Laurel, Rod, Sam, Olivia, dear friends and family,
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
I’ve organized my thoughts for today’s message around the stanzas of “The Servant Song,*” the hymn printed on panel 4 of your wedding bulletin.
The first stanza goes like this:
Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too.
Rod tells of Laurel’s hospitality, saying, “She’s always looking after someone, taking care of someone. Laurel’s favorite question is, ‘Can I get you something?’”
Laurel speaks of Rod’s helpfulness. “Rod fixes things,” says Laurel. “He brings his toolbox and fixes things.”
On Rod’s first visit to Laurel’s home, he noticed a door was off one of her cupboards. The first gift Rod gave Laurel were hinges to fix that cupboard. Laurel says, “That was the best. gift. ever.” Those hinges came wrapped in thoughtfulness.
Hospitality, helpfulness and thoughtfulness are signs of grace-filled service.
So, too, is mutuality. Grace-filled service is give and take. It is reciprocal without keeping score.
Our hymn makes the mutuality point with the line, “Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too.”
To receive gracefully requires trust and vulnerable openness.
Laurel and Rod met in college and had one best-forgotten date. Thirty-some years later, Rod reached out to Laurel through email. Two years ago, after months of long-distance communication, Rod drove to visit Laurel. As Rod was about to leave, he witnessed a meltdown— the raw side of family dynamics usually unseen by company. Embarrassed and weary, Laurel walked with Rod out to his car.
Saying goodbye, Laurel rested her head on Rod’s chest.
That vulnerable moment was transformational. In that moment, Laurel and Rod stopped being just college acquaintances and started falling in love.
“Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you.”
“Let me be as Christ to you” seems like a tall order, doesn’t it? And yet, humble service—being Christ for one another—is exactly what each of us is called to do.
In Galatians 6, the passage Jen read, St. Paul puts it this way: “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
So what is the Law of Christ? The Law of Christ is the Law of Love.
Jesus laid it out. He said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another.”
Stanza 2 goes on to say
We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav’lers on the road;
We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.
Laurel and Rod know about burdens. And we all know, burdens don’t go away just because there is a wedding day.
Here’s the good news, though. Joined as husband and wife, Rod and Laurel will share their burdens and help each other bear the load.
Joined together in a new family, Rod and Laurel and Olivia and Sam will encourage each other, and practice loving kindness toward each other.
Laurel, Rod, Sam and Olivia, when life gets hard—not if, but when—remember you are on the same team, and you are better, together.
“Come to me,” Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30. Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
As I worked on this message, I kept thinking about confirmation verses. Many young people, as they are about affirm their baptism, claim a Bible verse to remember through their life-and-faith journey.
You may wonder why I am bringing up confirmation verses during a wedding service. It’s because—Laurel and Rod—I’ve taken the liberty of assigning Matthew 11:30 as your marriage verse. Listen to Jesus saying, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
In marriage, Rod and Laurel are yoked as equals. Together, they will share their burdens and make it lighter. From this day forward, their future is joined together. They will share the best and worst of all that is to come, until death parts them.
In baptism, Rod and Laurel, and you and me, are yoked with Christ. When we are yoked with Christ, Jesus takes the lead. Jesus lifts the weight of sin and guilt off our shoulders. Jesus makes it possible for us to bear life’s heavy loads.
Let’s go back now, to “The Servant Song,” and listen to Stanza 3.
I will hold the Christ-light for you in the night-time of your fear; I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear.
When you know someone well, you know those things that go bump in the night. The worry, the pain, the disappointment.
“Don’t worry, it will be OK,” says Rod.
“Don’t worry, I am here for you,” says Laurel.
Stanza 4 reminds me of the Swedish proverb: “Joy shared is double the joy. Sorrow shared is half the sorrow.”
Stanza 4 puts it this way: I will weep when you are weeping; When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you. I will share your joy and sorrow, till we’ve seen this journey through.
“When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you.” Laurel and Rod laugh a lot. A lot. They have tapped the load-lightening power of shared humor. They get each other’s jokes, even the jokes that surpass the understanding of others.
This is where we come in as family and friends.
Rod and Laurel, it is an honor and privilege to attend your wedding. It will be our honor and a privilege to attend to your marriage. We are here for you, today and in the days to come.
And so, dear Laurel and Rod, to borrow from “The Servant Song.”
Will you let us be your servants, let us be as Christ to you?
Pray that we may have the grace to let you be our servants, too. Amen.
Sue Edison-Swift, July 4, 2013
*“Will You Let Me Be Your Servant,” Text: Richard Gillard, b. 1953. Music THE SERVANT SONG, Richard Gillard. Text and Music ©1977 Scripture In Song (c/o Integrity Media, Inc., 1000 Coady Road, Mobile, AL 36695).