As we gather together for yet another glorious wedding ceremony, we are doing so in order to witness an oath. That is the centerpiece of what we are doing. That is why we are here.
Now different cultures adorn the wedding oath differently, but the center of it is the same. Customs can vary from one group to another, but because marriage was instituted by God in the Garden, that central reality is inviolable. So the language of the vows exchanged may vary, and the wording may change, just as the dress of the bride and bridegroom may vary, but the thing that the vows are there to guard and protect remains a constant. When we get to the vows, as we will do in just a few minutes, we have gotten to where the real action is. That place is where the covenant is enacted, to be fulfilled later.
Now an oath is much greater than we are. An oath stands as an invocation of a transcendental realm, and because God is ultimate and tri-personal, that realm is personal. It therefore stands outside of us, distinct from all human cultures. We appeal to this reality from within our experience, but what we are doing is anchoring key aspects of our lives to that transcendental reality.
This is why Jesus teaches us not to swear over frivolous things, or on a stack of Bibles, or by heaven or earth (Matt. 5:34-36). In the ordinary course of life, our simple yes or no should be sufficient.
So in “matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God,” as the Westminster Confession says (WCF 22.2). An oath is like a flying buttress—it is necessary to reinforce a great cathedral. But if you need some to reinforce your grass hut, then perhaps you should concentrate on keeping your promises more scrupulously.
When we take on an important office, or when we testify in court, or when we marry another person, an oath in the name of God is entirely appropriate. “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name” (Deut. 6:13).
And so what a wedding vow like this means is that we are all here assembled in the presence of God. We are not just enacting a custom of our people. We are not just doing the drill. We are told in Scripture that God has placed eternity in our hearts, and we instinctively know that occasions like this one are weighty and full of glory. But unless we are fashioned in the image of God, there is no glory, there is no weight. Because we are fashioned in His image, we know that when we are establishing a covenant that manifests that image plainly (Gen. 1:27), we have a responsibility to invoke His name. And in the Scriptures, we cannot invoke His name without invoking His presence.
So God is here. God is with us now. God is listening to us, and He delights in what we are doing. We mean business, and His presence means that we mean business in the dawn of eternal results. Remember the insight of the atheist philosopher Sartre, who said that without an infinite reference point every finite point is absurd. He tried (unsuccessfully) to lean into and embrace that absurdity, but it is not really possible. But it remains true that without an infinite reference point, every finite point—and marriage is a finite point—is absurd.
Christ is the cosmic center, as the apostle Paul insists (Col. 1:18), and this means that He is the necessary center of every healthy marriage as well. According to the Shorter Catechism, the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever (WSC 1). This being the case, and because marriage is right at the center of human affairs, we can see that the chief purpose of marriage is also to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Alex, if your marriage only contained the two of you, then your marriage would be doomed. It is therefore your responsibility, as the spiritual head of your home, to include the practical and functional authority of the Lord Jesus Christ in all that you do. And this does not mean relying on a nebulous spiritual Jesus-y vibe, but rather paying close attention to His Word, reading it in your home, relying on it as you make decisions together with Darcey, and as you bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. You want to keep Christ close because it is your responsibility to imitate His love for the church in how you love your bride, and how you keep on loving her. This kind of love requires fuel, and a husband must live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. My charge to you is to have your home, being established just now, as a home that is built on the rock of the Word. Do that, and you need fear no storm.
Darcey, as this home takes shape, it will take the kind of architectural shape that the blueprints require. It will be your task to adorn this home, and to adorn it in ways that are consistent with Word as well. Just as Alex must follow the Word as he builds the house, so you also must follow the Word as you make it a home. Neither of you are to function autonomously. Your husband has been given an eye so that he can see the Scriptures, and see also what he must do. You have been given an eye also, so that you can see the Scriptures, what your husband has done, and what you must therefore do. Under Christ, your husband will place certain resources into your hands. Your task is to glorify whatever that is, and give it back to him. And that process will continue for the rest of your life together, getting richer and deeper and weightier with every passing year.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.