Marriage, Paul Gerhardt Style

Rev. Gaven Mize

On October 17th I married my best friend. Ashlee Saleeby became Ashlee Mize forever. It was surprisingly easy to make happen. Ashlee and I went to the Register of Deeds, waited about 15 minutes, and left with a piece of paper for the presiding pastor and witnesses to sign and we were done. Not very romantic, is it? And so it is with the state. Still, as I left the plain yellow-colored municipal building with my future bride I couldn't help but think, "Okay, now we are ready. Now we can start forever." But, I was wrong. There was still more to do. We had to be joined together at the Altar of God's own Son to exchange our final vows.

So, we needed a liturgy. It was tedious, but meaningful work, yet still not very romantic. Truth be told, I wasn't really going for romantic; I was just wanting to marry the woman whom I knew I wanted to married the day I met her. So, I asked a bunch of my friends to help me with the liturgy and it was pretty self-explanatory until it came to the hymn. And that is where the romance came in, but not the romance that we have been forced to swallow in sometimes poorly crafted, yet over-budgeted romantic comedies. This was the romance that captured the rib of Adam.

And so there we were. My beloved Ashlee held one side of the hymn and I held the other and we began to sing.

"O, Jesus Christ! how bright and fair, The state of holy marriage where,
Thy blessing rich is given, What gracious gifts Thou dost bestow,
What streams of blessing ever flow, Down from Thy holy heaven,
When they, True stay, To Thee ever, Leave Thee never, Whose troth plighted,
In one life have been united." (O, Jesus Christ How Bright and Fair, Paul Gerhardt)

Ashlee, my rib, was a reminder to me of Eve being taken out of the side of Adam. From the side of man came woman, as from the pierced side of Christ flowed His bride, the Church. That church was built on the blood and water that flowed from the riven side of our Savior. Christ, our Savior, would now make two into one, for us to be in the church together, to receive the gifts together, to herald the incarnation and passion together, to die to sin and be risen in our baptisms together. The two would become one flesh.

Perhaps there isn't much romance in the Nicholas Sparks kind of way in God knocking out Adam and taking His rib to create his wife. And there certainly doesn't seem to be any romance in God being nailed to a crippled cross and having the Church ripped from His side. In this hymn, Gerhardt reminds us of what romance actually is:

"...Jewel, All hail! Husband's treasure! House's pleasure! Crown of honour! On His throne God thinketh on her."
As my bride and I held the pages of that hymn it struck me: As surely as Christ is reigning over the binding of Ashlee and me into one, so does He watch over His own Bride, the church. And the wonder of all wonders is that we are His own treasure and pleasure. We are His jewel that was polished by His own blood. We are the house where we are fed His Body and Blood for His good pleasure. We, as despicable and dirty as our wedding dress may be, have been washed clean by the very one who binds us to Himself: Jesus, the Christ, our groom.

So, there we stood, my now wife and I, as the shadow of Christ and His bride darkened around us and the reflection of the union of God and man. And then out of nowhere it was my turn to speak: "With this ring I marry you, my worldly goods I give to you, and with my body I honor you." I spoke those words with the confidence of the one who placed them on my lips, the one who first honored us with His body: crucified, resurrected, and now seated at the right hand of the Father. And the next day as I sat with my wife during the Divine Service and walked up to the Altar to receive His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of our sins with my wife I knew Ashlee and I had been grafted to a greater vine than ourselves, long ago in our baptism. God's "I do" is still proclaimed from our foreheads. Then the "romance" was clear; we were meant to love each other as we have been loved by Christ, who gave His life for us.

Rev. Gaven M. Mize serves as pastor at Augustana Lutheran Church, Hickory, North Carolina.

Created: November 10th, 2015