Posted on September 1st, 2012
My friends Jeffrey and Jena, I have waited eagerly for this day.
The Lord Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” That’s ‘mammon’ with an ‘o’, meaning money, wealth, property.
Jesus says you cannot serve God and mammon (money, property); but I say unto you that in your marriage, you serve God by serving Mammen (with an ‘e’), your new last name, Jena. I know you’ve been anxiously awaiting this new name. As Baptism washed away sin and stamped a new name, God’s name, on you, so this marriage stamps a new name upon you, Jena. What is that new name intended to convey? It declares not ownership in a sense of dominance, but ownership by protection, provision. Jeffrey, this woman who in a few moments takes your name comes under your protection, and you are charged with an oath in the name of the living God that you will cherish her, nourish her, hold her when she is sad, make her secure – not just physically in your home, but secure emotionally. Let your every action, and every word you utter, strengthen the new Mrs. Mammen in the confidence that you will be as God to her, the God who said to Joshua, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” That is what it means for you to be husband to this woman: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
You cannot serve God and mammon, money; but you serve God by serving Mammen. For she is now bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh; in this sacred union you two become one flesh.
And you, Jena, who today receive a new name receive a lord. Not a master to dominate and tyrannize, terrorize and abuse you, but a redeemer, a lord to guard and cherish you. And in the will of God, you serve the Lord of heaven and earth by serving Mammen, this Mammen, this man whom God gives to you to be your lord, your protector, your husband.
Now this works quite easily in the good times, when things are better, richer, and healthy. But in the moments that can become days and even decades, when you experience not the better but the worse, not the richer but the poorer, not health but sickness, what then?
The answer is in the hymn that you chose for the beginning of your wedding service. I was flabbergasted—in a good way—when you told me you wanted to sing If Thou But Trust in God to Guide Thee. I graduated from seminary fifteen years ago, and never in all the weddings I’ve done has anyone chosen that! It’s in the key of G minor, which is rather somber; it was written half a world away in the 17th century and doubtless will never be heard on My Fair Wedding, Say Yes to the Dress, The Bachelorette, or Bridezillas.
But the Scriptural message of this hymn is precisely what you need, what your marriage needs, what every marriage needs. If you trust in yourself to sustain your marriage and make it a blessing to yourself and others, you are building on a cracked and eroding foundation. For you are sinners, temptation lurks all around you, and your selfishness can easily be your undoing. Besides this, you will suffer eventually illness and death, and hardships along the way.
But we have gathered here in the Church today not just to see your dress and eat your cake. We have come here to pray with you that God does what He promises: to “give thee strength, whate’er betide thee, and bear thee through the evil days.” Though He tries “thy soul with sadness,” we know that He is doing it to free you from all guile, all deception, all the sneakiness and manipulation that people become experts at in marriage and other relationships as well.
Jena, you could nag your husband; and Jeffrey, you could belittle your wife; you can look at other people and desire them sexually, and you can tell lies to each other and betray each other, and despite all these things make it through decades of marriage. But God wants to do something more for you in your marriage. He doesn’t want you merely to endure it, but to use it to make you His disciple. In learning, Jena, to submit to your husband as the Church submits to Christ, the Lord is teaching you to be a disciple, training your heart to become humble. In learning, Jeffrey, to love your wife as Christ loves the Church, even to the point of death, you are also learning to become a disciple, to become selfless rather than selfish.
Most everyone gets married for selfish reasons, because we want something out of the marriage. But God is playing a trick on you, a wonderful trick whereby He calls out of your selfishness into a life of mutual submission, mutual sacrifice as you learn to love your nearest neighbor as yourself.
You serve God by serving Mammen, serving each other. God bless you, and may He fill your home with love and joy, laughter and children, prayer and service, until at the last you are brought to the great marriage banquet where we will dine with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and all the saints.