There’s An App For That
Marwage. Marwage is what bwings us together today. (using Princess Bride accent) There I feel better now that I got that out. I don’t know about you but that is what I feel most of the time I think about the word marriage. What do you think about when you hear the word marriage? Do you think, wonderful, a joy, love, paradise? Or do you think pain, suffering, fighting, anger? It can really go either way. Most of the time our answer depends where you are and how your marriage is going and how your parent’s marriage is going. So let me start off by asking a question, how is your marriage today?
A note to anyone who is single or divorced. This sermon is not to separate you but is really about relationship in general. Jesus himself was never married but found value in it. In fact the Bible really isn’t a how to on marriage. Marriage is part of the Biblical story but it is not a focal point. The Christian story doesn’t start and end with marriage but the Bible does say some things on the topic. It does give some advice on how men can get a wife. David was always a fan of good clean marriages. He was able to marry Saul’s daughter by offering up 200 foreskins of his father-in-law’s enemy. (1 Samuel 18:27) Later he decided to just take one by killing her husband but he did lose four sons in the process. (2 Samuel 11) The prophet Hosea found a prostitute and married her, it is like the Old Testament’s Pretty Woman. In Deuteronomy it tells us to find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and giver her new clothes. Let her mourn her parents for a month and then she’s yours. (Deut. 21:10-14) Then there is the law found in Deuteronomy or Leviticus that tells us that when your brother dies it is your duty to marry his wife. You could be like King Xerxes and hold a beauty contest like in Ester (Ester 2:3-4). Then you could do it the way Jacob did. He worked for seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage. But on his wedding day he was tricked into marring the wrong woman and then worked another seven years to marry the woman he wanted in the first place. He worked 14 years to marry the woman of his dreams.
There are other options out there but these are basic Biblical stories about marriage. But the first marriage is found in the first couple to walk the face of the earth. In the story of Adam and Eve we learn that God wanted to provide Adam with a suitable partner and so he paraded all the animals in front of him but none really worked. Then God put Adam to sleep, took out a rib and formed Eve. Then you get the verses I read today. Adam and Eve became “one flesh.” This is what marriage is. It is two people becoming one and felt no shame being naked. We will get to the naked part in a moment.
First, take out your hymnals and flip over the page 864, all the way in the back. It is here that we have the United Methodist Service of Christian Marriage. Now if you read the first paragraph under the title, the part in red, you will read what the purpose of marriage is, according to the United Methodist Church. The second sentence explains it, “Christian marriage is proclaimed as a sacred covenant reflecting Christ’s covenant with the church.” Marriage is a reflection of Jesus and the type of love he has for the church. Marriage, to put it another way, is a perfect place to work on, perfect, understand deeper and practice the unconditional love Jesus Christ has for us. Note I did not say it is the only place to do this. This can be done in almost any relationship but today we are talking about marriage and marriage provides a place to practice God’s love for another human being.
Now to understand more of what this love is suppose to look like we could go to Ephesians 5 where Paul tells us “wives, submit to your husbands,” and “husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church.” I don’t want to walk down this road, because it is a sermon in itself but please note that Paul does give some good advice about marriage, although he wasn’t a fan of it. What he states in this piece of scripture, as long as you read everything, is a husband and wife offering the type of love God has for us. They have an unconditional, building up, supportive, honest, and deep love for one another. The key is to keep reading and not get caught up in the first piece, but that is another sermon for another time.
If the whole point of marriage is to provide a relationship where the love of God can be reflected and practice than it should be easy right? There is one thing I remind all couples I marry, marriage is hard. It is extremely hard. There is a 50/50 chance in today’s society that a couple’s marriage will actually last until “death do us part.” Marriage is hard. Say it with me, “Marriage is hard.” E.J. Graff has a great quote about marriage. He says, “Marriage is when you agree to spend the rest of your life sleeping in a room that's too warm, beside someone who's sleeping in a room that's too cold.” The hardest part about marriage is dealing with the daily little things that come up and finding a way to compromise. It is working together to find out the best way to deal with dirty dishes, the melding of schedules, the upkeep of the house, replacing the toilet paper the right way, changing the oil in the car, sex, the remote control, the checkbook, and hobbies. If someone ever told you that living with someone for the rest of your life, sharing a bed, a house, a car, a life, with one person would be easy, THEY WERE LYING!
I know I have painted a wonderful picture of marriage. But marriage is wonderful. I asked people on Facebook to tell me what the best part of being married is and their answers were great. To sum them up, the best part of being married is to have someone to go through life with, a partner, a teammate, a best friend to laugh with, cry with, and simply live life with. But how do you keep it that way? I think all newlyweds have this idea that marriage will be like their honeymoon. The honeymoon stage is wonderful and exciting and it is the gooey, sappy, always smiling kind of love. But then life hits with job loss, kids, struggles, sickness, and frustration.
The minister who married Alycia and I, Paul, put it this way, “Realizing that at some point, staying married is a conscious choice of the will, and that it is far easier to give up and walk away. Loving the other person until you fall in love--over and over again is where "to have and to hold" begins to sound real.” That is the truth. Staying married doesn’t just happen; it is a “conscious choice of the will.” It is saying, I love you and meaning it throughout all the hills and valleys life has for us.
While I was attending a conference one year, there was a breakout session about keeping your marriage vibrant throughout your ministry. I had only been married for about two years and thought this might help. During the session we were asked to write down some advice for those who were about to get married. We passed up the cards and then the speaker read some of them. One that I still remember is, “Fight naked, it’s hard to be angry when you’re laughing.” Sure it is a funny image, two naked people arguing with one another but there is a deeper Biblical truth to this. Today’s scripture tells us, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” In the Old Testament shame came from understanding one’s own guilt, unworthiness or failure. Adam and Eve stood naked in front of one another and felt none of that, they felt no shame.
The key to a healthy marriage is to be naked. I’m just going to let that settle in for a second and everyone can get all the junior high giggles out. This is the key to a healthy marriage, to be comfortable being naked with one another. We are not comfortable with this and to say naked from behind the pulpit feels weird, but this is the Word of God today, so let’s get comfortable with it. Naked, naked, naked, naked. Say it with me, naked, naked, naked, naked.
There are a couple understandings to what this word means. Naked, N.A.K.E.D., means to be without clothes or covering. As one of my friends told me, nacked, N.A.C.K.E.D., means to be without clothes or covering and to be up to something. But naked could also mean blunt or plain spoken, as in the naked truth. It could mean defenseless, unprotected, unsheltered, or exposed. All these things are what we are to be with our spouse. We are to be open and raw with our spouse. When we stand in front of a mirror naked we see all our flaws, all our imperfections, all our scars on the outside but also on the inside. When we stand in front of our spouse naked we share all those things with that person and in the best relationships our spouse sees all of that and says, “I love you. I love you for not who I wish you would be but for exactly who you are.”
But how often in our marriages are we truly naked in front of our spouse? How many times have you unveiled the complete you to the person you promised to “have and to hold?” When was the last time you stripped down all the walls you put up to protect yourself and let the person you sleep next to every night in? If you learn to do this, your marriage will be strong and will last.
These verses are in Genesis because it was important to show the meaning of marriage. As a child, we looked to our parents for the primary companions and helpers in life but in marriage we have to now look to our spouse. We have to leave our parents and be united to our husband or wife. Larry Cunningham, in Reader’s Digest, tells this story, “We were visiting friends when they received a telephone call from their recently married daughter. After several tense minutes on the phone, the mother told the father to pick up the extension. The newlyweds had had their first big fight. In a few moments, the father rejoined us and briefly explained, "Said she wanted to come home." Larry asked "What did you tell her?" His friend replied, "I told her she was home."
The more we are united with our spouse the easier being naked will be. To get the intimacy we crave means we should constantly do something with our spouse. Wait for it…we should always…pray. If you desire to have a deeper relationship with your spouse, then every day hold his hand and pray. If you want to learn to be completely naked in front of your spouse and feel no shame, then ask every day how you can pray for her. Then lift those cares up to God and do so without judgment or criticism. If he is struggling with something, lift it up. If she needs something, lift it up. Pray always, pray constantly, and do it holding hands.
During the giving of vows the minister asks the couple to face one another and to hold each other’s hands. It is there that they make a solemn vow with one another. It is during this service that we ask a third person to be a part of this marriage. We ask God to “confirm [their] covenant and fill [them] both with grace.” If we daily hold the hand of the person we love and pray for and with that person, and offer up to that person the same type of love God has for us, we will have the marriage we always wanted. Plus, as we learn to love like God we become better followers of Christ and are more Christ like. This relationship will have transformed us into God’s likeness and allow us to be who God has created us to be.
And all God’s people said…Amen.