I have been a part of literally hundreds of weddings over the years, each one beautiful in its own way.
Several weeks ago, I was part of a wedding for my nephew. The couple wanted a service on a beach within a few miles of their home. The beach would always be a special part of their lives so it seemed only natural for the bride and groom to say their vows before God and guests in the midst of the surf and sand.
The Apostle Paul wrote the thirteenth chapter of Corinthians as part of a letter providing instruction for a church in deep turmoil. Paul understood how important it was to truly love one another. The thirteenth chapter over the years has become the favorite for couples making the lifelong commitment to love each other before God.
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-4))
Recently, I attended a wedding held on a nearby farm. After parking in an open field we walked to an area directly in front of a barn. We were welcomed and given an old fashioned hand fan with the service printed on the fan. The wedding service took place directly in front of the entrance to the barn. Above the bride and groom was a sign: “This is Where Our Story Begins…”
Soon, we heard the sound of a tractor heading our way. “Was someone plowing right in the middle of the wedding?”
No! The tractor was pulling a carriage, carrying the women of the wedding party. The crowd applauded as the tractor circled the area before stopping where the brides maids would start the procession.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7)
Then we heard a horn and another engine as the bride appeared in an antique car. As she was dropped off, the procession began. Walking just before the bride, a young boy carried a sign with hand printed letters: “Here Comes the Bride.”
“Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless.” (8-10)
During the wedding service, the bride and groom first answered the traditional vows but then added words of their own. Both told of their undying love for each other and how they would help each other no matter what.
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (11-12)
The couple chose to express their love for God and each other by planting a seed. Dirt was provided by each of the parents. Then the bride and groom carefully planted the seeds together. Then the pastor, as she talked of the importance of God being a vital part of the relationship poured water over the freshly planted soil.
“Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.” (13)
Weddings symbolize the love of a couple as they stand before God and each other to express their vows to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until parted by death.
Weddings serve as a vivid reminder of what it really means to be the church promising before God to love one another both inside and outside our church walls.
As Paul pointedly reminds us: “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.”