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August 19th, 2017

Jordy and Emily, thank you!  Thank you for letting me be a part of your lives and of this special day.  A year ago I hardly knew you; now it feels like you’re friends.

What shall I say to you on your wedding day?  The story of Jordy and Emily sounds like it could be the start of a joke.  A nurse and an insurance salesman walk into a bar church.  Nurses and insurance salesmen are very different.  Nurses are empathetic.  Insurance salesmen are go-getters.  Nurses may be talkative or quiet, but in either case the nurse doesn’t get her job done primarily by talking, but by doing.  Salesmen have to talk.  Nurses are part of a larger team, and they have to follow orders.  Insurance salesmen generally work alone, even if they’re part of a company.

So how will the nurse and the insurance salesman find happiness?  Well, you have a pretty good illustration right here behind me.  This is the first wedding I’ve officiated where the couple used “the wedding knot.”  In a few moments you’re going to braid these three ropes together as an illustration of the Scripture passage in Ecclesiastes 4, which says, “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

What I’m supposed to say at this point is that the rope on the left represents Emily, the rope on the right represents Jordy, and the one in the middle represents God.  A nurse and an insurance salesman can’t do this on their own; they need God in the center, and they all need to be wrapped into one.  You need God somewhere in the mix.

There are a couple of problems with that, however.  The first is that Ecclesiastes 4 is not talking about marriage, not directly anyway.  It’s talking about friendship, about partnership. And most of the passage is not about three anyway; that’s kind of an afterthought.  It’s about how two are better than one.  It’s a different slant on my sermon text tomorrow, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

The second problem with this analogy for marriage is that, quite honestly, it doesn’t necessarily work, in my observation.  I’ve been a pastor for a long time, and I’ve seen people get married with the sincere effort to put God in the middle, but they didn’t make it.  It’s not that simple, like a formula – Jordy + Emily + God equals happiness.

Let’s look closer at these cords you have on the board.  All three of them are made up of smaller threads, woven together into a rope.  In the same way, you are each more than just “a nurse” or “an insurance salesman.”   There are little strands of your own cord – the Mom and Dad you grew up with, the sisters you played with and fought with, your friends, your schools, your sports, your hobbies, your genes.  The most important part of your genetic makeup is that one of you is all girl and the other is all boy.  God has designed that to be a wonderful attraction, but a constant complication.

If your personal rope is that complex, how much more is the rope that represents God!  God, we believe, is three persons but one God.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, equally fully God and yet in perfect relationship and total unity.  God is love, as John says, but John adds something about “a day of judgment.”  He’s both loving and holy.

And he is anything but predictable.  He will always protect and guide you, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have a smooth and easy life, even if you put him in the center.  I’ve spent a good bit of my day today with Doug Leatherman and his family up at the hospital.  He’s only 48, with two teenage children, but he’s dying of cancer barely twenty years into his marriage.  It’s totally not fair. That whole “in sickness and in health” thing might come into your marriage much sooner than you realize it even though God is caring for you.

What I’m trying to say is that the journey ahead of you is likely to be far more difficult than you can imagine standing here today.  The knot you tie today will be in constant danger of unraveling.

But here’s what I want you to know.  Take it from someone who’s in the “empty nest” phase, almost forty years into the journey.  It’s so worth it!  I would do it again in a heart beat.  Not because it’s easy, but precisely because sometimes it’s hard.  The times that will tie this knot the strongest will not be the times you laugh together, but when you cry together, not the times when you soar but the times when you fall.  Ecclesiastes even says the reason two are better than one is that they can pick each other up.

Right now you have this sense that you’re perfect for each other.  But it’s in the awareness of your imperfections that you will learn what love is.

In the Scripture we read from 1 John, we saw how the way God showed his love for us is that he sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Don’t miss that.  The greatest thing about God, his love, came in response to the worst thing about us, our sins.  The day your partner lets you down the most is the day your love can rise to its height.

Oh, no, it won’t be easy.  But it will be so worth it.  So yes, today I want you to take that bundle of strings that represents the mystery of Emily, and that bundle of strings that represents the complexity of Jordy, and tie it up with that mysterious complexity we call God, then declare that whatever else happens, by his grace you will never, ever allow that knot to unravel.  Amen.

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