July 9, 1992

In the name of the only true God: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen.

Please be seated.

Jim and Laurie, it's a very pleasant invitation to be a part of your wedding. Thank you for inviting me. I'll do the best I can.

I have some wishes for you. I wish you, of course, God's blessing together with all the rest of the members of your families. They love you, and they want what is so very lovely for you. I wish that you may always live in Christian love. You've had enough training to know what that is. I wish that you can always be friends. And I wish that you could remember what a beautiful picture the estate of marriage is supposed to be for Christians.

Cicero was the first who observed that friendship improves happiness and abates misery by doubling our joy and dividing our grief. Kind of a nice way to think of it if you can remember it. Someone else has said that a friend is one with whom you dare to be yourself. And someone else has said that to be a friend, or friendship, is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with another person, having neither to weigh your thoughts or measure words. That kind of friendship allows, sometimes, the overstatement, or the words that might be a little bit unthinking or unfriendly to be overlooked or forgiven.

It was Alexander Smith that said once, "My friends are not perfect, no more than I, so we suit each other admirably."

One of the charitable dispensations of Providence is that perfection is not essential to friendship.

One mark of a friend, another man said, is that he makes you wish to be at your best while you are with him. And there was a ten-year-old boy who said a friend is a fellow who knows all about you and still likes you.

We can smile at statements like this, but friendship and friendliness ought to be found between a husband and a wife, because we have been befriended in our sinful state by the One who is sinless, our Lord Jesus Christ. We have all come to know Him, and we know He has taken us as we are, and still does, but has cast over all of us that righteousness, that perfection that He won on the cross.

It's a great thing to have a friend who is also your Savior.

There is a word from the book of Proverbs that says this: "The one who has friends must show himself friendly," and then it adds, "There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother." I don't think I could prove it, but I think that's talking about Jesus. But it is true that there is a friend that is closer than a brother or a sister, but that's got to be talking about someone who is a son or daughter of our Lord Jesus. And it is Christ who in our lives always promises to be very, very close. I've often thought of this Bible passage in connection with that hymn we sing, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," and I wonder how it was that the poet thought of Jesus, "What a friend we have in Jesus, take it to the Lord in prayer."

And yet, what do we say about Jesus? All our sins and griefs to bear, all our sorrows share, knows every weakness, sharing triumph, sharing tribulation. We can find a solace with him, that friend. Though we're despised by other friends, we're never forsaken by Him. Though we're weak and heavy laden sometimes, there's someone who picks us up, and when we're discouraged there's someone who cheers us.

I think I've said enough on that. I wish you could be friends always. And friends in the sense of the friendship of our Lord Jesus Christ toward us and to all of those with whom He walked and talked and helped. Sometimes he scolded them, but he always had the desire to be the best friend anyone could have.

It isn't very often that in any congregation, even Saint James, that a pastor has the chance or privilege to marry two people who've spent so much of their lives in the same church.

Usually the bride gets married in her church and the groom sometimes is an outsider. But it's kind of a striking thing to me that you can keep coming and going in the same place that you've worshipped your Lord Jesus for many years. You're at home here. And the God who's here and the Savior who's here and the Holy Spirit who works here you see, neither one of you makes the change to another religion or another this or that because here you just continue, and maybe that's an important thing to thank God for.

I'd like to remind you of something else that goes along with this. It is from the book of Philippians. You know what I'm going to read.

And in it the Apostle says this: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" You'd better do that today.

"Let your gentleness be evident in all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." You've done that once or twice before, haven't you?

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Those are awfully big words. But those are the words preachers use over and over again, to end a meeting, to end a service, to end something, because after everything is packed in, we go away and we are going to be kept.

And finally, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." What a privilege believers have that they can be so close to that which is noble in their faith, and in their Christian friends and the associations that they have.

"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Instructions for us all ever since. And here Paul is talking to one of his favorite churches. It was a happy church, the Philippians, he says.

Be friends please. And friends who treat each other, or remind each other of this grace and this Christianity of the Apostle Paul. They're not idle words.

And now, I'd like also to ask you something else. The Bible began with a marriage; the last chapter of the Bible is a marriage. When Jesus was on this earth, he told a number of parables and they all had to do with marriage.

God in the Old Testament went out of apparently nowhere and picked some people, some desert tribes to be His people; they were in captivity. He took them at the Passover and He said, "You're my people." He didn't just say, "I'm your God." He said, "I'm your husband." The Old Testament history from the time of Moses and going out of Egypt up to the time of Jesus is a marriage; it's a marital relationship.

God, in the book of Jeremiah, in the book of Isaiah He talks about how He was a husband to His people. He was a husband. They were not faithful. They deserted Him and they did this and that wrong, but it was a marriage.

Why the picture? What's a closer relationship than that between a husband and a wife. God the husband was very disappointed in His people, but He was still the husband, He was still the one that forgave. I think it's awfully hard for men to understand what it's like to be a bride. I think it's impossible, but all of us here are the bride of Christ, because Jesus picked up that same picture and when at the Passover, the Old Testament Passover, God married, betrothed Himself to His people and in the Lord's Supper, Jesus has betrothed Himself to us, and He is the husband who comes to us again and again in the sacrament physically to touch us.

What's happening is there's a husband, a betrothed man in heaven waiting for his bride, and there's going to be a great marriage feast someday. Betrothal to Jews was not the same as betrothal in our Western society. But there's the promise, there's the coming again to receive the bride home to take on the final vows for the grand eternal marriage

All of the marriages here are supposed to be an illustration of our union with Him. Now, I wish that could be, but that is something that you believe. The Bible tells about it. The Bible tells what's going to happen. The Bible tells us about when He'll come back for a great wedding feast in heaven. And until that time, all of us who are married are living an acted out parable. And what we do, what we say, how we act is to be symbolic, an illustration of what is at the heart of all of this.

I wish that to you. I wish you the picture; I wish the example of Jesus. I wish the friendship. God bless you.