I have been a pastor for 11 years. One of the key aspects of my calling is reminding people that, as Christians, our faith is built on hope.
Of course, there is the redemptive hope of our salvation that rests in Jesus Christ, his atoning death for our sin, and his resurrection which proclaims that he has been victorious in reconciling us to God.
There is also the practical hope that God cares about us and answers our prayers. Throughout Scripture, and especially from Jesus, we are taught to take our requests to God in prayer. We pray for all kinds of things, our jobs, our health, the weather, and even sports teams. But as parents, we focus the majority of our prayers on our children.
I have been a parent for almost 23 years. We started praying for our daughter, Josie, as soon as we learned we were expecting.
Soon after she was born, we also began praying for her future spouse. We prayed for her future spouse because Scripture teaches us that marriage was created by God for our good. Further, we learn that marriage is an important picture of Christ's relationship to the church.
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." Eph 5:23-24
Praying for the right spouse is essential for two reasons. First, in the covenant of Christian marriage we are being knit together; not just to each other, but also into Christ who is the head. Second, in the covenant of Christian marriage, we are being sanctified and called to participate in and endure each other's sanctification.
All of this was beautifully clear this past Saturday as I walked Josie down the aisle at her wedding, and responded to the pastor's question, "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?"
After a deep breath, I responded, "Her mother and I do."
Moments later I watched as listened as my new son-in-law said these words,
"I, Casey Risinger, take you, Josie Langer, to be my wedded wife, and I do promise and covenant, before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful husband, in plenty and want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live."
Through tears of joy, I contemplated all that this meant. All our years of prayers were being answered in this man. Someone else was committing to becoming the primary person to whom she would be knit-together to and sanctified through. He was promising to love her as Christ loves the Church.
This was one of the happiest moments of my life.
And yet, having been married for nearly 28 years, I realized that they are saying “Yes” to each other, with virtually no knowledge of all that their “Yes” entails. This is the very reason for the marriage vows that couples take. They are committing to each other no matter what.
We have every hope that each will fulfill their vows. But our true hope is placed somewhere else.
These vows, and their importance to portraying the relationship of Christ to the Church, reminds us of the audacity of our hope. In our marriage to Christ, as his bride, he is covenanting to take on the full weight of both sides of these vows.
"I, Jesus Christ, take you, ___________, to be my wedded wife, and I do promise and covenant, before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful husband, in your plenty your want, in your joy and in your sorrow, in your sickness and in your health, as long as you shall live."
Jesus has committed to love us no matter what.
This is the gospel.
Our hope is built on nothing less.