Renewal of vows for Ryan and Krystal Wagner
Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
I have seen some wonderful examples of married love throughout my ministry. A husband holding back his wife’s hair as she pukes out her guts from the chemotherapy. A wife taking care of the children, the dogs, and the finances while her husband puts in long hours in the military. A husband visiting his wife every day in the nursing home, even though with her dementia she doesn’t know who he is or what she means to him. An elderly widow praying to Jesus to take her home so that she can be with her two beloveds – her Savior and her husband.
Ryan and Krystal, this is the kind of love that God wants for you. This is the kind of love that you want to teach your children that you already have for each other. It is a love that is not based on feelings or emotions, but on commitment and faithfulness. A love that takes seriously the marriage promises almost 15 years ago. A love that you want everyone here to know that begins with God’s love for you. A love that is in our Christian wedding vows - to be faithful to one another, to cherish each other, to help one another in sickness and in health, to remain together until God parts you by death.
I’ll be honest with you. After being married for over 20 years, plus blessing the marriage of so many couples, while also having my heart break at the breakup of so many marriages, I want you to know that marriage is not for the weak. Adjustments are continuous. If it were not for Christ holding your marriage together, some emotional moments could be the breaking point. The rugged peaks and the threatening valleys of marriage are not for the faint-hearted. Committed Christian marriage is reserved for those who cling to Christ’s redeeming love.
I know that when you announced you were renewing your vows with a pastor leading the service, someone said to you, “Good, then you won’t be living in sin anymore.” You haven’t been living in sin because according to our government, a marriage conducted by a justice of the peace is the same as a marriage conducted by an ordained pastor. However, you asked me, as the pastor who had confirmed you as adults a long time ago, to be here today for some special reasons. Because you were married in a very small ceremony in California, you didn’t get to have your dad walk you down the aisle or have all your friends and family there or to have a pastor lead the service. Today, you are visibly demonstrating to all of your family and friends that it is God who brought you together, it is God who keeps you together, and it is God’s Son who live, died, and rose for you so that you may be together with Him forever in heaven.
A justice of the peace can’t tell you any of those things.
The Scripture verse that I chose for Ryan and Krystal’s renewal of vows is a fitting one for marriage: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” These words from Christ’s revelation to St. John demonstrate that life is not about two people. It is about Jesus.
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t relish presiding over weddings. That’s because the bride, the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom have definite ideas of how the wedding should be. And, they like to tell me how it should be during the wedding rehearsal. I very gently ask them, “How many weddings have you done? How many weddings do you think I’ve done?” That at least gets their attention. Then, I tell them that the focus of the wedding is not on the decorations. It isn’t on the wedding couple. It isn’t on the bride. The focus of any Christian wedding is always and only Christ.
Today is great! Ryan and Krystal get it. Even though they invited all of you here today, today isn’t about them. It is about Jesus for them. This Scripture verse put the attention of today rightly where it belongs – on Jesus.
He is the Bridegroom, Ryan and Krystal and all of us within the Christian Church are the Bride. He is the only One who will keep their marriage strong, healthy and vibrant.
Ryan and Krystal, you’ve been together for 15 years. But you are not only married to each other, you are also married to Jesus. He is the One who gives commitment to your wedding vows. Otherwise, when you have a disagreement, you may think that you made a mistake 15 years ago. He is the One who grants you faithfulness to one another. Otherwise, when the feelings of love start to wane, you will look for love in all the wrong places. He is the One who is the foundation of your wedding. Otherwise, without Jesus, you will bicker, you will fight, you will fall apart, and get divorced like so many in our culture of no-fault divorce.
The way to prevent failure in your marriage to one another is to remain faithful in your marriage to Jesus Christ. This Bible verse speaks about the bride making herself ready, prepared, dressed properly for her wedding.
Today we dressed comfortably. But, if we were invited to Ryan and Krystal’s wedding in a church, I hope all of us would know better than to come to their wedding dressed in cut-off jean shorts, a tank top, and flip flops. We want to honor the wedding couple by wearing our best.
As important as Ryan and Krystal are on this day, all of us are invited to a much more important wedding – the wedding of the Lamb of Jesus Christ. He is the eternal Bridegroom. He has chosen us to be His Bride for eternity.
If we were coming to Ryan and Krystal’s wedding, we would honor them by being properly dressed for their big do. In the same way, we honor Jesus by being properly dressed for our wedding to Him. I’m not talking about wearing ties and dresses for church clothes on Sunday mornings. I’m talking about what we are wearing daily for our wedding to Jesus Christ. We wear our best. The difference is that you went and picked out your clothes to wear today. Jesus has laid out your clothes and gets you dressed for your wedding to Him. He puts you in His very best.
Suits and spring dresses are great for a wedding. Jesus has provided each of us with a special wedding garment to to wear every day – and to wear throughout eternity.
speaks of this garment when he writes, “For all
of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”
(Galatians ). You were
given your wedding garment at the baptismal font at your Baptism. You were clothed
with the righteousness and perfection of Christ. His righteousness and
perfection that washes away all your sins, all your filth, all your
unworthiness and gives you a place in His wedding. St.
Jesus did not come in righteousness and perfection to show us how to achieve those things for ourselves, but to go to the cross to provide them for us. He gives us life by dying our death. He gives us His seat of honor at the wedding feast by being forsaken, tossed out of the Trinity, and bound hand and foot at
Calvary’s cross. He
washes our filthy clothes clean through His shed blood.
Jesus is the faithful Bridegroom who didn’t wait for us to clean up ourselves (because we can’t). Instead, He came and laid down His life for His bride – you and me – to cleanse us and make us His pure and holy Bride. That we might have something to wear to the wedding feast.
But Jesus did not just wash us one time long ago in our Baptism. And that’s good because we keep getting our wedding garment dirty – dirty with cursing, gossip, laziness, pride, selfishness, anger, and whatever else we do on a daily basis. We keep rolling around in the sin and dirt and filth of this world. We keep making our nice, white, holy wedding dress filthy again.
Even though we were baptized only once, Jesus has provided us with a continual and constant way back to our Baptism, back to His cleansing and life, and that is repentance. We come to God filthy with our vile and offensive sins; we confess those sins; then He purifies us again with the words of His absolution; He makes us clean with His forgiveness; He washes us over and over again as we return to the baptismal font to have the one-time, but continual, waters of Baptism pour over us. As often as we need it. For the promises He made to us in our Baptism are not just for the past, but for the present and for the future. We repent of who we are and what we have done, and we will always be clothed with Christ and what He has done for us. We are once again dressed as His pure, holy and radiant Bride.
Preparations for a wedding are often filled with frenzy and agitation. I’m sure that preparations for today were still filled with invitations, RSVPs, plans for good and bad weather. But preparation for being married to Jesus means slowing down, contemplating our sinfulness and repenting of our filth. It means rejoicing that Jesus has chosen us to be His Bride. He has washed us clean. He has made us His own.
During His passion, Jesus made His marriage promises to us. As He had His back torn apart by the scouring, He made His vows of faithfulness to us. As He hung dying on the tree of the cross, He made His vows of cherishing us above all else. As He was forsaken by His Heavenly Father, He made His vows of supporting us always with His grace and forgiveness. As He breathed His last on
Golgotha’s hill, He made
His vows that nothing will separate us from Him, not even death.
Ryan and Krystal, 15 years ago you made your promises to each other before a judge. Today, you have asked for God’s Word and blessing to be a part of your renewal of those marriage vows. That is awesome! You want your children and friends to know that today and every day of your married life is about being married to Jesus. You are the bride. He is your Bridegroom. Jesus was faithful to you in living, dying, and rising for you. His faithfulness gives power to your faithfulness to each other.
Jesus is the Bridegroom. You are the Bride. Ryan, you are married to Krystal until God parts you through death. Krystal, you are married to Ryan until God parts you through death. But each of you are married to Jesus. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! Amen.