St Alfege, Greenwich

23rd August 2003

Blessing of Marriage of T**** & A****

A Serious Call


Let me begin by thanking T**** and A**** for asking me to take part in the blessing of their Marriage and to Canon Giles Harcourt for making me so welcome to do so.

T**** was confirmed last year at St Stephen’s in Lewisham. I had the privilege of preparing him for that important step in Christian discipleship, and A****, as someone already confirmed, helped with that preparation by telling us about her own experience of discipleship in Tanzania.

What impressed me about them both is best described by the word Serious. T**** and A**** demonstrated beyond any doubt that they take the matter of Christian commitment, whether in Baptism and Confirmation or Marriage, totally seriously.

Being serious about something in no way prevents one from seeing the funny side of things. Indeed one of the essential things to tell people who are to be confirmed is about the extraordinary contrast they will discover between, on the one hand the Church of God on earth – those hundred or so fellow human beings with whom they become identified through the sacrament of confirmation, and on the other hand the Body of Christ, that multitude of people which no man can number, living and departed, of which they are becoming members or limbs How can something like the congregation of a local church with all its faults and shortcomings, sometimes so noble but often so absurd, possibly be the same thing as the body of Christ on Earth?

The answer is that only through God’s grace can the two bodies be reconciled into one. St Paul tells us that it’s like Christian Marriage – the reconciliation of one man and one woman for life as one body – as a sign to the world of the "mystical union between Christ and his Church". But that’s what every Christian marriage, together with all its absurdities, represents.

It’s a hall-mark of Christian marriage that both husband and wife should from time to time find each other slightly absurd. The ability to laugh at one another without malice, and, more importantly to laugh at oneself is a sign that husband and wife have been reconciled into taking their debt – everything they owe to each other in Holy Matrimony – thoroughly seriously.

Let me suggest to T**** and A**** that they keep that word Serious in mind throughout your married life, in particular those three letters which come near the end of it – IOU. I Owe You.

Remember always the debt we owe to God: for our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life, particularly the gift of each other – together with everything we owe to one other.

Remember the debt we owe to God for the means of grace and the hope of glory by which he has reconciled us to himself in his Son, Jesus Christ.

But besides these two debts, remember what God, in Holy Matrimony, has called us to be. Your marriage is calling you to be a visible representation or re-presentation of Christ and his Church. It is a serious calling which makes us debtors one to another. It’s a calling whose hallmark is contained those three little words I Owe You.

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