a wedding sermon

You know, one thing that I’ve noticed about weddings—heck, I’d go so far as to say my gripe about weddings—is that the attention seems to be zeroed in on the bride and the groom. That may seem appropriate, but let’s ask who’s really most important here. As lovely as you are, Michael and Lisa, I’m going to steal your spotlight and direct the camera back on me for a moment. (Knowing your humor, and trying to make a larger point, I hope it’s okay.)

So to begin with the risk of drawing too much attention to this sermon, and realizing that I’ll never live up to the standard anyway, I’m going to highlight a line in the Bible reading you chose. It talked about speaking in the tongues of angels. Obviously there’s nothing in the lame words that I put together that could attain those heights, so I guess I am indeed left in the opposing category of the noisy gong or clanging cymbal. Having realized that, where it might make you think I’d go ahead and shut up instead of blathering on, making noise up here, instead I’ll foolishly press on, since I still cling to my “childish ways.”

Which leads to the next line with prophetic powers and understanding mysteries and knowledge. And, boy, even if I couldn’t articulate in the language of angels, at least here I’ve got the chance to…well, let’s face it, I’m not going to stack up well in this category, either. I mean, I enjoyed our pre-marriage counseling sessions together, but whatever good you managed to glean from any of that had nothing to do with my wisdom or insight. So prophetic powers are definitely out of my weakling reach.

The list continues on from there in even harder ways: moving mountains, sacrificing bodies and life itself. Even the bit about patience and kindness and not being rude, not boasting, not insisting on my own way. Maybe my strategy here of taking this time to focus on myself was a bad idea.

But that’s okay, because I really wanted to turn it back around to you two, anyway. See, in these categories, you two stack up much better than I do, not least because of the love you have for each other. You really are eager to listen to each other, to try to figure out the right words and the right tone. You bear with each other quite naturally and indeed rejoice in each other. Your love is a beautiful thing.

Still, though, if this is only about trying to measure yourselves on not getting irritable or always being patient, obviously I’m not the only one who’s going to fall short. All of us do, including you two.

So how do we proceed? Do we lower the bar and just say we’re not perfect and then go ahead and put up with a mediocre, marginal kind of love? That doesn’t seem like a very preferential option, especially today. It would leave you with vows that sounded something like, “Well, I mostly like you pretty well, and we’ll generally kind of get along, and it will be okay to spend the rest of our life together, probably.” You’re not here because you want to say that.

A bit different, you could use your vows to set the high standards, to hold you to account, to keep working at love, trying to improve.

But there’s something still more in those words of love. I get to remind you, because this is a sermon, that you are here because this is a church. And that points to the better, fuller solution, to the true embodiment of this love. See, what 1st Corinthians is describing sure isn’t best seen in how good of a pastor I am. It’s not best in our families or communities. It’s not even most in how loving you are to each other; though that is a very good reflection, in the words of that reading, it is still kind of a hazy image in the mirror.

The fullness of this love is revealed for us in Jesus. This is how we know who God is, and what God means for our life. In him, we learn that love is reliable, is trustworthy, and really is always worth it.

God is not about to abandon you when the going gets tough, much less to cause you pain or distress. This is what we know in the cross of Jesus and in his resurrection. This is the long-suffering love that brings you through it to the other side. It’s a love that fits with your vows that promise to share all the circumstances of life together, but it even goes beyond the partition of death to bring you to something still new, a reunion, a grand eternal wedding feast.

This is the heart of love. Sometimes we reflect it well, and sometimes not. Even the church too often distorts that image of love. Yet the best of our relationships are guided and sustained by it, even if imperfectly. Still more, this love of God for you and with you, it never ends.

But there I will end. So for your love, and for this even grander promise, congratulations, Lisa and Michael.


a wedding


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


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


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.


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!


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!


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!


a wedding sermon

I’m going to start, Karly and Brian, not with the Bible reading, which would usually be the basis for a sermon. Instead I’m going to start with the Velveteen Rabbit, because it’s been occurring to me how fitting that reading is for the two of you. I really like that idea of “real” along with love, particularly as I think about the two of you.

Maybe to begin with that in a more general way, we contrast “real” with an “idea.” The way these words work is that what’s realistic is contrasted with what is ideal or idealistic. One is only in your head, imaginary, while the other is in action, is tangible and touchable and factual.

So as you are embarking on your wedding day, it’s great to see that you two are not thinking about your marriage and your wedding only ideally, but also encountering this day in a real way. It’s not about having the perfect ceremony (otherwise, of course, you wouldn’t have asked me to be here!). More important than pretend things is what is real, like the tangible, touchable fact that you get to stand here and hold hands with each other. It’s delightful that you know that that’s what’s important about this day.

That’s one way to think about what is real with love. Another aspect of that is just how real the two of you are in conversations with each other. I’m grateful that I got to witness and share in it in our pre-marriage sessions. I admire and enjoy how you relate to each other, that you’re able to admit to each other that you get into silly arguments and can laugh about it. Other couples I’ve worked with have also talked about personality differences and ways of looking at finances and frustrations with habits around doing the dishes, but you’re the first in those conversations with me to bring up the etiquette of toilet paper role replacement. That’s keeping it real.

And, again, I love how well you listen to each other in those conversations, not stubbornly holding your own point of view, but hearing each other and recognizing that you can change to be better for each other.

When we talk about “real love” with the Velveteen Rabbit reading, that’s what it means. Typically, we wind up thinking about love as what the other person does that’s attractive, that you fall in love because they are lovely or loveable. But that’s just a response, and an easy response. Real love is about taking the initiative. It’s just the sort of thing your vows will promise to each other, not only to be there when things are happy and simple, but to abide with each other in all circumstances, to continue striving for the sake of the other person. That you’re committing to that for each other in marriage is what makes all of the celebration of this wedding day worthwhile.

But also, since you decided to have the wedding here in this church, I have the benefit of pointing out something else. You talked with me about how God is confusing, or mysterious. You’ve said you’d guess God is supportive of your relationship and eager for you to do well, and I’d certainly agree. But as Christians, we don’t believe it’s all mystery or guesswork or, in our earlier words, that God is only about our ideas in our head or even that God is what is ideal.

As Christians, we believe God is real, and God’s love is real. For a three sentence long Bible study, it’s interesting that you chose the Bible reading from Song of Solomon because although the Bible is about helping us know who God is, that’s one of only two books in the Bible not to mention God. Instead, it is plain old love poetry, and pretty visually graphic love poetry at that. But people figure it got to stay in the Bible because as we look at a couple in love, that reveals something to us about how God loves us. Your love for each other, Brian and Karly, makes God’s love real. God’s love is realized in you.

But that’s not all. See, as Christians, we also point to the physical embodiment of God’s love in Jesus, as God in the flesh, God made real for us. Much like your vows, the love we see in Jesus is the kind that reaches out in times of need, that doesn’t only look for things that are happy but abides even through sadness, a responsive love, giving of himself and even giving up life, but giving in such a way that death cannot stop God’s love, but brings you to the feast of eternal life. It is that love that holds and sustains you today, in the years to come, and forevermore.

So for today, congratulations. And forever, know that you are really blessed in love.