Friday, January 13, 2006

A Biblical Liturgy of Marriage, Part 5: The Pledges of Marriage

Now, join me as we enter into the final section of the liturgy, the Pledges of Marriage.

Pledges of the Marriage Covenant
  1. Pledge of the Congregation.  Friends, [BRIDE] and [GROOM] have invited you here because you are important people in their lives.  Your love and support will be important always.  Will all of you, by God's Grace, do everything in your power to preserve this marriage?  Will you give them your love, your blessing, and your support?  If so will you please show them your support by saying "We do?”

  2. Pledge of the Parents and Family.  As [BRIDE] and [GROOM] join their lives in marriage, they also bring you together in a new relationship, creating new bonds of trust and ties of affection.  As parents, it is your responsibility to train up your children in the way they should go.  This responsibility does not end at adulthood, but continues throughout their lifetimes as they face the challenges of marriage and family.  You are to be a source of encouragement, knowledge, wisdom, and support for them as they venture into God’s will for their lives.  Will you give them your love, blessing, wisdom and support?  If so will you please show them thus by saying “We do?”

Parents should come and light the Unity Candle at this point.
     The Unity Candle is a sign of the union of two people and two families brought about by marriage.  The light of each smaller candle represents the light of life in [GROOM] and [BRIDE] and birthed by their parents.  I would like to ask [GROOM] and [BRIDE]’s parents at this time to come and light the smaller candles to represent their two children who stand before us today and their families.

  • Pledge of the Bride and Groom.

  • Bride:  I, [BRIDE], take you, [GROOM], in the presence of God, our families, and our church, to be my husband.  I covenant with you until the day I die to submit to you as I submit to Jesus, and to respect you as my husband as a sign of my love for you.

  • Groom:  I, [GROOM], take you, [BRIDE], in the presence of God, our families, and our church, to be my wife.  I covenant with you until the day I die to love you as Christ loves us, to serve you sacrificially and to be a man after God’s heart in our home as a sign of my love for you.

  • RINGS:  (Each says to the other in turn) I give you this ring, that you may wear it, as a symbol of the covenant we have made this day.

  • UNITY CANDLE:  As a sign of the union of your two families, please come and light the unity candle from the two lights which your parents ignited.

  • Prayer:  Lord, you have seen what has taken place here today before you and your church.  We ask you to bless [BRIDE] and [GROOM] as they embark upon this new stage of your will for their lives.  Fill them with the Holy Spirit for love, wisdom, and guidance as they seek to honor you in their marriage.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

  • Minister:  Before God, your families, and God’s church, I now declare you husband and wife.  (To Groom) You may kiss your bride.

Presentation of New Couple
     It is my great honor and privilege to present to you Mr. and Mrs. [NAME]!

This is probably my favorite part of the entire liturgy.  Having understood the purpose of this covenant, and the terms of this covenant, the parties in question now pledge themselves to the covenant.  I’ve done a little reading on covenants this week, and learned that without even realizing it I had more or less reproduced the ancient procedure for establishing a covenant!  Cool beans.

Let’s examine each of these pledges, starting with the Pledge of the Congregation.

This is an important new element I have added.  I am not sure if this is original on my part or if anyone else has done it (and I would certainly be interested in knowing if it has been done by someone else).  Quite simply, I have asked Christian brothers and sisters (at least we hope they are) to engage in the ministry of exhortation towards the couple.  They are to pray for and encourage the new couple at all times.  Oftentimes secular society forgets this—just look at how society loves to speculate about how long it will be before a couple gets divorced!  Instead, we should practice biblical exhortation towards married couples.  Edify one another!

Second, and probably most importantly, I have included a parental pledge.  I allow for others in the family to participate in this pledge, but it is primarily focused on the parents.  I have come to believe that the ministry of parenthood never ends.  A lot of us, myself included, aren’t going to like that.  We all want to be out from under our parents!  But if we are honest with ourselves, we understand that we will always need our parents even when we’re 50 years old.  They are a fount of wisdom and experience, and the Bible always elevates age and wisdom over the “young and stupid.”

Simply put, they raised us, and will continue to train us up in the way we should go (Proverbs 22:6) even as we move into independence from them.  Have we been married before?  Certainly not!  Have we faced the challenges, delights, and heartbreaks of having our own family unit?  Certainly not!  Our parents will continue to influence us in this respect as we learn from them and seek to use their experience to create a God-honoring home for ourselves.  They are still training us up.  Their job isn’t finished!  No wonder we are commanded to honor our parents.  It’s just too bad that many of us (myself included) don’t do too good a job of that.  We’re missing out on a blessing.

I won’t remark here about the Unity Candle, it’s not that integral to the themes I have been developing in this liturgy.  If nothing else, it is one of the symbols of the covenant agreement.  I may need to flesh this out further, as it did not originally appear in my liturgy but was added to accommodate the couple I married.

Lastly, we have the central pledge, that of the bride and groom.

It is very telling that I ask the bride and groom to covenant with each other until the day they die.  Hopefully I have impressed upon them, in their state of heightened romanticism and stress, the seriousness of what they are about to do.  If they cannot agree to do as they are covenanting, they would be justified in turning around and walking out of the church unmarried.

I ask the bride to covenant to submit and respect the groom.  As well, I ask the groom to covenant to love her as Christ loves the church.  They are to do these things as a sign of their love for each other.  Notice they are not pledging their love, but their action.  Remember from the last post, love without action is dead.  The bride and groom are pledging not to love each other, but to actively show that love to each other until the day they die.

God does the same.  He does not pledge simply to be our God or to love us or what have you, but He defines just how He will show us that He is our God.  His Godhood is already assumed, just as the love of the bride and groom must be assumed beforehand.  If not, then there really isn’t any need for a covenant, for God is not our God, and the bride and groom do not love each other.

Well, I believe that really wraps up the liturgy.  I will make a brief concluding post tomorrow, and that will wrap up the series.  Feel free to comment in any of the sections (see sidebar).  Thanks for reading!


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