a wedding sermon

for the wedding of Aaron Hoffmeister and Mandy Dahlmeier

READING – Pablo Neruda, Sonnet 8

If your eyes were not the color of the moon,

of a day full of clay, and work, and fire,

if even held-in you did not move in agile

grace like the air,

if you were not an amber week,

not the yellow moment

when autumn climbs up through the vines;

if you were not that bread the fragrant

moon

kneads, sprinkling its flour across the sky,

oh, my dearest, I could not love you so! But when I hold you I hold everything that is –

sand, time, the tree of the rain,

everything is alive so that I can be alive:

without moving I can see it all:

in your life I see everything that lives.

 

 

It’s intimidating to offer my own words after reading Neruda. And that’s saying something, since most of my public speaking comes after readings from the best-selling book in the history of the world, a set of writings judged by billions of people to be the most important and inspired words there are.

Partly my discomfort in trying to say something more is that Senor Neruda says it so well in 14 short lines. Somehow the universe is crammed in there, but also in a way that’s expressly right for this moment, for gathering here in the “yellow moment when autumn climbs up through the vines,” here at the farm on this day that is about love, and not just a moment of love, not just for the day,

but, indeed, as Pablo reminds us, a celebration of “everything that is,” because this wedding is a glimpse, a microcosm, the Cosmos in a nutshell of your whole relationship, what it’s been in the past and what we expect and pray it will be into years and years to come.

And then, of course, this isn’t only about the two of you, but is about your connection to the world and how your love not only interacts with each other but with all of us, with food systems, with nature, with “sand, time, the tree of the rain…everything that lives.”

So I love getting to read the poem and imagine it all seeping in and holding those words especially for the two of you. It could be worth reading them a couple more times and not trying to say anything myself, not trying to expand on the infinite, to capture the inexpressible.

But, then again, as somebody used to blathering on, or (to say it with a better sense of communication) used to discovering meaning and conveying grace, I’ll resist the temptation to give soneto ocho the only voice.

In fact, as one accustomed to talking about the Bible, I want to add in another immense set of words along with Neruda, not because I’m up to the task of deciphering and discerning and illuminating much about such enormous sentiments, but because this moment invites the biggest, truest, superlative-est perceptions.

So the phrase of scripture I’m hoping it’s okay to throw into the mix comes from what I consider the best chapter, the best bit out of the whole Bible. These few words for you and for today are: “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus.” (Romans 8:39)

This verse occurred to me simply because of the term “separate.” It’s a hard but important term to hold onto at a wedding and in a marriage. It contrasts in some way with Neruda, who noticed that when you hold onto each other, you hold onto everything. He recognizes the magnetic connection. But the Bible verse goes the opposite way, admitting distance.

We talked about this in our marriage prep conversations, how as complete as your relationship feels right now, there’s a risky edge of unreality in that bliss, since you don’t know everything about each other but wonderfully will continue learning and exploring and growing and negotiating and being shaped by each other. Rather than some supreme moment of love, this wedding is actually a little prelude to the symphony. There is distance now, but you’ll be growing closer.

I also was intrigued by the Bible’s word of separation because of your peculiar rhythms. I specifically mean that people typically think of weddings as the beginning of life together. But no sooner are you getting started than Mandy is going to float away for three months down the Mississippi River! That seems important for a notion of separation, along with significance that Aaron is eventually going to chase after you, closing the gap, narrowing the distance, rejoining from the separation.

These pair of enormous life events, the wedding and the river trip, have had me thinking generally about where relationships are apart and what it means to be together. Clearly it’s not just spatial distance. Nor is it fully how time is spent or the kinds of schedules you keep. I’d say there’s a vital aspect in passions and commitments and senses of calling, those core parts of personality and identity. In that way, the canoe trip isn’t really about separation, but is about supporting each other in your cherished values, enabling who each of you really are, to be. You’re going to proclaim these sentiments much more truly and heartfelt and precisely for each other in the great vows you’ve written. So with that, I’ll just say that even though these coming months are a time of being disconnected physically from each other, giving each other room and space, and then chasing after reunion,

in another way let’s notice how these separated river months circle back around to Neruda, with the connection to everything—to the river and seasons and to the health and fitness of girls you’ve never met and toward justice and making this planet a bit more what it should be, meaning in holding onto all of that, you’re conversely holding onto each other.

Having expanded back to the scale of the universe and the scope of poetry, I probably should quit now, but I want to add an addendum about Jesus. I like to figure that by asking for me, you get him as a package deal. After reflecting on separation and togetherness, I have to admit that that Bible verse wasn’t really about separation, since it said, “Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Jesus.”

The final point I want to offer is also embodied in your love for each other, Aaron and Mandy. Just like all of these family and friends gathered around you today, you know that this isn’t only for the good times, for the party, for the sunny moments that feel rich with floral beauty and delicious meals, or for some distant impossible perfection. You know that it’s the imperfect perfection, the simpler quiet times, the two of you sharing a table, the flooded garden hopes. We know it’s for the daily grind of working, for the times of sorrow and struggle, and really needing each other. Love that looked only on the bright side wouldn’t be love at all.

And that’s the point of Jesus, how we know God’s love, not only for the times that we want to call blessed or happy, but in Jesus the embodiment of a God who with us and for us will face hunger and poverty, sickness and estrangement, suffering and death, and yet a life and love that won’t even be stopped then. Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Jesus. And because this isn’t only dreary stuff, also this day’s reminder that the only time we have a story about Jesus and a wedding is when he’s the bartender, making sure the wine doesn’t run out.

That’s a sense of abundance, a celebration of the gifts growing from the earth and nurturing us, the endless love God has for you, and, therefore, that you have for each other, through it all.

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a wedding sermon

for the Wedding of Colleen and Roanna

 

This is a rather formal event for in some way being a formality. Neither does it quite fit the traditional definition of a shotgun wedding, though there’s some element of that pressure and being under the gun here.

Which is to say that I’ve been reflecting on why we’re here today, what we’re doing, what this is about.

In the most basic regard, that might actually be a question about location. See, we know that you need to have a lawful signature on a piece of paper stored in a government building. We know that the previous way you’d been registered and officially partnered together is going away and so you need this new-fangled thing: a marriage license. Although for the question of why, we might first think to answer about insurance and legality. But for the simple sake of that signature, this could well have happened downtown in an office room. That it’s here instead extends the why question also to involve “where.”

As I told you Roanna and Colleen, I’d identify the central part of a wedding usually as the exchange of vows, those promises of love for each other. And though that captures some of the insurance sense of things with the standard promise of “in sickness and in health,” still after seventeen years (or so?), it doesn’t really seem like you two would need to do that formal promising. You’ve already been practicing those commitments and dedications of giving yourselves to each other in love for a long time, so this would seem like something not so new and doesn’t seem like exchanging those words will really change your relationship.

I suppose I also have to concede that even though I define the vows as the central moment of a wedding day, there’s probably at least as much validity in the popular notion that weddings are about parties, about getting the family and friends closets to you and dearest around to celebrate. So there’s strength to that explanation for this day, since something like your love for each other is indeed deserves enjoyment and to be praised and enlivened with good music and your relationship is well worth toasting.

We could also do well to notice that festivities and celebrations were where Jesus hung out. Though we don’t often think of him as a party animal, that was sort of the reputation he had in his own time, that he wasn’t one to avoid a good time. Particularly, we could observe that the only story about him at a wedding wasn’t to lecture on how to love or what is right or wrong, but simply as the beverage service to make sure the wine kept flowing. That Jesus!

While we’re on that track, we could—and should!—say that a very worthwhile reason for this wedding is because this is exactly what God wants. God is pro-love. God is in favor of your love. God celebrates your love and nurtures and sustains your love and accentuates your love. God blesses your love for each other, Colleen and Roanna, and God enables your love with God’s own love. As your Bible readings declare and proclaim for us, when we think of love, we’re envisioning godliness and practicing what God’s will is for our lives. You two bear God’s presence for each other, and then also extend God’s goodwill to our lives and to the world. The rest of us depend on your love as sharing God’s love for us.

And though that’s the message I am most eager to announce to you today, I feel it also needs to be paired with another word. As a straight white male and an official of the institutional church, I want to apologize. We or I must confess that part of the circumstance for this wedding and this moment here, once more on the “why” of today, is that places like this and people at least sort of like me for far too long have warped and controlled church and society to say your love was not right. I’m so sorry for that and am also very grateful, because you still asked me to be here today, because you are rightly faithful and you recognize and you continue to show us—through 17 years, in this moment, and on into the future—that you are engaged in the godly work of love, that your love is not only for each other but also makes our lives better, and, yes, God encourages your love, celebrates your love, and God blesses your love.

So thank you, Roanna and Colleen, and congratulations. Now let’s get on with this formal stuff to the heart of the day so we can party.

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a wedding sermon

Though it may be inappropriate of me to be saying it, much less today, at this event, in front of all these people, I kind of suspect that the two of you are a little backward. Sorry, again that may be inappropriate, but I’m not too good at keeping my mouth shut on these things, nor do I believe that trying to follow the standard patterns and mythical romantic guidelines is exactly what we should be up to anyway.

So I’ll go ahead and say it again, and even with some rejoicing, that the two of you are a little backward. You seem to have love out of order, the reverse of the typical pattern that we’re led to expect. And as a first example, there’s that reading from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, a reading that told us “Love is not breathlessness, It is not excitement, It is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any fool can do.”

That exactly contradicts much of the mushy sentimentalism that is typical in weddings. Mostly these are seen as days about wedded bliss and honeymoons and extravagance that is intended to reflect the overwhelming emotion of two people head-over-heels in love. Wedding speeches (at least of the American variety) tend to center on how great it is that the couple has found happiness in each other. But this reading you chose argues against all of that and turns it on its head. It calls those popular gooshy wedding moments simply foolish. “That’s just being in love,” it says, disparaging the notion that being in love is the most amazing thing a person can experience.

Instead, the reading goes more to the roots, to the heart. It seeks for when all that sentimentalism is burned away, and that being bound together then is when it really matters and what is really important and worthwhile. Love isn’t really about being happy together, but is about being together through the sadness and struggle and worry as well as the happiness, to share the joy as well as sorrow, sickness and health, richer or poorer, in the exact sentiment that the old vows are supposed to guarantee for each other, through the effortless parts of the journey and the challenges, as you will promise to each other in a moment.

But even more than this surprising reversal of the common demeanor of weddings, I’d say the two of you, Trevor and Stephanie, had it backward long before today. I’d say you were in some ways backward about this from the very beginning, back when you met in Nashville in what has begun to feel like many long years ago. Back in those days when you were first meeting each other and getting to know each other, you were each facing trauma and difficulty, of loss and separation, of death and endings. And so somehow, right from the very start of it all, you were there for each other as support and relief, through a really hard time, and I expect responding and helping and not simply as a diversion or distraction or vacation from your problems.

Having established your relationship on such firm footing, on actual dedication and devotion to being a benefit to each other and not only on what makes you happy, it makes only logical sense that you’ve progressed through all of that to arrive precisely here and now. The progress has also involved deliberation and difficult decisions, on being a blended family with Brady and on how schedules might possibly work and living arrangements that will mean changes of an international scale. It’s involved sorting through that with others and inviting us who are gathered around you today also to be part of that adaptation and change and intentionality and commitment that your love means.

A further word on this gathering: I suspect many of you know, but in case you didn’t, Trevor and Stephanie are already married. In order to work on citizenship and paperwork issues and such, it’s already a done deal, a sterile little process in an office. The deed is done. So we could say that this is moot, that I’m not getting to serve as an official witness, that there’s no signing of marriage licenses and nothing today that will be registered with the county clerk at the courthouse.

But it’s not like today doesn’t matter. The legal stuff wasn’t the only point or the main point for Stephanie and Trevor. The civil ceremony made the marriage “legit,” as they say, but they wanted this gathering as a chance to focus on love. This is the chance to practice what life ahead will mean, the practice (in the characterization of our Bible reading, from Romans 12:9-16) of loving each other, of being family, of giving and receiving support, of mutual affection, of loving what is good, of patience and perseverance, of hospitality and harmony, of rejoicing—for certain—but also of compassion that wouldn’t ignore weeping. This whole mix of our complex and beautiful lives: that is what today is about. And without the fullness of it, not only would we be trying to ignore reality, but we’d also be trying to ignore the blessing of God, who is with you to provide for times of happiness, but also to bring you through sorrow, to sustain and surround you, and to triumph in love.

With that, I invite the three of you now to pour sand in a unity ceremony, a visual representation of the grand beauty of lives mixing and coming together as family, and all contained in the clarity of God’s embrace.

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a wedding sermon

It’s impossible to top those words that included this hemisphere’s greatest poet (Neruda, Sonnet XVII) and some of the most beloved reflections on life (Kahlil Gibran, “On Marriage) and history’s single most famous statement about what love is (1 Corinthians 13). It’s a good thing you didn’t throw in any Shakespeare, or I would’ve just been sunk, rendered mute and useless. We could’ve just signed the marriage license and moved on to cocktails. As it is, there’s no way I can add to the three readings on love, so I’m just going to ignore them and talk about something entirely different.

Instead, I want to talk about jobs or work. For your identity, Emily and Seth, that seems like a vital piece (and even that word “vital” is worth noting in its heft; it comes from the Latin for “life”). Again, then, we often think of jobs or careers with the phrase “making a living.”

Don’t worry; we’re making our way back to the wedding and marriage. But in that trajectory, let’s first highlight how jobs become so much of our self-definition. Who am I? Well, I’m a pastor. Who are they? He’s a teacher. She’s a police officer. This even gets to be a mark of our success from childhood, on how well we’ve followed through on declarations of “what I want to be when I grow up.”

Yet having our lives defined in that way can also be problematic. It can mean that if you’re not part of the workforce or in some special role, then you’re left out. Oh, she’s “just” a stay-at-home mom. He’s unemployed. It’s only punching the clock.

Still, some of us do relate really strongly to our career, as shaping or aligned with our identity. That’s true for you two, right? You are doctors. The medical profession is an embodiment of who you are and also how you relate to each other. Your mutual support includes the ability to understand when something has gone wrong at work and instead of just offering care you also need to be cared for. Am I still saying this fairly?

You’ve also recognized that this role is so fulfilling and so involved that there’s a trap also in the medical field of wanting to work too much, to solve all the new problems. You want to help, want to make a difference to society, to “impact the world and make it better” as you’ve said, and obviously there’s always more care that can be given, more to do.

To stay toward the positives of meaningful work, though, let’s focus on your notion of wanting to make the world better. You also described that as a sense of accountability or trying to do the right thing. With that, I want to add in the term “vocation.”

Vocation is another of those words like “vital” that can be used without the full sense or weight of what they mean. Vocation is a more important word, than just a job. This one has its Latin root in “calling.” You are experiencing a calling. In trying to make sick people better and thereby to make the world better, you are responding to a call. You are answering your vocation.

My point is, this prompts a question for us: If you are responding or answering, who is calling you? Where does the voice that calls you into your vocation come from? Even if it’s simply labeled as trying to do the right thing, how do we determine what is right?

A theologian named Fredrick Buechner famously defined vocation as “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”* It wards off selfishness on the one hand and life-sucking demands on the other. So this isn’t only about what is satisfying or happy, but is also how you’re eager to help where you’re needed, responding as circumstances invite or demand. That sense of vocation may fit fairly well for you, and it may begin to describe the sense of love beckoning you to each other.

But there’s more about where that voice comes from. Some say that the longing to do what’s right is woven into our being, that we have an innate sense of it, or that there are evolutionary reasons for altruism, for acting ethically and humanely, even explanations from evolution for love.

For the Lutheran Christians among us, we say that this calling comes from God. And what is worth emphasizing in our Lutheran view is that this call is really an invitation into life in this world. We don’t believe that God is calling us to flee from the world or escape toward heaven. It’s not that we try to be nice and do the right thing for merits or karma or rewards, to earn points with God.

Our example in Jesus is a call directly into relationships, into life, “for God so loved the world.” In Jesus, not only do we hear that the greatest instruction is to love our neighbors. Even more, we see one who cared for the sick and who welcomed the outcast and who enjoyed plenty of wine at the party. We see Jesus as the embodiment and incarnation of a God who is concerned for your life and the life of those around you and the good of all creation. These are things to delight in and to take care of.

And maybe that, at last, also points us back toward this wedding and that fuller, better sense of vocation and of what you are in life. See, Emily and Seth, it is not only that you are doctors. What we do to make a living isn’t only for getting a paycheck. It is not merely requirements or what makes us happy.

In this Lutheran understanding (which I find has a heckuva lot of truth) our vocation is to be part of this world, engaged with our neighbors. And your closest neighbor, where you find yourselves most primarily and predominantly isn’t at a job. The central vocation and the place most in need of our love and care is within our family, our household. That’s our first place of responsibility, and where we are most cared for.

And so that is why this is a blessed event, a blessed day, because you, Seth and Emily, in this wedding and for this marriage are recognizing the importance of the absolutely central vocation, of being together. You are loved and loving. You are becoming husband and wife, claiming each other as the closest and most important of neighbors, glad and eager to be there for each other. In that, and in this day, you are willing to take up the charge, to answer God’s call, to commit yourselves to each other, to vow what you will be, through better or worse, in sorrow and in joy. And through all of that, it means your love for each other is, indeed, making the world a better place.

You know, it’s a lot of work. It’s worth a lot of prayer and devotion and attention. It’s also well worth a celebration. So blessings and congratulations!

* Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC, p119

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a wedding sermon

With those very nice Bible readings (1Cor13:1-8a; Col3:12-14; Matt5:13-16), I also want to drop in one more huge thought from a little Bible verse we’ll hear tomorrow in worship, which is also a pretty good mark of what this day is about. It says, “God is love.” (1John4:8. 16)

Now, that’s about the most helpful direction and overarching sort of statement I could think of. I mean, try to picture other things that God could be. We might imagine that God is Power. Or that God is Controlling and in control. Or that God is All. Or that God is Justice, about right and wrong and following rules and punishing offenders. Or that God is in heaven.

As much or as little as any of those might be true, they aren’t what we have in the statement God is Love. And I think I don’t prefer them. I’d be scared of a God who is only about power and might. I have questions about defining God by control; because what does that have to say about the earthquake in Nepal or about our own stubborn sinfulness, even to those we have said we love? I’m not helped by a God who is off in heaven, or a God who is inconspicuously a spark inside of everything. Those aren’t what I need.

A God of love, though, of compassion, a God who is with me in my needs, a God who won’t forsake me or forget me.

The problems are that sometimes we’d prefer something more than love or something other than the hard work of love. A God of power wouldn’t have died on a cross. A God of purity wouldn’t have hung out with the screw-ups and the failures and certainly wouldn’t tell us to love our enemies and those who are hard to love (especially a word for weddings of those closest to us). A God of black and white, right and wrong, simple answers wouldn’t have created a complex, hard, sad world, which is also a wonderful, beautiful, delightful world.

That somehow says this God is true for your relationship as well, Carrie and Jake. It’s not about perfection or wedded bliss. It’s not about everything being easy. Rather, your love and your relationship are about coming together, about supporting each other in spite of or even because of the hard times, and trying to figure out your differences and complexities, and continuing to work at it, because you matter to each other. Plus all the joys and delights of meals and great music at concerts and the Badgers and good times with Cadence and trips to Port Washington and enjoying Duluth and all the other stuff. It goes together as one package, the good and the bad and somehow all better because of love.

That’s an amazing thing, but also intimidating. This is big stuff. See, as you love each other, you are doing God’s work. As you commit to love in your wedding vows, you are committing to a godly task. As you strive to love each other, and to love each other’s families, and to continue growing in love and loving the world, you are embodying our faith, acting as the body of Christ, representing God who so loved the world. It’s big stuff.

And it could seem nearly impossible. That list in 1st Corinthians is quite a chore – to be patient and kind and never rude or insistent or selfish, to be able to bear everything and endure all things. Oof. It says that love never ends, which sounds exhausting.

It makes the other reading from Colossians sound better, that you clothe yourselves with compassion and humility and love. Clothing yourself and putting on Christ sounds easier and more sporadic. Like putting on a jacket or a pair of boots, you just could do it when you need it and take off love other times. Except we know that’s not really how it works, either, to be only occasionally loving. We may have moments of better or worse, but it isn’t something we get to stop.

So, for all of that, the real blessing today, of your shared commitment, of being in love, is that you’re not at it alone. It’s not only that you need to try harder to do what’s godly and good for each other. It’s also that God’s love abides with you. You cannot make yourself light or make yourself salt, as Jesus said. You are made bright and salty, you are made loving, by God’s presence. That is what unites you, what binds you together in a union, what sustains your life in blessing. The greeting we offer as we start worship isn’t just a wish or a suggestion. It is the reality you live in, for each other and for all: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit is with you. Amen

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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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