Love - committed love, faithful love, passionate love, selfless love, unfailing love - is what we celebrate in the sacred covenant of marriage. Indeed, when the Scriptures search for language to describe God's love for his people, it can do no better than to draw on the covenant union of marriage - a man giving himself to a woman, and a woman giving herself to man.
The marriage covenant insists that two people will become lifelong companions - offering mutual support, encouragment, and embrace through all of life's peaks and valleys.
Love and covenant are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they are mutually supportive. In fact, the Gospel of John tells us that the first public sign that revealed Jesus' identity as the Son of God was performed at a wedding - the celebration of covenant love.
The story is told in John 2:1-10.
In this text we're transported to the scene of a wedding in the little town called Cana, which was in the region of Galilee. Among the guests for this anceint week-long celebration, we find Jesus, his mother, and his first students. As you are a guest at this wedding, this text has made you a guest at that one. We see Jesus mixing and mingling, talking and laughing, eating and drinking.
Then there's a bit of a stir. From a distance you see Jesus' mother approach him. From where you're standing, it sounds like she said that the wine is gone. The wine is gone?! This is significant, not only because wine had a pleasant taste that water lacked, but also because the Scriptures insist that wine is a profound symbol for joy and gladness. If the wine is gone, then the happiest occasion in the village has just run dry.
But all is not lost because Jesus is present. The water is changed into wine - the best wine - and the celebration carries on.
There are two things I want to say about this, as it relates to marriage and life:
First, Jesus brings new possibilities.
The celebration would have turned out very differently if Jesus had not been present. It would have ended far too soon. We stand here today with ear-to-ear smiles, but anyone who has been married for any length of time knows the challenges ahead. Unmet expectations, mis-taken words, and combined bank accounts can leave you feeling like the joy of marriage is all but lost. But with Jesus present in your lives and in your marriage, the water of bland routine can be transformed into the wine of grateful gladness.
Second, Jesus deals in abundance.
The vats of wine have run dry, but when Jesus is asked to intervene there is no hint of scarcity. He gave freely, and there was plenty to go around. In relationships there can be the temptation to do as has been done to you. This provokes us to withhold a kind word that needs to be spoken, or to close down when we need to open up. But the abundance of Jesus prompts us to act first - to make the first move of forgiveness, to say the kind word, to open up, and to live graciously. Following Jesus empowers us to move passed the scarcity of doing only that which has been done to us, and into the abundance of doing that which we would like to have done to us.
Emptiness is filled. Water becomes wine.
This is the story of possibility and abundance.
Those are surely blessings for any marriage, and they are available wherever Jesus is present.
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