Three Strands Venz- Sprigg Wedding
Held at the beautiful Mont De Lancey, at Wandin in Melbourne’s hills.
The higlights of Tony and Sarahs wedding for me was developing the three theological ideas into the service in an integrated way for the first time. There was no sermon bit but 3, 4 minute reflections that corresponded with that part of the service. I also liked the bible leading the way for the processional and the drama of the bookmarks being held aloft before each reading…
and I finally got to read/preach Hosea at a wedding….What legends!
The liturgical risk was communion as a number of family came from exclusive Lord’s table traditions and others who were not of faith, a nice inclusive/qualifying intro was essential.
Tony & Sarah’s Wedding
4 – 1 – 2002
Processional : Song played on CD: Adam Van Leuen
Enter Attendants: Chelsea & Matt, David & Natasha,
Genevieve and Lauri (Carrying Bible with large red, green and white ribbons/strands as bookmarks)
Enter Tony Venz and Parents
Enter Sarah Sprigg and Parents
Welcome: Marcus Curnow
Ecclesiasties 4: Its better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, But if there is no one to help, tough! Two in a bed warm each other. Alone you shiver all night. By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three stranded rope is not easily snapped. (The Message)
This idea of three strands is often used at weddings to describe a couples relationship with God. Today however we want to use it to talk about three themes of marriage, Marriage and creation, vocation and covenant, and how these ideas may weave together in the life of Tony and Sarah.
Symbol and Reading 1: Steve and Glenda Venz
Opens bible from altar, takes green bookmark and holds up to the people announcing “ The First Strand: Marriage and Creation: A Source of Life” Places strand on the centre of the pulpit.
This is the story of how it all started, of Heaven and Earth when they were created. At he time God made Earth and Heaven, before any grasses or shrubs had sprouted from the ground – God hadn’t yet sent rain on Earth, nor was there anyone around to work the ground (the whole Earth was watered by underground springs) – God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive – a living soul!
God said , “It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.” So God formed from the dirt of the ground all the animals of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the Man to see what he would name them. Whatever the Man called each living creature, that was its name. The Man named the cattle, named the birds of th eair, named the wild animals; but he didn’t find a suitable companion. God put the man into a deep sleep. As he slept he removed one of his ribs and replaced it with flesh. God then used the rib that he had taken from the Man to make Woman and presented her to the man. The Man said, “Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! Name her Woman for she was made from Man.” Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh. The two of them, the man and his wife were naked, but they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:4-7, 19-25 The Message)
Creation Homily: Marcus Curnow
We begin with creation. Creation stories reveal a culture’s vision of what it means to be human. This story of the Ancient Hebrews we see the conviction of these people that behind the awesome beauty and power of nature lay a distinctive purpose and design, a creator and loving personality.
So important was their view of marriage they linked it with their foundation story. They understood the link between creation and marriage as a source of Life, describing the mystery of two becoming one flesh as the basis of our human existence.
The linking of creation and marriage I think also suggests that human marriage has a divine pattern – it is meant to be like creation in its importance and purpose. Like creation a marriage relationship grows and changes with the seasons of time, like nature it can be fragile. It needs sustaining, nurturing, protection and at times healing. Yet in times of great destruction we can have hope that life and love will often find a way.
These are powerful ideas often forgotten in these times and yet we forget our creation stories at our peril. We celebrate today that far from being a dead, irrelevant or dying institution, marriage, like creation, is a living thing, given breath and sustained by the love of God.
In the Celtic tradition where you have a wedding, (always outdoors,) is very significant. For Tony and Sarah both mentioned the moon and beach at Mornington Peninsula as singificant place in their own relationship have been keen to celebrate this occassion here at Mont De Lancey. In reflecting upon this truth of creation they wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this place, the Wurunjeri Balug, Woiwurrung tribes of the Kulin nation, who have lived long and well on this land.
As a way of all of us celebrating creation today I invite you to participate in what we call a Sermon of Silence. Let us keep silence together and take time to listen to and consider the life that surrounds us, of which we are part, and of which marriage we celebrate today is entwined.
Open our eyes to your presence, open our ears to your call, open our hearts to your love.
Symbol and Reading 2: Anna Caddy
Opens bible from altar, takes white bookmark and holds up to the people announcing “ The Second Strand: Marriage and Vocation: The Call” Places strand on the centre of the altar in front of communion.
“Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ.
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church- a love marked by giving not getting. Christs love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness.
No one abuses their own body, do they? No they feed and pamper it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honour her husband.” (Ephesians 5:22-23,25-27,29-33 The Message)
Vocation Homily : Marcus Curnow
The word vocation is from the Latin vocatio, which means summons, to call, and from vox which means voice. Though we may think of marriage as a response to a private love between a Tony and Sarah, it is a divine call to a holy life. Marriage is a lifelong process of listening for God’s summons, responding to God’s call and hearing Gods voice.
The call begins with a whisper from the heart, a falling in love that captures a couples attention. Whilst this may seem to come from within it goes beyond the voice of their own infatuation and desire, it is a calling from outside themselves to be a gift to the other person.
Sometimes in Christian traditions keen to make a difference in the world we have been concerned with the domesticating tendencies of married life prefering the heroic exploits of the single saints. But we must look at marriage as also a religious vocation. Like religious brothers and sisters in
vows involve Stability, Chasitity, Poverty and Obedience. Today you will not make a vow of Stability: but you will make a commitment for life. You will not take a vow of Chastity but you will take a vow of Sexual fidelity. You will not take a vow of poverty but you will vow to share all possessions. You will not vow obedience but you will mutual influence and submission.
The reading we heard from Ephesians 5 uses language of mutual submission in relation to marriage. It is language that modern people find difficult, and it has been much abused, but is essentially about how we give. It suggests that all love involves the sacrifice of power and is a call to give our own power in order to empower others. In this sense we can see marriage as a spiritual discipline. Paul’s description of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is followed by a description of marriage. Marriage can promote a spiritual maturity and growth in the lives of Tony and Sarah as they relate to each other . It’s a gift that helps us to practise and perfect love. Don’t be scared of it, enjoy it, get in to it!
It is love that makes a difference in the world and through the years of a marriage the call of your love will become broader. The voice is often heard in family life and in the significant and can I suggest heroic task of raising children. The purpose and depth of love multiply, the call amplifies and there is much a strong marriage can give to others. Within your love there is much space that can be created for those who know no love. Your marriage can be a haven of love that serves your passions for teaching, and writing and your heart and connection with Africa to name a few.
For many today marriage is the apex of their romantic experience, Prince and Princess for a day. This sustains the wedding industry but is not so reliable for relationships. Today you are here amongst what is largely a community of faith responding to the call to begin a sacramental life together with God, that God wants to use to help you together; and you together with all of us, to restore community and creation in the world.
Declaration of Vocation
Tony and SarahHaving heard the call which we have proclaimed. Do you choose to belong to each other in the vocation of marriage.
Parents and siblings (they stand)
Will you give your blessing and will you support them as they embark on this way of life together
Community of family and friends (they stand)
Will you give your blessing and will you support them as they embark on this way of life together
Community Song: The Servant Song :Jon Cornford
Symbol and Reading 3: Joy Seed
Opens bible from altar, takes red bookmark and holds up to the people announcing “The Third Strand: Marriage and Covenant: The Promise” Places strand on the centre of the altar in front of communion.
“And now, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to start all over again. I’m taking her back out to the wilderness where we had our first date, and I’ll court her. I’ll give her boquets of roses. I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope. She’ll respond like she did as a young girl, those days when she was fresh out of Egypt. “At that time”- This is God’s message still- “you’ll address me, ‘Dear husband!’ Never again will you address me, ‘My slave- master!’ I’ll wash your mouth out with soap, get rid of all those dirty false-god names, not so much as a whisper of those names again. At the same time I’ll make a peace treaty between you and wild animals and birds and reptiles, And get rid of weapons of war. Think of it! Safe from beasts and bullies! And then I’ll marry you for good – forever! I’ll marry you true and proper, in love and tenderness. Yes, I’ll marry you and neither leave you nor let you go. You’ll know me, God for who I really am. (Hosea 2:14-20 The Message)
Covenant Homily: Marcus Curnow
The third strand we celebrate today is Covenant. The ancient prophet Hosea describes the passionate love and promises of God in terms of a marriage. Very soon Tony and Sarah will make promises to each other, a covenant. Covenant is important for us because it is a primary way in which the bible understand what it means to love. In a story so powerful that it has become the basis of the worlds 3 major religions Abraham breaks the body of a sacrificed animal and walking between it recieves promises from God to redeem the world. It’s powerful stuff and is in part re-enacted in the Christian tradition of marriage as the couple walks down the aisle in between the two families. We will also enact it in the breaking of bread
All through the scriptures authors intertwine these two covenant marriages. God’s relationship to God’s people and our marriage to our partner. In the previous reading the apostle Paul described it as “a great
mystery – I don’t pretend to understand it all.” Somehow though it suggests that marriage helps us to understand God’s relationship to us and God’s relationship to us helps us to understand marriage.
The problem with powerful religious ideas is that their power is often abused or coopted. We know this so well especially at this time of Christianity and other religions. We also know that many well intentioned, even well theologised marriages fail.
What is amazing about this last story from Hosea is that it was written at a time when his own marriage relationship was broken because of the infidelity of his partner. In it he found a powerfull parallel with the brokeness of the religion of his own day and yet in the promises of God he saw a hope.
It demonstrates the tough covenant love of God that dosent look elsewhere when times are tough and relationships break but offers patience, faithfulness, deep forgiveness and reconciliation That’s the sort of story and love on which to base a marriage.
The Exchange of Vows & Rings : (Attendants bearing rings stand)
I Tony/Sarah take you Sarah/Tony to be my wife/husband.
I will cherish our friendship and love you today, tomorrow and forever.
I will trust you and honour you.
I will love you faithfully through the best and the worst.
What may come I will always be there.
I come into this union letting go of my deepest fears and embracing all my faith and if I doubt I will remember this time and why we came together this day.
As I give you this ring, so I give you my life to keep.
Blessing and Pronouncement: Marcus Curnow
Receive this blessing. May the rainbow of many colours bind you to God. May the soft winds of heaven refresh your spirit and sunshine brighten your heart. May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you. May God enfold you in love, and may the blessing of God the Holy Three, bringing peace beyond all understanding, be with you and remain with you and all you love, now and forever.
Anthony and Sarah, today in this place, before God, your family and friends you have sworn solem vows to belong to each other forevermore. Then in the name of Almighty God I pronounce you husband and wife.
Celebrating the Covenant
The Eucharist Meal: Marcus Curnow
As a way of celebrating the covenant they have made today. Sarah and Tony have asked that we share in a Eucharist Meal.
Because covenants are hard work which in our our strength we often fail to keep it is a measure of grace that God gave Jesus Christ who showed us how to live the love of which we have spoken today. Who went to weddings where miraculous things took place. Who told his followers to live life like it was a wedding feast; Whos’ vision of the perfect world was that of a wedding feast, where all, especially the poor were invited. In his death he showed us the true love of self sacrifice and the good news is that in his ressurection he lives and makes that love accesible to us through faith in him.
In the last meal that Jesus shared with his followers he took bread and breaking it said “This is my body broken for you” In the same way he took a cup of wine and said “This is my blood poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins it represents “The New Covenant.”
He told his followers to do this as often as you will in rememberance of me.
In the tradition of the early church the Eucharist was a real meal and this low key approach has been important in Sarah and Tony’s faith communitys, inculding Urban Seed where sharing lunch each day with homeless people is seen as a sacramental act. This tradition emphasizes that salvation comes from the hospitality of God and so welcomes all comers. It also emphasizes the abundance of God’s hospitality so you are encouraged to eat heartily.
If for any reason you don’t identify with the story we have proclaimed today, feel unsure of your participation or come from a tradition that is other to this feel welcome but also comfortable in not participating.
As a symbol of their vocation Tony and Sarah will serve some the bread and wine which is Port from a common cup. And emphasizing the common meal as well as convenience we encourage others to serve yourself from the altar, where non alcoholic grape juice is also available. Please file down the centre aisle and return via the sides.
The Singing of the Registar & Weaving the Strands : Chelsea & Matt (Attendants take the strands/ribbons from the altar and weave them together, making a bookmark they place in the bible)
Community Presentation: Chelsea
On behalf of your community of family and friends we present you with this bible and three strands. May they remind you of the stories we have celebrated today and be woven together in your marriage to be a cord not easily broken.
Benediction Song: The Irish Blessing : Jon Cornford
May your life in this world be a happy one,
May your sun be warm and may your sky’s be blue,
May each storm that pass your way,
Clear the air for a brighter day,
And may the saints and the Saviour,
Watch over you.
Liturgy by Marcus Curnow