As a pastor, I am blessed to join two hearts together in a ceremony that has deep meaning to God. As I stroll in my garden, thinking about weddings, I can only imagine what Jesus felt when he attended the wedding at Cana. His mother was there with him. He was invited by his friends and they all came together. The wedding was in the region of Galilee, where Jesus spent much of his time. At this wedding, Jesus would perform what history records as his first miracle. Turning water into wine.
Interestingly enough, the wedding I blessed the other day was the daughter of a man I blessed in marriage a few weeks ago. There was a third wedding this week as well. The wedding of my niece, which was a blessing to attend. In my mind, Jesus was at all these celebrations, just like Cana, whether anyone knew. Many, I am sure, did.
As I stroll in the garden, my thoughts go back again to the wedding at Cana and these three weddings this month that were full of deep spiritual significance. The joy that Jesus must have felt at the celebration, surrounded by friends and family, as a couple he probably knew well, joined in life as one. Scholars think one of his mother’s relatives were being married. So, it was important for Mary to be hospitable when the celebration was interrupted by the lack of wine.
In Jesus` day, a wedding celebration lasted a week or more. This tells me that a wedding is more than a ceremony. It is the beginning of a spiritual life shared between two people from that day forward. Our weddings too, though they fit within a day, are deep reasons to celebrate. I must believe that Jesus was more than just there for a party. In that day, they often arranged marriages. Today, most often, two people have found the desire to share life together and they decide to marry. One result of the celebration, with its deep spiritual significance, may have been to help the young couple fall in love. I pray that one result of the marriages I officiate is that they help couples move beyond themselves into a shared life of love and happiness.
As a pastor, I find the words spoken between a couple committing to a new life together, to be more than just words spoken in a ceremony. While these words are not in the Bible in this way, God’s intention, as spoken through these words in the wedding ceremony, is of deep spiritual significance.
Let’s look at the standard vows a couple make to each other. I really like them because they point to the reality and beauty of a shared life.
“To have and to hold.” Those words open a door in the hearts of two people that desire to share the rest of their lives together. Holding is an act of love and caring. Like holding someone’s hand. You can even hold someone’s hand in a conversation by listening and understanding. Holding is also a word to describe how people feel about each other when they are living life. They hold each other dear. Or they hold each other’s hearts. Sometimes I hold my wife’s hand, sometimes I hold her by the waist, and other times I just hold her near, but I always hold her heart close to mine as we navigate life together.
“From this day forward” These words describe a couple’s commitment to care for each other. They will hold hands through the joys and disappointments of life. Holding hands isn’t always just between two people. When my wife and I married, we vowed to hold hands with Jesus, as we walked through life together. In so many ways, he leads us down the paths, and we hold on following his lead, sometimes for dear life. I chuckle as I write that because it is so true. There are many things he wants us to see and experience. You know what? Jesus celebrates when we join his hand in life.
“For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer.” Spiritually, these words have deep significance. We all know it is easy when times are good. But do we carry each other through when times are tough? Let me break that down further. God knows that if we share our burdens together, we grow together, and our burdens turn into shared memories of sacrifice and love. This is a key that opens the door forward, as two people come together as one.
I find it interesting that these words, “For richer, for poorer” transcend time. Even in Jesus` day, thousands of years ago, the way a family lived with only what they had to survive and live on, was deeply rooted in the, “for better or worse” part of life shared. Our finances affect so much in life. So often, when finances get tough, but even sometimes when there is too much to go around, the way we handle them together, makes all the difference in the blessing of a shared life. The key word is always, “together”.
This next vow is so very important: “In sickness and in health.” We don’t always think of this before we commit to share our lives with someone. Because we’re just going to live forever in our minds, aren’t we? We don’t think about realities 40 or 50 years down the road, or even all the years in between. It is funny to me, and I do it too. We often pray the most when we are in sickness. But there is a reason for this in my mind. Praying joins hands with Jesus, doesn’t it?
Talking to Jesus about the one we love, or anyone else for that matter, creates a circle of shared care. All three of us are joining hands together in those shared moments. We are also joining hearts, the people we love, ourselves, and Jesus. I try never to let go of his hand in life. Never let go. This is how two people coming together as one, stay together as one. Helping someone get well is powerful and holding hands in our most challenging and annoying times (sickness can annoy, can’t it?), draws us closer together in ways that I can only describe as blessed.
I think those words, “in health” are often heard as an afterthought. “In health” has a deeper meaning than people think when they vow this to each other. These words describe when things are well. Jesus was not just a problem solver. He cherishes the good times. He and I, and my wife together, making memorable memories — the good times. I like how that sounds, memorable memories. It is amazing what blessing comes from sharing memories of tender and powerful moments, both in sickness and in health. Live each day like the memories you are creating will be memorable. And the blessing is — they will.
“To love and to cherish, till death do we part.” I wonder how many couples joining together in the spiritual act of marriage recognize that God blessed their lives together until they part this earth. When we join hearts with someone, and when we join memories, good and bad, when we take the hand of Jesus through this journey forward in life, we find and we cherish the deepness of this misunderstood word—love.
I add the words “According to God’s law” at the end of the vows in many ceremonies I perform. I add them to include God’s intention in their lives, moving forward together. When we live in God’s intention. We live in his will. This is another key to a blessed life.
So here I am in the garden. The day is overcast, and the wind is flowing through the flowers, plants and trees. But sun peaks out at opportune moments and I realize that this is much like life. I appreciate the memories of each day: windy, rainy, sunny, and even the nights. What a day it must have been in Cana when Jesus turned water into wine. Another miracle took place that day. The miracle of two lives joining as one. This is a reason to celebrate. Wine makes us think of celebration, doesn’t it? Here is a toast to a shared future.
Let me take you one step further. The Bible describes the wine that Jesus made on that day in Cana as “new wine”, or “the good wine”. The miracle of “new wine” is that in marriage, as we go forward in life joined to together as one with the one we love, no matter the ups and downs, a shared life gets better as time goes on. Jesus is always there to make new wine out of the memories we share.
The truth is, sometimes the wine runs out, doesn’t it? Mary knew what to do, as a mother knows. Who does she go to, and who should we go to? Jesus. And he keeps the celebration going in our shared lives with new wine, new shared memories. Every day in the life I share with my wife is a celebration, and we want Jesus there with us at the table. It is true, the best is saved for last. We are more in love than we ever were, and I think our love grows deeper each day.
Through better, through worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, I love and cherish this woman more and more as time rolls on. This is God’s intention, as we live these words we vow. The deepest love, and the best, is saved for last. It is the miracle of new wine as the celebration of our shared life stretches to death do us part. Let every day we live be a wedding in the garden.
“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.'” ~~ John 2:1-3
“Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.’ So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” ~~ John 2:7-11