Wedding Homily: Welcome One Another

This is a wedding homily I gave this past Saturday:

[Intro]
One of the joys of working outside the home is the gift of returning home.  Not just because it’s nice to be home or because I get to kick my feet up to relax, but because of the welcome that I receive.  My children are especially good at making me feel welcomed back home, whether it’s them running to greet before I have even gotten out of the car or the giant hugs that I get from them.  There is a particular joy that comes from their delight in my return home and that helps put the troubles of each day in perspective.  Also important to me are the words of welcome from my wife – each brings me into that place we all long for: home.  Paul speaks of welcome at the end of the passage from Romans 15 that we have already heard.

(ESV) Romans 15:7 – Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Paul addresses these words to the Christian community and it is appropriate to consider these words in light of the smallest, but very important community that exists in a marriage.  In this verse, there is a Command, a Connection, and a Consequence. I want to consider these briefly in light of this wonderful of occasion of your two lives being joined in marriage today.  First, the command…

[Command]
Paul says, “Welcome one another”.  It is a simple command.  At least it’s simple to understand, maybe less simple to apply. The word here that is translated as “welcome” is much deeper than a greeting or anything merely on the surface.  Paul is not describing a casual greeting, but the kind of reception or acceptance for someone else that is rooted in our hearts.  It refers to our opening our hearts to another person.  And in marriage, we are welcoming another person into the most vulnerable and sensitive place in our lives – our hearts.  C.S. Lewis recognizes the inherent danger in this, as he says: to love at all is to become vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safely in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless space, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. But you are opening your hearts to one another today.  The challenge in marriage is to see this kind of opening of our hearts as something that is done not just today on the wedding day, but rather everyday.  Especially when we become frustrated or annoyed with our spouse.  Especially when we have hurt or been hurt.  Especially when the pressures of finances or work intrude into the peace of our home.  You fight to welcome one another, because to do so is to fight for your very marriage.  This might be through a welcoming word, a welcoming touch, or a welcoming sacrifice of service for the other.

Paul understands the difficulty in this command.  So, Paul offers not just a command, but also a connection to Jesus Christ.

[Connection]
This is the pattern of the New Testament Epistles, especially in Paul’s letters.  The commands of Christianity are always connected in some way to Jesus Christ because we are not able to keep them in our own strength.  So, the command to welcome one another is connected to Christ’s welcome of us:  “just as Christ has welcomed you.”
This leads to us naturally to a question:  How has Christ welcomed us?  Scripture does not pull any punches in describing our lives prior to faith in Christ.  We need only go back in the book of Romans to see this:  in Romans 5:6-10 we get a picture of who we were:  “weak and helpless, ungodly, sinners, enemies” – these are the words used to describe us.  The picture of our lives without Christ is not pretty, but the testimony of Romans is that we were not chosen for salvation because we deserved it or had earned it.  The weak, the ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God actually deserve something far different than the welcome that we receive in Christ.  It can be hard for us to see ourselves in this light.   What becomes clear from Scripture is that Christ does not welcome us because we deserve it, but rather because grace and mercy are at His very heart.  

Just as we have to keep the command to welcome one another alive in our marriages, it is also crucial to keep the connection with Christ alive in it as well.  Again, this is not easy and there will be a hundred other things (many of them good) that will challenge your connection with Christ.  The question then that we must ask is this:  to what or whom should I connect to help me grow in love and welcome for my spouse.  There is no greater help that I know of than a connection to Christ.

Both our keeping the command to welcome one another and our connection lead to a consequence.

[Consequence]
How might you describe the dating scene across America these days?  To me it seems that it is largely about figuring out how one person can present their most attractive qualities and minimize their flaws to another person who is doing the exact same thing.  Too often the flaws aren’t revealed until after the wedding.  Unfortunately, this is the poor foundation upon many marriages are built.  And the consequences are often severe.  But to welcome one another recognizing the welcome we have received from Christ leads to a far different consequence – the glory of God.   There is no greater thing for us to do than to give glory to God. And here we can see the purpose that our marriages may serve within the greater community that we live – giving glory to God.  I found in my own marriage that what galvanizes our relationship more than any other, is for us to both to be focused on something much greater than ourselves or our desires.  As a result, this consequence strengthens our marriages and helps us to grow deeper in the difficult work of an ongoing welcoming and drawing each other into our hearts.

[Conclusion]
A simple message:  welcome one another…But not always easy to apply.  So, we look at the little ways and build from there.

  • Words of welcome for one another.  The kinds of words that go beyond the surface and touch each other’s hearts.
  • A welcoming touch:   a hug, a kiss, or just remembering that physical proximity matters.
  • Being quick to listen, and slow to speak
  • Being quick to apologize and quick to forgive
  • Living in light of the welcome of Christ, so that you learn what the welcoming heart is and does

[Prayer] Pray with me….

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