It is a real joy to share in your extended wedding celebrations. Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to speak.
Steve: You must love Emma very much having this today! I note the timetable concludes at 5pm, but then it is not a particularly significant match.[England playing Wales in decider for the 6 nations grand slam]
Anyway, with apologies to Emma, Alison and myself decided to buy you a small gift as a momento of the day. [produce rugby ball]
There are three things I would like you to remember about this
1. The Rugby ball is made by having the panels stitched together.
It is pretty useless if they come apart.
State marriage is about a legal contract that you make with each other.
But when you come to church to have your wedding blessed in the presence of God, something much bigger happens.
You’ve been stitched up!
You become bound together, not just by law, but by something that is bigger than law.
Emma, the bad news is that you no longer belong to yourself; you also belong to Steve
Steve, the bad news is that you no longer belong to yourself; you also belong to Emma.
The bible teaches that it is not just you and you making an agreement to live together. It teaches that you now belong to each other. You are not two separate entities: you are one.
And if one of you gets kicked into touch, the other gets kicked in touch.
And if one of you flies over the posts in the 80th minute and wins the grandslam, the other flies over.
When one is shamed, the other is shamed
When one weeps, the other weeps
When one rejoices, the other rejoices
When one is honoured, the other is honoured
So it is in your deepest interests to build up the other.
You need to be like Rugby players and not like dodgy footballers.
Dodgy footballers at corners push down the opponent in order to go up higher to get the header.
Rugby players gather round one of their colleagues in a lineout and lift them up, so that they can get the ball.
You have been bound together by God.
And if you find that the stitching is coming apart – well, today we’d throw the ball away and get a new one. But in the old days they didn’t do that. These things were too precious. They would go to the one who had stitched it together, and they would say to her, ‘Please, it’s coming apart. Would you restitch it?’
2. What matters with the rugby ball is not just out here: but it is inside. It is the membrane.
Guard your love for each other.
There really is no simple way around that than by giving each other time and by being open with each other.
You both have significant jobs and I guess you work silly hours.
So I would urge you particularly: give each other time. Give each other time when it is a delight to do so, like now; but also give each other time when it means making sacrifices.
Take time out. Ensure that you have at least one evening a week together. Do what you love doing; do what the other loves doing: walking, having meals, watching rugby. For there to be quality time, there needs to be quantity time.
And be open with each other, especially when you are hurting.
Some of us are like boilers with no release valve. The pressure increases and increases and finally it explodes.
But most of us are like vacuum cleaners that are never emptied – we take the rubbish into ourselves, and we get fuller and fuller, and eventually we just clog up.
And be open with each other when you have been hurt by the other. Don’t withdraw in a sulk. Tell them, in love! And remember Ogden Nash’s advice: ‘To keep your marriage brimming with love in the marriage cup, whenever you’re wrong admit it; whenever you’re right, shut up’.
But you need more than just love! You need a bit of inside help.
For the membrane in here to work, it needs to be pumped up.
And for our marriages to grow and our love to deepen, we do need God, who is the source of life and love, who gave you to each other, and who loves you. We need his Spirit to come into our lives and relationships, and to blow them up for him.
We’ve just read of a couple who invited Jesus to their wedding (John 2:1-11). It was a good thing to do. They got far more than they bargained for: although what intrigues me is that they may never have known, not for many years.
I can imagine one of the servants at the wedding speaking with the couple several years later. ‘Your wedding: now that was something. We ran out of wine. We didn’t tell you; you’d have died. But there was panic in the kitchen. And do you remember Jesus who you invited. He saved the day. I don’t know how he did it, but 120 gallons of water became 120 gallons of wine, just like that’.
That is why I am delighted that you have chosen to have this blessing and to ask God to be involved in your relationship and your marriage. When we do open up to him, we get far more than we have bargained for.
3. This ball was created for a purpose.
It is not an ornament. It has to be looked after, but it was not made to be cherished and nurtured. It was created so that people could play Rugby with it.
And God stitched you together not just for yourself, not just for your marriage. It’s not the be-all and end-all. He stitched you together for a purpose.
He stitched you together
a) to be a picture of his incredible love for us: that your marriage, as the two of you become one, might show how Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, would become one with us – so that we might belong to him, and he to us – in the intimacy of love.
b) that, for the many years that we pray that God will give you with each other, you may be companions, pilgrims together on a journey to him.
c) that you may be together a deep and profound blessing to many many other people, your family, your friends, and those beyond.
When Jesus turned that water into wine, he was saying that if we are prepared to put our trust in him, he will take what is ordinary and turn it into something extraordinary.
He is saying that he will turn ordinary, messed up, but infinitely precious human beings into sons and daughters of God with an eternal destiny.
But by doing this at a wedding, he is saying that he has come to turn our ordinary relationships into something extraordinary: that your marriage may be a deep blessing to you and an even deeper blessing to many many other people.