Jesus, Marriage, Divorce, and More

sermon on Mark10:2-16
Acacia’s family had a priest who would preach before reading the Gospel, to help with what was going to be heard. I almost did that with this reading, since these are not easy verses, especially for some of us. It can sound like a commendation or a condemnation. Some of us hear blessing in these words and some of us indictment, while some of us may not feel Jesus address us here at all.

Yet to hear the heart of the message of mutual benefit—and not just be self-congratulatory—we need background. In Jesus’ society, women could not initiate divorce. A man was permitted, however, to divorce his wife about as simply as handing her a note saying “it’s over.” So this was actually a strong word on behalf of women. To kick a woman out of the house would leave her without resources, without support, cutting her off from life. Within these words, Jesus is advocating for women.

So the question was about the law, but Jesus was trying to remove it from a legal framework to appreciate life and the value of relationship. To move us in the direction of focusing on blessing and relationship rather than restrictions and curses, and because of the different ways we hear it, I want to start by considering our many situations in life or the various stages through which we could be transitioning, trying to catch at least some of our enormous complexity and diversity.

Among us gathered together in this congregation, some are happily married. Some may be still in that honeymoon bliss kind of feeling, and others have found benefits in that pairing for 60 years and more.

Among us are also those who have not found marriage to be blissful or maybe even beneficial. Some of us think of it more as an inconvenient slog.

Again, some among us have ended marriages because they were no longer life-giving. There are also some who did not choose divorce but were nevertheless subjected to separation. So together we know divorce can be a painful fracture and feeling of brokenness, and at other times can be relief or fresh opportunity. Quite likely, it is all of that together—the good and the bad, the sense of being a quitter and of necessity. It’s hard and complicated, which (as we’ll say more about) means we don’t need a hasty churchy condemnation about it.

To continue on, there are others of us here, as well. We have dating relationships or long-term partnerships without marriage. Given that it’s a new reality in our state and country, we also recognize that there are those among us who have been long told we couldn’t be married, people whose sexual orientation or gender identity have been too much excluded as unusual. And we’ll return to a bit more on what Jesus is or isn’t saying about that.

There are also those among us who are single. That may include the young among us who anticipate or yearn for relationships to come. It may include widows among us continuing to live with the memories of a partner or spouse. Singleness at any age may be with a sense of fullness or of emptiness, either that life is missing something without a partner that society seems to declare is the standard pattern, or else that it’s not necessary, that life is good and full and rich without being coupled.

That perspective helps us all to recognize how we define ourselves and how we determine what is the fullness of life and what relationships are good and beneficial. Clearly none among us finds relationship with only one other person. Life doesn’t come only in pairs. We know richness of relationships are shared in an enormous web of blessing, in types of connections with the variety of so many people and groups, as well as (we must remember, especially on this St. Francis day) with pets and trees and cows and all the creatures that make our life, our life.

In turning more directly to ask what this Bible reading means for us and our lives in all these relationships, I’m interested to note that the version from the Gospel of Matthew was used at my cousin’s wedding in Tacoma last weekend. The surprise is in that her husband had been divorced, which the reading declares to be problematic. Yet at the wedding service we certainly celebrated and listened for God’s blessing for them. That’s vastly different from using this passage as a club. We need to be cautious of warping these words from Jesus from being about life into the opposite. We can observe that the pope, even as he talked on his visit about family, pivoted from the narrow structure that labels “family values,” as if other forms and shapes of families had less value or were depreciating it for others.
In that regard, it’s worth exploring these distinctions that contrast the legalistic and institutional view with what seems more in character for Jesus and therefore for us as Christians.

One typical problem begins in elevating marriage to an undue degree, making it an important sign of blessing or even a way to get closer to God. For Roman Catholics, it is one of the sacraments, a means to receive grace. But it’s not just Catholics that try to make marriage into something it shouldn’t be. Too often a passage from Ephesians gets used that says a husband is head of his wife like Christ is the head of his church. It’s a bad analogy to begin with and is poisonous as a prescription. Even Martin Luther mistakenly wrote on occasion that marriage was a blessed state fulfilling what humanity was supposed to be in the Garden of Eden.

The problem is quickly apparent that marriage is no Paradise. Being married quite obviously does not automatically make us better people, much less holier people. We fail in trying to embody love and grace and forgiveness. We fall short. None of us can bear the burden of having to be Jesus for each other. We need Jesus because we aren’t Jesus. Rather than marriage being what gives us strength and grace and blessing, we need blessing and strength and grace in order to keep going in marriage.

And we also need it outside of marriage. That’s the second and larger problem when we’ve overestimated and elevated marriage beyond what is should be. If marriage is seen as so highly blessed, then divorce becomes so wrong as to exclude a person from blessing, from God’s goodness. That gets it completely backward: we need God’s grace exactly because we are broken, because we are imperfect in our relationships.

That also returns to the original difficulty with this Gospel reading. We come to church seeking grace and blessing and God’s goodness and help for the week ahead. But this risks excluding some of us who need help and forgiveness and love. It even gets institutionalized as a policy that divorce means you can no longer be part of the church, that it directly separates you from what you need. Some of you may even have been told that you weren’t welcome to receive Communion because of divorce. That is an effort literally to dismember you from forgiveness, from community, and from our Lord Jesus himself. And it’s wrong! That excommunication is not from our God of welcome and of healing!

There’s something similar in the question of homosexuality here. This may be the closest Jesus indirectly comes to addressing same-gendered relationships, while quoting Genesis about the two becoming one flesh.

Yet before we restrict that understanding of unity, it bears noting how much we judgmental people enjoy quoting Scripture against others, again as a cudgel. Rather than letting it speak or apply to us, the energy is invested instead to exalt ourselves by condemning others, trying to tell them they’re wrong and we’re right. That’s another of the self-promoting efforts to claim that something we’re doing makes us inherently closer to God. Just as when we say marriage is right and divorce is wrong, we also try to say one kind of relationship is good and another bad. But that once again ignores and undermines the fundamental truth that we are all dependent on God’s grace and on Jesus for life.

With all of that, these words from Jesus would be better used in pondering how we are called to appreciate and foster life and blessing and relationships. That is, after all, the central point from Jesus: our relationships aren’t solely for our own benefit. He cautions us against being so hard-hearted, so stubbornly self-centered, that we lose sight of the greater good we are intended to share. We are called to attend to and take care of each other, to be responsible and aware of how we affect others, to seek the good and strive for the best in our relationships. We should be mindful of what it means to be united, to be joined together, to be so inseparably connected, and to recognize this as God’s work for and among us. We can observe that to be true in marriages and as couples, and being tied together and dependent on each other is also true in our families, in community, as part of neighborhoods and nations, and being sustained by creation. Existence is mutual and communal. So Jesus isn’t just setting a strict legal standard. He’s opening our eyes to the goodness, the richness, the broad extent of what God intends in our relationships, to be caring and cared for.

One final note, turning toward the second part of the reading that we’ve only touched indirectly: by again welcoming a child into his arms Jesus insists once more that all need access to his grace and love and blessing. So it’s one thing to say we should be nice to kids or understanding of youth. It’s another to be proud of a vibrant and growing Sunday School program. But to take up the ethic of care and the promises we make in baptism, we should probably be asking in our families where other activities or selfish priorities are obstructing our children’s access to Jesus and God’s blessing. We should ask how our worship is indeed welcoming them and where it impedes that. We should ask if we ourselves are making use of the means of accessing blessing for life, of being sustained in relationship with God and this community and the fullness of creation.

Hymn: This Is a Day, Lord, Gladly Awaited (ELW #586)

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Me & Ignorant Agnostics

sermon on Mark9:30-37

I have two confessions that may sound shocking at first: One, I am an agnostic. The second confession may sound subsequently less surprising: that I am agnostic is also to say I’m ignorant.

You probably suspect that I’m going to qualify these confessions, and you’re right. See, we normally equate the term “agnostic” with one who doesn’t believe in God. To use it more precisely would be for somebody who’s uncertain, who doesn’t know if they believe in God. And “ignorant” we take to be the same as stupid, a dummy, a half-wit, nincompoop, a doofus, a little slow…Sorry, there are so many synonyms! But ignorant doesn’t exactly fit that list.

Ignorant and agnostic are both from a Greek word, and that word was part of our Gospel reading. It is a word that really means “not knowing.” So to be ignorant isn’t to be idiotic, but just that you don’t know (though we’ll also discuss whether that’s from not having all the facts or if ignorance is related to what you ignore). And again, we typically call somebody an agnostic when they’re leaning toward not believing in God, but at its core it’s just that they don’t have all the knowledge.

Which should be something we’re all able to confess, that we are ignorant. We’re agnostic. We just plain don’t know everything about God and faith and church and life in this world. I’m guessing when I said I was ignorant, you were thinking, “yeah, tell me something I don’t already know.” But I know that I’m also implicating you, that last week I called you losers and this week I’m saying you’re ignorant. So I’ll beg your indulgence, to hang with me and maybe find grace in this.

To dig in, let’s start back in the Gospel reading, which got all of this going in the first place. The reading has the 2nd of 3 so-called “passion predictions” from Jesus. We heard the first last week, where Jesus went on to invite us also to take up our own cross, to follow him in losing our lives, and denying ourselves. In this 2nd time, just a chapter later, Jesus says he will “be betrayed into human hands, they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”

Now, we may take those as fairly basic details about Jesus. We go back to saying our creed today that sums up for us that he “was crucified, died, and was buried…On the third day he rose again.” We’ve got these details down, at least enough to repeat them back.

The disciples, on the other hand, seem caught off guard. Even though they also had just heard it in the last chapter, still this is coming as a fresh idea to them, or is shocking enough that it won’t sink in. It says “they did not understand” (that’s the Greek agnostic or ignorant word right there) “did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.”

They don’t know what’s going on, but instead of trying to figure it out or simply being willing to question, they take our typical illogical human tack and change the subject. This is the ignoring part of ignorance, of not trying to understand, of giving up and turning your attention to something else instead. So the disciples start arguing about who’s the greatest. Which must’ve been an interesting conversation, filled with bluster, each trying to seem better and brawnier and brainier than the rest, all while entirely refusing to admit even just a tiny bit that they don’t know.

Thinking about bluster among the ignorant may make us think these days of politicians, particularly in the contrast with Jesus’ notion that to be truly great means to be a servant of all.

But it’s not just a television problem. We good people here are also prone to fall into distractions instead of focusing on the heart of the matter. Even here at church, we like to talk smart and prefer to think we know plenty and imagine it’s better to have answers than to have questions. So congregations and, yes, even pastors are diverted into talking probably way too much about budgets and forms and lightbulbs and emails and attendance numbers and straight up gossip about people.

All that when there are much better things to be focusing on and pondering and wondering about, even to be asking questions of. Like Jesus, God in Christ, what in the world the Holy Spirit is and what she’s up to. Or why it’s so great to be a servant and whom we should be serving. Or what resurrection means or why the cross or how this passion prediction compares to other Bible readings. These are great kinds of questions, but we get stymied all too quickly because we’re recognize they don’t have easy answers.

This is especially obvious as Sunday School resumes, and may be a reason that Jesus talks about welcoming children today. A case in point: at the wedding I officiated a week ago, a 5-year-old boy was there, whom I had baptized. He was sitting with his grandmother during the wedding and evidently found himself in a situation sort of like the disciples, because this boy didn’t understand what was being said. “Who is Jesus?” he asked. “God’s son,” the grandmother whispered back. “Oh, I didn’t know he had a kid,” the boy pressed in questioning. “We’ll talk about it more later,” the grandmother tried to conclude.

My first response was relief he was asking her and not me. That fits with the start of Sunday School. Kids ask darn hard questions that seem to get right to the point. Rather than trying to ponder theology with wee ones, we’d prefer the distractions of talking about art projects or about lunch plans or sports or school. We’re reluctant to engage those huge, deep questions.

But it should be obvious that we’ll be left with such questions, since God is huger and deeper than anything contained in our universe. There’s no way we can fully get a handle on God.

And even what we can grasp is bound to raise more questions. Jesus today tries to point to the truest revelation we have of God—in the cross and empty tomb, embodied in one who humbled himself and took the form of a slave. That can’t help but leave us confused and wanting to ask questions: was Jesus really God in the flesh? What’s the deal with the virgin birth? What about other religions? Did God die? Why did Jesus pray? How did he come back from the dead? Where is he now? Why aren’t there more miracles today? What’s supposed to happen in Communion? Did Jesus have to die? What about other deaths, and cancer and genocide and extinctions? What about all the tough ethical and moral dilemmas we face? These are honest and faithful questions, that agnostic part of our confidence, the doubting part of our belief. We don’t have just blind trust; this pondering is part of who we are.

In the verses of Mark’s Gospel we skipped past since last week is contained a line, a prayer that is somehow among the most real lines anybody has ever said. A father of a sick child cries out in confession, “I believe; help my unbelief.” Today we are invited to live with that honesty, with an expansive and questioning faith, struggling with our uncertainties and wrestling with wishes and wonderings. I believe; help my unbelief. I know; help my ignorance. I trust; help my agnosticism.

The disciples don’t ask because they are afraid. But when you’re worried, asking questions of God is the last problem you should be having. God is especially there for conversation in your fears or confusion or insecurity or doubts.

So as a moment of reflection here and honesty in what we don’t know and would really like to know, I’m going to invite you to take out your slip of paper and a writing utensil and write your question. Be inquisitive or demanding, but don’t be afraid and don’t just hold this in your head; be serious and write something down. As they say, there are no dumb questions. But if you don’t ask you’re sure to remain ignorant.

When you’re done, you have three options: first, if it’s really personal and private, you can keep it to yourself, between you and God. Second, you can put it in the offering plate in just a few minutes and maybe we can do something more with these shared questions in coming weeks. Third, if you’re hoping for conversation or an answer or my sharing in ignorance, you can write your name. Ask your questions of God and Jesus and life.

Hymn: Unexpected and Mysterious (ELW #258)

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Temptations and More

sermon for 1st Sunday in Lent        (Mark1:9-15; Genesis9:8-17)
We can start by whittling away at this Gospel reading.

We already heard vv9-11 on the Baptism of Our Lord festival in early January. A couple weeks later, we heard vv14 & 15 with the start of Jesus’ ministry and calling the first disciples. So of this Gospel reading, the only part we hadn’t heard recently was vv12 & 13. Somebody must have decided to stretch today’s story by adding on those other pieces, thinking we needed more context and content, or that you’d claim you hadn’t gotten your money’s worth at a Sunday service with only two verses of Gospel reading.

Now, the lectionary always has a story of the temptation of Jesus on the 1st Sunday in this season. At least in part that’s because our 40 days of Lent are somehow supposed to parallel the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. In years when we hear from Matthew or Luke, there’s actual content to the temptation story. Instead of Mark’s two verses, their versions go on for around a dozen verses, and also include plot and dialogue and action.

In Mark, we’re left with something like four characters with a single verb each. Let’s take a look at each of them in turn, since they have implications for you, too.

We might as well start with the Spirit, since she’s the big motivating factor in the reading. Verse 12 says, “the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness.” Now our translation says this Spirit had descended “like a dove on him” at his baptism, but it would be better to say the Spirit is taking up residence in him. That’s not just because it’d be weird to picture Jesus walking around with a bird on his head, but more because this is what spirits do in the Gospel: they inhabit and claim you, taking over your life. Quite literally, they possess you. We’ve heard that of unclean spirits in recent weeks, but this is the clean spirit, the Holy Spirit, and those others unholy spirits.

That all makes it even more interesting that the Holy Spirit did the same thing to Jesus that he does to unclean spirits: it drove him out or cast him out. Mostly this is a word used for what Jesus did to demons, including three times in the first chapter alone. This is one of the differences that makes Mark’s version of this story so lively. In Matthew and Luke, it blandly says the Spirit led Jesus. Here in Greek, the Spirit literally “threw him out,” ekballei, like “ball” and ek like exit.

Now we can’t say exactly why we needed such a tough word of the Spirit expelling Jesus, with such oomph either away from society or out toward temptation. But it is a strong reminder for us of God’s work. If you imagined that the Spirit is only a gentle guide to lead you quietly, this says she’s a much more demanding and powerful force.

The only other time the Holy Spirit comes up in the Gospel is in giving you the words you need. Just as Jesus won’t allow you to be occupied by the negative spirits, so this holy protector and advocate comes strongly to your defense. And she seizes hold of you to operate in you for God’s good purposes. So that’s the first of our four characters and their single verbs.

Since we’re talking about the holy versus the unholy, or God’s good work and what tries to interrupt that, let’s proceed to Satan. Verse 13 begins, Jesus “was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan.” Like the Spirit, Satan isn’t really a major character in the rest of Mark’s Gospel. In fact, the only other time Satan is identified is when Jesus rebuked him, saying “Get behind me, Satan.” But in that case, Jesus was talking to his closest disciple Peter, because Peter wanted to convince Jesus away from his mission, that he didn’t need to die on the cross. Satan is also symbolized as a bird that tries to pluck the seed of God’s Word away from us, so that our faith can’t cling to God’s promise, to grow in trust.

The word “tempted” is also rarely used in Mark’s Gospel. Each of three times is about Jesus being tested by the Pharisees, to try to get him to stumble in his teaching or to do a miracle. It’s worth noting that Jesus doing miracles on demand would be giving in to temptation. That’s because faith is about trust, and if Jesus is constantly on trial and proving himself there’s no room for trust. Just picture if you tested your loved ones every day, saying, “if you love me, prove it.” It would wreck the relationship.

Beyond that, we probably each have our own understandings of Satan or temptation, of what you recognize as evil or try to avoid for whatever reason. In Matthew and Luke, Satan tried to tempt Jesus in three different ways, which Martin Luther grouped into the headings of “the devil, the world, and your sinful self.” The sinful self are those internal, personal appetites or lusts. Maybe for you it’s candy or alcohol. Or related to sex or your looks or possessions. These may not be inherently bad, but get warped by our desires. The category of the world is pride, trying to prove yourself as better, wanting power or prestige over others.

The final, most insidious is the temptation to forsake God’s promise, to turn away from Jesus, to claim this way of suffering love is wrong. This is not doubt; doubt is trying to believe. No, this is despair, claiming you might as well stay in bed on Sunday because this doesn’t matter and there’s nothing special to be gained here. Or it is making your own categories of holiness to exclude others, of making God in your own image. Or maybe the opposite, of excluding a God who would love people like you. These are broad headings of how what we want gets corrupted and leads us away from God’s will for our lives, for our neighbors, and for the world.

For us, we know it’s a struggle we are constantly failing, which is why we need a forceful Holy Spirit, and also lots of forgiveness and grace. For Jesus, all it said was he was “tempted by Satan.” With that, we’ve managed to say a lot about just a couple words from Mark.

So let’s move on to the next cadre of characters: the wild beasts. This, again, is worth noticing as a detail specific to Mark. The wilderness isn’t just a venue for some sort of sudden death spiritual elimination round as Jesus and Satan duked it out. No, Mark says it was also a camping trip. Jesus was in communion with the other creatures.

I heard this talked about recently as if the wild animals were the next scariest thing after Satan. I don’t agree that that’s what’s going on here. It doesn’t say Jesus was fleeing from the wild beasts, but that he was with them. Neither do I expect this is a peaceable kingdom story quite yet, of the wolf and the lamb living together, hanging out with a harmless snake. It’s not a cartoon image. But it is important to notice that these creatures are part of the relationship with Jesus. They’re not left out.

Like in our 1st reading, with that beautiful ending of the flood. We could say so much about it. We picture Noah as the main character, but God is absolutely insistent that this blessing, this new covenant is for all creation. In fact, no less than five times God reiterates the promise, “I am establishing my covenant with you and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth…between me and you and every living creature…all flesh.” Maybe it’s redundant not because the animals needed to hear it but because we humans need the reminder of the covenant, and that it’s about God’s work here on this earth. Jesus was with the wild beasts; they aren’t separated from what he’s up to.

It isn’t an individual gift for you, but is establishing blessing for all creation. Perhaps as you gather to be served the blood of the covenant here in the Lord’s Supper, you can also remember this. You share in this broad communion.

That brings us to the last characters in the temptation story. It says, “the angels waited on him.” Just as with the others, it is surprising for angels to show up here. Angels are normally messengers, delivering God’s word. Here they are instead serving food. You might notice that means Jesus isn’t fasting for the 40 days in this version. It’s also the same word of what Peter’s mother-in-law was able to do after Jesus healed her; she was able to go back to making snacks. The word in Greek is a familiar one: the angels were deacons. It was the typical word for serving food.

That also makes us think more of this table where we are gathered into God’s covenant. Where we commune, are united in the promise. Where we’re left to trust in Jesus’ presence with us, though it seems dubious or ridiculous, so unmiraculous. (Plain bread?!) Where we get to step out of our typical roles and practice serving each other.

There at the end of the temptation story, Jesus goes back into his mission and ministry, to regular life. Mark managed to set that stage in only two verses. For our part, we’ve really expanded on it.

So here’s a briefer recap: You arrived here, compelled by the Spirit to come. You are filled with and empowered by—or, even more strongly, possessed by—the Holy Spirit. Second, here you honestly face your own temptations. Third, it’s about understanding your vast community of neighbors on earth, and, fourth, for practicing hospitality and peace and caring. Finally, you are thrown back into daily life in the world to continue that work of serving and strengthening, of resisting evil and joining good.

Hymn: Lord Jesus, Think on Me (ELW #599)

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a wedding

GREETING

Grace and peace. Faith, hope, and love from God our Father and the Lord Jesus be with you all!

My name’s Nick, and I’m a pastor at Chad’s home church, St. Stephen’s Lutheran in Monona. And I get to offer that churchy welcome though we’re not gathered at church but out in this beautiful spot, or especially here, I get to offer that greeting for this day. This is the perfect place to be right now. Thank you all for being here.

It is a good place to be, not only as we’re enjoying what’s probably some of the last gorgeous bit of a beautiful autumn. Even more, it’s good to be here for a special moment, a good focal point of life, as Chad and Kari join themselves together and make promises for the rest of life in their wedding vows.

It’s an extra special and exciting thing because it’s not just these two. They’re very excited for Sylis, Isabel, Ava, and Kenzie to be up here with them, celebrating and also joining together in a new way. This day, this wedding, isn’t just about the love of Kari and Chad, but also about the love and commitment that makes family, and so it’s not just appropriate but awesome that their kids are right here for it.

Beyond that, it also involves all of you. You’ve all got history with Chad and Kari. You’ve been important in their lives, from bringing them up and teaching them how to live and love, through all the ups and downs. And you’ll continue to be important to them going forward, so it’s good that all of you broader family and friends are here, too.

Plus, as we gather, we also gather with a greater love that surrounds us for now and for eternity. We gather in an official wedding service because we believe that God’s love is a guide for us, a reminder of how we should live, not selfishly, but dedicating ourselves and sacrificing ourselves for each other. Even more than what we do, we remember God’s love as the blessing that has sustained us through every heartbeat, that fills us with love to share, and that keeps us in a firm embrace never ever to let us go.

With that reminder to start by expecting and listening for God’s presence in our lives and God’s love in our relationships, let us pray.

Gracious God, you sent your Son Jesus Christ into the world to reveal your love to all people. Enrich Kari and Chad with every good gift, that their life together may show forth your love; and grant that at the last we may all celebrate with Christ the marriage feast that has no end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

READING (Beth)

Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more.

You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself.

Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are.

The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all.

A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon.

You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life. ~ by Bob Marley

EXCHANGE OF VOWS

Probably among us only Chad would’ve expected such lovely words from Bob Marley, so fitting for what marriage is, in commitment and in benefit. And so that you may officially enter that together, I invite you to hold hands and exchange the promises of love in your wedding vows.

In the name of God,

I [Name] take you [Name]

to be my wife/husband,

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 we are parted by death.

This is my solemn vow.

RINGS

I give you this ring

as a sign of my love and faithfulness.

Kari and Chad, by their promises before God and in the presence of this assembly, have joined themselves to one another as wife and husband. Amen. Thanks be to God!

FAMILY PROMISE

As we said to start, it is not just these two who are coming together, who are joined in this marriage. We also celebrate that for their children.

Chad and Kari, let’s start with you.

Will you strive to the best of your ability to be faithful and caring parents to all four of these children,

supporting and nurturing them, encouraging and guiding them as they grow and throughout their lives?

I will and I ask God to help me.

Kenzie, Ava, Isabell, and Sylis, it’s your turn for some wedding vows, now, too!

To the four of you,

do you promise to join in this family with care and respect,

for fun and for serious support,

for hard times and good,

as best you can? I do!

Here’s a prayer of blessing for all six of you, family together:
Faithful God, like a compassionate father you give your children all we need; like a loving mother you gather us into your embrace and hold us in your household. We give thanks for these children who come together and for these parents taking them to be their own. By the power of your Holy Spirit, unite them, fill them with trust, understanding, and affection; bless them as you bless us all through the abiding presence of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

group hug!

DECLARATION OF INTENTION

Again, we broaden the circle. This days isn’t just Kari and Chad. It’s also their kids. But even more than that, it is all of you who have guided them to be the people they are, who have cared for them so far in their lives, and who will abide with them in love. They are grateful for you.

To give you a chance to voice your ongoing support and declare your intention to help them in whatever way possible, I now ask:

Families, friends,

and all those gathered here

with Chad and Kari,

will you support and care for them,

sustain and pray for them

in times of trouble,

give thanks with them

in times of joy

honor the bonds of their covenant,

and affirm the love of God

reflected in their life together?

We will and we ask God to help us.

PRAYERS   For our prayers, each petition will end “Gracious and faithful God,” and your response will be “Hear our prayer” We will conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.                   Let us pray.

We praise you, O God, for the joy that Kari and Chad have found in each other, and pray that they may reflect your gracious love and enrich all of us.

Gracious and faithful God…

We are grateful for our shared lives, and for your abiding presence. Use us as family and friends to support Chad and Kari in their lives together. We pray for Sylis, Isabel, Ava, and Mackenzie, as well.

Gracious and faithful God…

Continue to give this family gentleness and patience, readiness to trust one another, the grace to comfort and to listen, to acknowledge faults and to give and receive forgiveness.

Gracious and faithful God…

We pray for places where love is lacking, where love’s healing presence is needed. We pray for all who suffer in any way, for victims of disasters, violence, and oppression.

Gracious and faithful God…

We ask for your blessing on all who are joined by bonds of love. We pray for those separated from us or who couldn’t be here today. We give thanks for the loving example of those who have gone before us, remembering Michael, Laverne, Josephine, Karen, Eileen, Mark, Marjorie, Rose, Verna, Mike, Jim, Jeni, Kristi, and others in our hearts.

Gracious and faithful God…

Creator of all, you make us in your image and likeness and fill us with hope of everlasting life through your Son’s love. Hear the prayers of your people and grant to Kari and Chad grace to live in unity and joy all the days of their lives until they breathe the promise of everlasting life through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen

Our Father, who art…

It is my pleasure and honor and joy to introduce to you Mr. Chad & Mrs. Kari Zebell!

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