESV)
Wedding Sermon for Jeff Schoettlin and Robin Bunderman
Saturday after Christmas
Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church
Green River, Wyoming
29 December 2001, 3 p.m.
The sermon text Jeff and Robin have chosen for today is taken from Ecclesiastes chapter 4:
7 Again I saw vanity under the sun: 8 one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, "For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?" This also is vanity and an unhappy business.
9Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Strong rope has a wide variety of uses. It is helpful for lifting heavy loads. Ranchers often use a lasso when rounding up cattle. Museums use rope to mark clear boundaries. Similarly, churches sometimes use rope to mark off reserved seating on special occasions. Other uses for rope are to tie something in place or bind several things together. It is this last use of rope and the issue of rope strength I d like to talk about in this brief message.
If you knew a rope was so weak that it would break, would you use it? Who would? If the defect were pointed out in advance, one would be foolish to use it. Yet, many couples entering into marriage use a faulty rope. And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him a threefold cord is not quickly broken. A rope of three strands wound together is much stronger than a single cord all on its lonesome, or only two cords, a married couple without Jesus. God Himself instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden and our Lord blessed it by his presence at Cana. As Christians who have planned a distinctly Christian marriage service, you clearly desire the blessing of God upon your union.
Our Lord Jesus was a blessing at Cana when He turned water into wine, but even more a blessing on the cross when He shed His blood to make you heirs of eternal life because of His forgiveness of sins. Robin & Jeff, it would be helpful to think of yourselves as two cords of a rope wound together around a third, red strand. Jesus is the third strand in the rope, binding you in marriage to one another. Jesus binds you two together, and to Himself.
I mentioned earlier that one use of rope is to bind things together: packages, furniture in a moving truck, the legs of a calf in a rodeo, and people. Yes, people. Today, as you pledge your faithfulness and loving commitment to one another in the presence of your friends, family, and God, according to the Word, the two become One, united. Let man not separate what God has joined this day.
Although this text from Ecclesiastes does not speak of marriage exclusively, it is a good description of two married believers, united, one flesh, and in Christ. Two are better than one. Their work together is much more effective than two working alone, independently. One person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, "For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?" This also is vanity and an unhappy business.
You are helpmates to one another. You are there to pick up one another after a bad day. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! And two can defend themselves, and one another. The two have become united. That leads us to the happy business of commitment love.
A Happy Business, Commitment Love
7 Again I saw vanity under the sun: 8 one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, "For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?" This also is vanity and an unhappy business. 9Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
Part of that good reward, in marriage, is mutual love and respect. And in a Christian marriage, Christ-like love. The love that Christ has for His Church and for individual believers like you is not fleeting. He is committed, in love, to you. He died for you. He Rose from the dead for you. He gave you the benefits of His crucifixion and Resurrection when He placed His name on you in Holy Baptism and continues to give these benefits to you in Absolution and His Supper.
He has the lasso of Holy Baptism around you both and is intertwined in your marriage. He isn t going to let you get away so easily. He is with those of us gathered in His name this afternoon and will bless you as He did the couple married at Cana during His earthly ministry.
Commitment Love is not the most romantic thing on a daily basis, but for the long term, it really is. Robin, one day you might ask Jeff, Why do you love me? You ll probably want him to come up with a long, romantic list. God bless you, Jeff, when you can! But Robin, don t be offended if Jeff simply answers, Because I promised God I would love you.
Commitment love is what gets couples through the tough times. Commitment love is what will keep you together when romantic love fades. Commitment love is what will make each of you more willing to serve and to forgive the other. After all, forgiving each other will make your life together a lot more bearable, a lot more enjoyable.
You are now together in a lifeboat, untied from the two ships from which you originated. They are still in sight, and can give you guidance, but in most ways, you are really on your own. At the same time, you re not adrift. Together you are to find your own way, plotting your own course as a new family. You ve already discovered some differences between the way your families have done things. Now, together, you need to figure out whom to visit next Thanksgiving, when to open Christmas gifts, and who balances the checkbook. Commitment love will help you successfully and patiently deal with those challenges and all the bigger ones that are to come.
Yet, commitment love can t sustain itself. We love, as Christians, because Christ first loved us. It s like an electrical cord. If you turn off the breaker, the electricity stops flowing. If you cut yourselves off from Jesus and His love, it s going to be awful hard to love anyone else, including yourself, with a true love. As Solomon writes, that s vanity, and an unhappy business. Stay connected to Jesus individually, and as a family. That is a happy business, the source of the strength of your commitment love.
You have chosen, as one of your hymns today, Go, My Children, with My Blessing (HS 887). This hymn has a beautiful stanza written especially for weddings that I urge you to remember. This stanza speaks from God s perspective: In this union I have joined you husband and wife/ Now, my children, live together as heirs of life:/ Each the other s gladness sharing; Each the other s burdens bearing,/ Now, my children, live together as heirs of life.
Pastor Vajda wrote meaningful words. He says, live together. In the terms of your text from Ecclesiastes, that means don t unravel your own rope. The unraveling takes place a lot quicker without that third, red cord that is Jesus, but Christians are not immune. Marriages take work and compromise. They take at least as much dedication, hard work, and creativity as you both and your parents put into your wedding day. Keep up the good work. That also means being nice to one another, even on bad days. Bad days will come, and they will put a strain on each of you and your rope of three strands.
A cord of three strands is not easily broken. And a married relationship intertwined with Christ Jesus is not easily broken either. As you leave this place, remember this text from Ecclesiastes that you selected. Regularly review it and remember Jesus, who shed His blood to give you life, and has joined you this day as husband and wife. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.