Thrashing around last night for inspiration for a homily for a wedding today, the fact that the bride was a librarian seemed to offer some theme for thoughts. The resulting words seemed thin enough, but seemed to be widely appreciated. God’s grace is surprising.
Where would you find marriage in a library? If you had to find a category best suited, which would it be? There are a whole range of possible places where you could put marriage.
Romance is the first category that comes to mind. There aren’t many marriages that happen without at least some spark of romance at the beginning; though some of us have probably long forgotten such thoughts.
Biography would be another fairly obvious place. Marriage is about two biographies meeting, two separate life stories coming together to form a single thread. In the candle ceremony at the beginning and the end of this marriage service we mark the joining of two biographical narratives and light the middle candle as a symbol of the one story that follows.
Maybe travel would be an important category, particularly for this marriage. I am not sure how many miles have been flown and how many airports have been visited over the years, but I would imagine you could write a fairly lengthy travelogue on the journeys that have led up to this wedding today.
Accountancy is an unlikely but a very important category for marriage. The Bible actually has a lot to say a lot managing your household. I remember talking to one of my aunts who had got married at the age of 19 and who marked her 40th wedding anniversary two years ago. She told me once, “the week after we were married in 1967, I got a school exercise book. Each week I wrote down how much money we had coming in on one page and how much we spent on all the things we bought on the facing page. I have a book for every year we have been married.” Financial problems are one of the greatest strains on married life.
Peace studies might be a good heading for marriage sometimes. In simple terms, re-reading those words we read from 1 Corinthians 13 about the qualities of true love. Living up to the standards Saint Paul sets down would make for a very smooth and a very untypical marriage. Sometimes a bit of work is necessary to patch things up; sometimes a bit of reconciliation work is needed.
Fiction is a dangerous place for marriage to find itself. I remember once meeting a couple who had been sixty years married. “Not a cross word in sixty years”, I was told. Yeah!
My Nan and Granddad were married fifty-five years before he died. He was a small country farmer and didn’t always think about things. He would arrive late for meals, or sometimes not arrive at all; he would forget to remove his boots and trail mud through my grandmother’s pristine house; he would bring people home for my grandmother to feed without giving her any warning. Sometimes tramps, gentlemen of the road, would call at the door, looking for some place to sleep and he would let them stay in the house without warning her. Once she went three weeks without speaking to him; it did not mean she did not love him dearly, just that she wanted to make a point. Marriage needs to be based on honesty and truth; it cannot be a work of fiction because it is real life.
Crime is a category definitely to be avoided. Dame Sybil Thorndike was married for sixty years before her husband’s death. She was asked on one occasion whether during that sixty years she had ever considered leaving her husband, she replied in very honest terms: “Divorce, never! Murder, often!”
Psychology is important to marriage and marriage is a crash course in psychology. There is a process of understanding the other person, with all their eccentricities, and all their odd ways and all the wrong things they do; as opposed to oneself, who is of course never eccentric, never odd, and certainly never wrong.
Wander around the library and look at the labels on the shelves and there are probably many other places you could put marriage: art and music; economics; domestic science; biology; the list would be lengthy. However, we are in this church today because we think marriage fits under a very special category.
I don’t know how it would be classified in a library, but whether it’s religion, spirituality, or plain, simple Christianity, we are here because we believe marriage is part of Christian life; we believe that it is part of life as God planned it. Because we believe that marriage is part of God’s scheme of things, we believe that God is present with married couples, that he is present here to bless C. and E. as they make their marriage vows and that he is with them as a support and guide in the years to come.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” says Jesus. He wants the bond of love between those who are his friends to be as close as his relationship with his own father. It is love that puts the other person first, the love that demands self-sacrifice, the love that is sometimes costly. Marriage built on such love is marriage that lasts.
In the years to come C. and E.’s marriage will go through many categories, though we trust they will avoid crime, but may they remember this day as the day when it was filed under ‘Christian’ and may they be blessed for years and years and years to come.