Wedding – Ian & Claudia Mak audio (2.6MB)
Ian and Claudia asked me to preach on this passage for a particular reason which I’ll mention in a moment, but first let me just remind you of the flow of the narrative in Gen 2. God has made a man. He’s put him in the Garden of Eden, a wonderful place filled with good things. But God sees Adam, on his own, and he says this isn’t good. Human beings are made in God’s image. They’re made for relationships, for community. So God decides to make a helper who can be Adam’s partner. God first makes all the other animals and brings them to Adam to see what he’ll call them and to see if any of them are suitable.
The man gives names to all the creatures that God’s made, but none of them is suitable to be his helper. You see none of the other animals are made in God’s image like Adam is.
So what does God do? Well he could have made another being in his image and brought that being to Adam but he doesn’t. Instead he puts Adam into a deep sleep, takes one of his ribs and fashions a woman from it. At last, here is a person who’s not just a helper, but an equal: “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” he says.
By the way, don’t get confused by that term helper. Some people think that God making a helper for Adam meant he made someone who was inferior, an underling to Adam, someone for Adam to boss around. They think of the term as it was used in the movie “The Help”: as though God was providing someone who’d do the menial jobs around the garden. But that’s not actually how the term helper is used in the Bible. In fact it’s often God who’s described as our helper. If we think about our own life, a helper is generally someone who can do what we’re not capable of; the expert, the person with the specialist training that we lack, the person who’s stronger or more skilled than we are.
In fact the reason Ian and Claudia chose this passage illustrates this beautifully. They chose it because it reminded them of the time they first met. It was in the old St Michael’s car park. Claudia was trying to back into a car space and being a newly licenced driver, she was struggling to get the angle right. Ian just happened to be walking across from the Church to the cottage at that moment and saw her having trouble so he offered to help. And from that encounter sprang a long friendship that we’re bringing to completion today. Of course, in their case it was the woman who needed a helper suitable for her.
The marriage service began with these words: Marriage is a gift from God for the well-being of humankind. Ian and Claudia, your joining together is a gift from God to give you the companionship and support and closeness that you need.
God has brought you together as equals to support and enable the other partner, to fill in the gaps in your individual abilities, to form a partnership that will be so much better than you could ever be on your own. That in turn will provide you with an inner strength as a couple that’ll enable you to overcome any obstacles that might appear in your path – provided you stick together at those times of difficulty. And that strength in your marriage will in turn become a strength for others.
But let’s not skip over these words: “Here at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” That idea is summed up at the end of the reading: “a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” There’s a unity created by marriage that holds all sorts of implications. If you’re truly one then if one is hurt you’re both hurt. If one does well you both do well. You need to work hard to avoid any sense of competitiveness in your marriage, any thought that one of you deserves the glory and not the other. If one of you is more skilled in some area than the other, it’s simply for the sake of the other. If one of you receives praise think of it as being praise for the two of you, because without the other you’d be so much less to praise than when you’re together.
Of course that doesn’t happen automatically. It requires lots of work. You first have to overcome your desire for independence; to work on becoming a single unit, working together to build each other up; to build such strong bonds that nothing can separate you.
That doesn’t mean that you have to do everything together. That would be as big a mistake as to do nothing together. You need to work out a balance between doing things together and doing things independently. But in the important things it’s vital that you work together, pushing in the same direction. In your spiritual life it’s important that you’re growing together in your faith and understanding, in your Christian maturity. God will do great things through you if you remain faithful to him and he’ll do even greater things if you’re doing them together.
Finally, because marriage is a gift from God, you can rely on God to help you as you grow together. Your marriage isn’t just between the two of you. God is part of it as well. That’s why a wedding in this context, of your Christian community, is so important. We, your brothers and sisters in Christ will make a firm commitment in a moment to do everything in our power to uphold you in your marriage. We’re here as the body of Christ to express our support, and God’s support, for you, as you enter into this new relationship.
May God bless you as you grow together in love.