Zach and Holly

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We are all privileged to participate in this Christian wedding, but we must take care that we understand this rightly. It is not a Christian wedding simply because it is occurring in a church, and it is not a Christian wedding simply because we are using Christian formulae in the ceremony itself, and it is not a Christian wedding because the bride and groom are both committed Christians—although they are. These things all contribute to the Christian nature of the event, and are an important part of what we understand ourselves to be doing. But what makes anything Christian, foundationally, fundamentally, is the presence of the gospel, which is the good news of Jesus Christ, and His death, burial, and resurrection.

Church buildings point to this, and our wedding ceremonies point to this, and a Christian man and woman point to this by their lives, but the whole thing stands or falls on whether Jesus is present. Scriptures tell us that Jesus is present through the Word, empowered by His Spirit, and so we rejoice that what we are doing here today is occurring, as Paul would say, in Christ.

The gospel of Christ is simple enough for a toddler to understand, and deep enough for any number of theologians to get happily lost. We could all of us spend the rest of our lives reflecting on all the different aspects of what God has done for us, and if we are obedient, that is just what we will try to do.

One aspect of this is the beautiful image of sleep, a wonderful image of the gospel. The first time sleep is mentioned in the Bible, it was in order for God to bring a wife to Adam. God placed Adam into a deep sleep (Gen. 2:21) in order to fashion a wife for him out of one of his ribs. The first time a man went to sleep, he woke up to the day when he would meet his wife. If you recall, a similar thing happened to Boaz. He went to sleep at the harvest and woke early in the morning to encounter his future wife, Ruth. Sleep is related to the gospel the same way that women are. The Church is the bride of Christ, remember.

Throughout Scripture, sleeping is a type and image of death (e.g. 1 Cor. 11:30; 15:51), and it follows from this that waking up in the morning is an image of the resurrection. God knows that we are slow to grasp this lesson of death and resurrection, this daily reminder of His ultimate intention for us, and so He goes over the lesson again and again. If God gives Zach and Holly a fifty year anniversary, He will have allowed them to go through this pattern of death and resurrection over 18,000 times. God wants us to get this.

In the book of Philippians, the apostle Paul says he longs to stay in this life because to live is Christ, but he then adds that to die is gain. Staying awake is good, going to sleep is really good, and waking up is just the best. Christians who have the confidence that God’s forgiveness is resting upon them can know and experience a right attitude toward death because although death is an enemy, it is a conquered enemy. Jesus rose, remember.

Every day is a miniature life. Every day follows a pattern, and has a story arc, and if you live faithfully in the course of each day, you will be learning the very best way to go to sleep. For someone who works as he ought to, going to sleep is one of the most glorious experiences God gives to us. This should teach us about the death of God’s saints, and why God considers a faithful death precious. But this only works if the day is fruitful, and not squandered or frittered away in laziness and sin. And waking in the morning with the hope of a full day before us is even better than going to sleep was. But of course, this daily training program is only possible through Jesus Christ. He helps us form each daily letter on the page so that by the end of our lives, we will have written the larger story He has for us.

Now this is a wedding, which means that we have all gathered together to celebrate the day when the bride and groom begin sleeping together—which we understand them to be looking forward to. But as we have considered, much more is involved—our God is the God of surprises.

Non-believers do not know how to regard death, because they do not know that it has been conquered. But believers know that Jesus came back to life in a garden, and He has thereby made the whole world fruitful. We therefore look at cemeteries as gardens, as planted gardens. We read the names of believers on their stones the same way we would read how a gardener labeled his row of sweet corn.

And more than this—we are privileged to view our bedrooms as training gardens for practicing the resurrection. Here we lie down together, and here we rise together. And all this means that husbands and wives need to learn how to keep a clean conscience today, we need to learn how to extend and receive forgiveness today, and we need to keep the sun from going down on our anger today. As Scripture says, today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

Zach and Holly, you both do this together. You both go to bed, and you both rise. But this is a glorious dance, and you each have a different part in it.

Zach, the apostle Paul also says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for her. This means laying down your life. What the Lord did on the cross is the gospel, and what husbands do in imitation of the Lord is the aroma of that same gospel. That means that I charge you to take the lead in the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility. When it comes to dying, you must take the lead. You must show the way.

Holly, you are to be the glory of your husband, and this means you lead the way in resurrection. Receive what Zach sacrifices for you, and return it all to him glorified—thirty, sixty, and one hundred fold. God created women to be the man’s glory, and God created to the woman to be the glorifier of what he brings home. The capacity for that resides in you, by the grace of God, and like everything else, it is brought to life by the gift of faith.

So I charge both of you to receive by faith what God made you for. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.

 

 

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