Racial Justice Sunday: A Sermon*

Today is the 20th anniversary of Racial Justice Sunday.

It was first established in 1995.

I want to talk today about race.

I want to talk about race partly because the church hardly ever talks about it.

I want to talk about race fairly confident that everyone who belongs to this church would not consider themselves racist.

I want to talk about race even though we probably do not think it is an issue we need to talk about.


That we think we don’t need to talk about race

may reflect that as a nation we never practiced the overt evils of apartheid or segregation which shaped South Africa and North America.

As a nation we never explicitly structured our society racially.

And yet racism – terrible and widespread –

has always been there in our society and in the church.

Racism is present in both explicit terms, as verbal and physical abuse,

but also in less explicit ways, more hidden and unconscious,

what some term ‘white supremacy’ or ‘whiteness.’

As white British people we may not consider ourselves racist,

yet we inhabit a society and a continent with a long history of racism

through its colonialism of much of the rest of the world

and forcibly transporting black people as slaves across the Atlantic.

And while we might say that was all a long time ago,

it handed down an inbuilt ‘whiteness’ within society which is still considered

normal and dominant. 

Racism is therefore an unavoidable sin,

a wound that seems unable to be healed.

Racial Justice Sunday is an opportunity to name this wound,

and seek to find the balm to begin to treat it.


In November 2007 the Council of the Baptist Union,

which is made up of representatives from the associations, churches and colleges who belong to Union,

made an apology that said:

We acknowledge our share in and benefit from our nation’s participation in the transatlantic slave trade.

We acknowledge that we speak as those who have shared in and suffered from the legacy of slavery and its appalling consequences for God’s world.

We offer our apology to God and to our brothers and sisters for all that has created and still perpetuates the hurt which originated from the horror of slavery.

We repent of the hurt we have caused, the divisions we have created, our reluctance to face up to the sin of the past, our unwillingness to listen to the pain of our black sisters and brothers, and our silence in the face of racism and injustice today.

We commit ourselves, in a true spirit of repentance, to take what we have learned from God in the Council and to share it widely in our Baptist community and beyond, looking for gospel ways by which we can turn the words and feelings we have expressed today into concrete actions and contribute to the prophetic work of God’s coming Kingdom.

That was a naming of the wound and it bears repeating today.


If we are to unlearn racism,

If we are to resist it,

what kind of church is needed?

It is a church that Paul says in Ephesians,

that must first remember it is predominately Gentile by birth.

Gentiles meant being a people

            who were separate from Christ,

            who were excluded from citizenship in Israel,

            who were foreigners to the promises of God,

            who were without hope

            and without God. (Eph 2.11-12)

This is not a good place to be.

The story of scripture is a story of God’s election,

his choosing of Israel out of all the nations, to be his people,

to be the object of his blessing.

God chooses to be the God of Israel.

We are not Israel, we are Gentiles.

God is not our God, the bible is not our bible.

In the story of scripture,

we are Ruth, who binds herself to her Israelite mother-in-law

we are the Syro-Phoenician woman, who begs Jesus to heal her daughter,

we are Cornelius, who Peter comes to visit.

We were outsiders.

We were on the margins.

We were strangers and aliens (Eph 2.19).

We were dead (Eph 2.1).

The story of the church, is one in which through the grace of Christ Jesus,

God has joined us to his people,

God has reconciled us to himself and to Israel.

The dividing wall that separated us has been taken down at the cross,

and a new humanity, a new creation

has been made in Christ (Eph 2.15).

We Gentiles have become citizens and members of God’s people.

The gospel announces that it is no longer possible to be Jew or Gentile,

but that we are one and the same in Christ (Gal 3.28).


Why it is important that we remember we were Gentiles,

is that when we don’t, and this is one of the tragic parts of the history of the church,

we think we were always God’s first choice,

that God’s election of Israel was a blip,

that the story of scripture was always about us –

evidence of this can be found in the hymns of Isaac Watts –

that we are at the centre of God’s purposes.

We lose our humility, and we lose sight of God’s grace.

While God had shown us hospitality, we have learned to practice inhospitality.

The sad truth of the church’s history,

that which the apology I read earlier alludes to,

is the Christian church of Europe largely acted to baptize the colonial racism as it ventured into Africa and Asia and South America.

It saw the natives of these lands not as fellow human beings,

but as an inferior race, defined only by the colour of their skin,

and as such ‘non-white.’


If the church needs to remember we were Gentiles by birth,

it must also be ready to take a stand against the devil’s schemes –

against the rulers, authorities and the powers of this dark world.

We should understand ‘racism as a demonic power which works its awful influence in our lives’ (William Stringfellow)

The tragedy of the church’s involvement in the subjection and slavery of much of Africa was it close relationship with the political and economic powers –

it’s missionaries travelled with soldiers and merchants.

The church was impotent or blinded to separate the gospel

from the nations of Europe’s desires for land and wealth.


Paul calls the church to ‘put on the armour of God’ (Eph 6.11).

The armour of God that loves truth, justice, peace, faith.

Where racism seeks to view some people as inferior,

the truth of the gospel says we are all made in the image of God (Gen 1.27);

the justice of the gospel says that God shows no partiality (Acts 10.34);

the peace of the gospel calls us practices of reconciliation and forgiveness;

and the faith of the gospel reveals that we acknowledge one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God (Eph 4.5).

The church that wears this armour is one that seeks to resist and

confront the racism within us and within the institutions and structures of our society.

In addition to resisting and confronting, it dares to imagine a different world,

it dares to dream.

To dream like Martin Luther King dreamed.

            ‘I have a dream’ he proclaimed,

a dream of sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners sitting at the table of brotherhood

                        a dream where children will not be judged by the colour of their skin

                        a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted,

                                    every hill and mountain shall be made low,

                                    the rough places shall be made plain,

                                    and the crooked places shall be made straight

                                    and the glory of the Lord will be revealed

                                    and all flesh shall see it together.’


* This sermon is an attempt to learn from the work of Willle James Jennings and J. Kameron Carter

British Baptist Biblical Scholars (6) R. Alistair Campbell

PhD (supervised by Graham Stanton / London, 1993)

Tutor in New Testament, Spurgeon's College (1989-2000)

Lecturer in Biblical Studies at the United Theological College of the West Indies in Jamaica (2003-2006)


'The Grounds of Association.' in David Slater (ed.) A Perspective on Baptist Identity (Mainstream, 1987), 7-14

'Essential Aspects of the Church in the Bible', Evangelical Review of Theology 3 (1989)

'Does Paul Acquiesce in Divisions at the Lord's Supper?', Novum Testamentum 33.1 (1991)

'Do the Work of an Evangelist', Evangelical Quarterly 64 (1992)

'The Elders of the Jerusalem Church', Journal of Theological Studies 44 (1993)

The Elders: Seniority within Earliest Christianity (T & T Clark, 1994)

'Identifying the Faithful Sayings in the Pastoral Epistles', Journal for the Study of the New Testament 16 (October 1994) 

'Κα μλιστα ο κεων–A New Look at 1 Timothy 5.8', New Testament Studies 41.1 (1995)

'Jesus and his Baptism', Tyndale Bulletin 47.2 (November 1996)

'Once More: Is Worship ‘Biblical’?', The Churchman 110.2 (1996)

'Against such things there is no law'? Galatians 5:23b again', Expository Times 107 (1996) 

'Baptism and Resurrection (1 Cor 15.29)', Australian Biblical Review 47 (1999), 43-52

'Dying with Christ: The Origins of a Metaphor?' in Stanley E. Porter and Anthony R. Cross (eds.), Baptism, the New Testament and the Church: Historical and Contemporary Studies in Honour of R. E. O. White (Sheffield Academic Press, 1999)

The Story We Live by: A Reader's Guide to the New Testament (Bible Reading Fellowship, 2004)

'Book Review: House Church and the Mission: The Importance of Household Structures in Early Christianity by Roger W. Gehring', Journal of Theological Studies 58.2 (2007), 666-671

'Triumph and delay: the interpretation of Revelation 19:11-20:10', Evangelical Quarterly (January 2008)

'New birth from Water and Spirit’ in Pieter J. Lalleman (ed.), Challenging to Change: Dialoguse with a Radical Baptist Theologian: Essays Presented to Nigel G. Wright on his sixtieth birthday (Spurgeon's College, 2009)

Born Again: What Did Jesus Mean? (Grove Books, 2013)

The Theological Doodlings of Kim Fabricius

Kim Fabricius' theological doodlings are joy to read and often very funny. You can read them all here, but here's a selection of the shortest, and four doodlings on Douglas Campbell's The Deliverance of God.


If there were cameras at Calvary, Christianity would be a cliché.

Sermons are like basketball games: everything is won or lost in the last five minutes.

Jesus said, “Where two are three are gathered together in my name, there is the C of E in 50 years.”

To all ministers troubled by a sense of failure – and your point is?

What is heaven like? A lot like jail: no rich people.

People often talk of church planting when they mean church cloning.

The best sermon I’ve ever preached is probably the worst sermon they’ve ever heard.

So you’re a minister. Do you have an office? If you do, you’re not a minister. A CEO has an office, a minister has a study.

A woman once asked me why I never preach on taking Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour. “Because, ma’am, I preach on the Bible.”

Any preacher who brandishes a book and declares “God says …!” can only be waving the Qur’an, not the Bible.

Sermons are like apples. They come in sharp and sweet, crisp and soft, dry and juicy, and they ripen at different times of the year. And no one likes the core.

The difference between a Barth and a Piper is that the former glorifies God, the latter deifies Glory.

For some complementarians, it’s wasn’t Adam and Eve, it was Adam and Jeeves.

A Methodist friend of mine asked me if I would help him with a talk he was preparing on Arminianism. I said, “Only if it’s a eulogy.”

For a quintessential oxymoron, “successful church” ranks right up there with “smartphone”.

God invented the church to give atheists a fighting chance.

Contemporary translation of Mark 14:26b: “On the way, Jesus paused to check his Facebook page. It said: ‘You have 0 friends’.”

“Cognitive Therapy”?  You mean “preaching”? 

Creationists do not disbelieve in science. On the contrary, creationists believe only in science – crap science.

A proposal for the translation of ekklesia: “kindergarten”.

Prosperity Gospel Jesus: “I am the Alpha and the Romeo.”


Finally finishing Douglas Campbell’s massive The Deliverance of God is rather like completing a marathon: you’re deliriously glad you did it – and fucking relieved it’s over.

Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God is a Pauline game-changer.  There are only three excuses for not reading it: (1) you have underdeveloped biceps (as you will be unable to elevate the book to make ocular contact); (2) you have manual osteoarthritis (as you will be unable to flip from the text to the endnotes without risk of irreversible damage to the articular cartilage); (3) you have less than six months to live.

If Paul didn’t say what Douglas Campbell says he said, one hopes that the apostle would have the good grace to stand corrected.

I just woke up. I’d been dreaming I was re-reading Douglas Campbell’s The Deliverance of God. It was the best year’s sleep I’ve ever had. In an interview, Campbell now admits that his book “is possibly a little too long.” No worries: Paul, on reflection, said the same thing about his letter to the Romans: “In the future, Tertius, remind me: postcards only.”

The Theological Tweets of Lincoln Harvey

Here's some of the best theological tweets from @LincolnHarvey (Lecturer in Systematic Theology at St Mellitus College and author of A Brief Theology of Sport):


So you want to know where the Babylonians came from? Well, when Mummylonian and Daddylonian love each other very much...

Churches without steeples are pointless.

The Son of God is very down to earth.

Jesus had a row with his disciples. On the Sea of Galilee.

 Jesus is hung up on us.

Jesus died doing what he loved, being human.

The church is both proleptic and amateurleptic.

The bible is wholly ghostwritten.

The rich want to call him J€$u$.

We took a risk killing God, but he made a boulder move.

The doctrine of original sin means the word 'mankind' is an oxymoron.

Christians are not what they used to be.

Long term forecast. God reigns. Son shines.

God always slips from our grasp, even when we grabbed a hammer and nailed him down.

On Myers-Briggs, Jesus is an INRI.

I've just been read by my bible.

There is a place for lyres in truthful worship.

Eucharist: the original Happy Meal™

The Eucharist is a remembrance of our future.

Reminder. It's not a youcharist.

The atonement is a crossWord puzzle.

God meets us on the road we took to avoid him.

PENTECOST: The church is an eschatological flashmob.

Fundamentalism. Throwing the maybe out with the bathwater.

What do we want? THE KINGDOM OF GOD! When do we want it? NOW AND NOT YET!

Remembering Baptists: Benjamin Keach

Today (18 July) is a day to remember the life of the Particular Baptist theologian and pastor Benjamin Keach.

Keach was the leading theological thinker of the late 17th Century among the Particular Baptists. Author of numerous works and pastor of a congregation in Horsleydown, Southwark.

Born on the 29 Feb 1640. He became a General Baptist in his teens. He was arrested, imprisoned, tried, fined, and his works burnt in 1660 and 1664. Following which he moved to London and moved from the General Baptists to the Particular Baptists, probably through the influence of his second wife Susannah and his friendship with Hanserd Knollys.

He argued with the likes of Richard Baxter against infant baptism and authored catechisms and confessions as well as allegorical works in a similar vein to John Bunyan. He argued for the laying on hands following baptism, which at time the Particular Baptists were unconvinced by and more famously he argued for the use of hymns in worship. When his church in Horsleydown voted to sing a hymn following the sermon, some have said we are the beginnings of the great tradition of English Protestant hymnody.

For more on the life of Benjamin Keach see:

Jonathan Arnold, The Reformed Theology of Benjamin Keach (Centre for Baptist History & Heritage; Regent's Park College, 2013)

D. B. Riker, A Catholic Reformed Theologian: Federalism and Baptism in the Thought of Benjamin Keach (Studies in Baptist History & Thought; Paternoster, 2009)

James B. Vaughan, 'Benjamin Keach' in Timothy George & David Dockery (eds.), Baptist Theologians (Broadman, 1990) 


Brian Brock, Captive to Christ, Open to the World: On Doing Christian Ethics in Public

41c4BTU4VRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Brian Brock teaches Christian ethics at Aberdeen. He is the author of Singing the Ethos of God: The Place of Christian Ethics in Scripture (Eerdmans, 2007) and Christian Ethics in a Technological Age (Eerdmans, 2010). He has also written in the area of disability theology, most recently editing Disability in the Christian Tradition: A Reader (2012) with his colleague John Swinton. Captive to Christ, Open to the World is a little book, 140pp and is a series of interviews with Brock over a range of ethical questions with concern for the environment, politics, medicine, the university. The interviews begin with discussions of Brock's work on scripture and technology, before broadening out into wider issues. The interviews have been edited by Kenneth Oakes who provides an introduction. 

The book offers an insight into the task of being a Christian ethicist in the church, but also in a secular institution. The book is difficult to summarise because its mode of interview means the conversation moves in different directions, but there is, on almost every page, a gem of an observation or thought to ponder, which is rooted in day to day living. What Brock does in this book is engage with concrete issues of policy and practice in conversation with the Christian tradition, Augustine, Luther, Barth and Bonhoeffer being the key thinkers. By concrete I mean if this book had an index you would find references to Obama, Donald Trump, Robert Murdoch, Burger King, the Iona Community, James Hunter, Stanley Hauerwas, Jean Vanier, amongst others. This is no abstract treatment of ethics, but is rooted in his experience of being a parent of child with a disability, of living and working in Aberdeen, of being an academic within a university.

One thing Brock seeks to explore is how the church cannot simply be a contrast society (p.39). He is critical of this stance. For Brock there is much more tension in our how the church is located and participates in the world. He also wants to be much more real in acknowledging that the church 'doesn't really contrast much at all' (p.79). Brock offers a less adversarial view of the world, and more humble view of the church, arguing for the importance of listening over judging. 

This is an exciting little book, which demonstrates the role the Christian ethicist can play, both in the church and in the wider public. Brock is concerned to see his students and the church to think through arguments Christianly, that is, to show how and why theology matters. Its interview style allows us to see a little of how Brock thinks. Where monographs are the norm, there is perhaps space for this kind of book. Brock bigger books are not easy-reads and so Captive to Christ is also welcome in helping translate his arguments there in a more accessible manner. Time will tell whether Brock becomes the next Hauerwas (both are bald white men from Texas), but regardless Brock's contributions will be worth paying attention to.

The 1640 group

The 1640 group are 9 Baptists churches that celebrate their 375th anniversary since they were founded in 1640. These are some of the earliest Baptist churches. Together these churches are gathering in Bristol at Broadmead for a shared anniversary service on the 19th September. 

1640baptistThe 9 are:

Broadmead Baptist Church, Bristol - read about Broadmead here

Newbury Baptist Church, Berkshire

Abbey Road Baptist Church, Reading

Dagnell Street Baptist Church, St Albans

Kings Stanley Baptist Church, Gloucestershire

Alcester Baptist Church, Warwickshire

Berkhamstead Baptist Church, Hertfordshire

Kingsbridge Baptist Church, Devon

Castle Hill Baptist Church, Warwick - read about the church here

Other Baptists according to Curtis Freeman

10649727_10152732551628669_7606530891851243226_n 6a00d8341cb64e53ef01bb079e4e5d970dExtracts from Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists by Curtis Freeman (Baylor, 2014):

Other Baptists are sick, and they know it. This sickness is terminal, and it is shared by others. But there is good news; there is a cure. Other Baptists find the cure for their alterity by participating in the life of the triune God with the communion of saints in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. (p.23)

Other Baptists are committed to continuing reform and retrieving the tradition of the church.

Other Baptists have said farewell to the establishment of Christendom in search of a contesting catholicity.

Other Baptists long to see their churches take a new direction that is neither conservative nor liberal nor something in between.

Other Baptists affirm the beliefs and practices that have shaped the identity and mission of baptistic communities through the centuries,  but they also desire to be in continuity with the historic Christian tradition.

Other Baptists seek to move beyond modernity, yet they are deliberate about retrieving a connection between faith and practice of the once, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

Other Baptists do not claim to have the final word but rather invite the wider community of Baptists to enter a conversation about the way forward.

Other Baptists pursue the direction of a theology that is deliberately baptistic and intentionally catholic. (pp.91-92)

Other Baptists have been more open to the use of creeds when not employed to bind the conscience. By voluntarily reciting the ancient ecumenical creeds of the church, Other Baptists move beyond fundamentalism and liberalism and toward the bedrock of catholicity. (p.138)

Other Baptists seek the recovery of catholicity because there is nothing more qualitatively or quantitatively catholic than the Trinity. The choice is clear. (p.190)

For Other Baptist pilgrims, the journey is about practices, not just principles; convictions, not merely concepts; communion, not individualism. (p.209)

Other Baptists understand that they are priests to one another by participating as ministers in the priestly ministry of Jesus Christ, the mediator of the new covenant. (p.223)

Other Baptists believe that embracing a greater sense of catholicity offers hope of being sustained in the ecclesial pilgrimage through the wilderness of life after Christendom. (p.257)

Other Baptists must see to it that there is enough catholicity existing among them to be recognized by Christians within the wider church. (p.258)

Other Baptists can with expectant hope offer this prayer:

            O Father, Son, and Spirit, send us increase from above;
            Enlarge, expand all Christian souls to comprehend thy love;
            and make us to go on to know with nobler powers conferred;
            The Lord hath yet more light and truth to break forth from his Word.

Other Baptists … [seek] to move from a theology of simple faith, private devotion, obligatory ordinance, real absence, and mere symbol to a theology of sacramental participation, common prayer, life-giving practice, real presence, and powerful signs. (p.338)

Other Baptists are prepared to see infant baptism as a form of baptism derived from the norm of believer’s baptism, while only practicing the normative form in their own communities. (p.373)

Other Baptists seek a way forward that enables their churches to “accept into full membership all confirmed Christians, who present themselves for membership, without requiring a second baptism. This is the constraint of catholicity and it is a constraint Other Baptists freely embrace. (p.383)

To their brothers and sisters in the wider church, Other Baptists can only attest that catholicity is not an option. It is the only reality. For either Baptists churches are expressions of the church catholic or they are not the church at all. (p.390)

Beverly Gaventa on being taught by J. Louis Martyn

On the news that J. Louis Martyn has died. Here are some words written by one his former students Beverly Gaventa (in an article from 2005):

My introduction to Lou came during my second semester, when I enrolled in his exegesis class on Romans. To tell the truth, I took that course solely because it fulfilled a graduation requirement. My interest in biblical studies at the time was roughly the equivalent of my current interest in professional football. By the end of the semester, I was studying the course offerings for the following year with an eye to 1 Corinthians and the Gospel of John, not to mention digging out my abandoned under- graduate Greek textbook. To say that I experienced a change of mind is too little. I was grabbed by the text, and it would not let me go. More than 30 years later it still will not let me go.

What happened? I saw exegesis in the making. Lou would come into the classroom, sit down at the end of the table of maybe 15 students, and pull out from his briefcase a Greek New Testament, held together by layers of electrical tape, along with a file of handwritten notes. Discussion would begin. His attention was unabashedly riveted to the text—to every letter and each nuance. 


In those early years of coming to know J. Louis Martyn, I do not remember an occasion when he spoke directly of his own personal commitment to the Word witnessed to in the words we were studying. He did not need to: his careful, disciplined attention spoke eloquently to the importance of the text for his own being. I also do not remember an occasion when I wondered about his faith. It did not seem to me possible that the concentration with which he read the lines of Romans or the intensity with which he listened to fumbling voices could be consistent with anything other than a living faith. His eyes and his ears told the whole of the story. Faith was not so much something to be uttered as it was something enacted in our classroom in bodily form. 

Beverly Gaventa, 'Attentive to the Text', Christian Century (22nd February 2005)

A Wedding Sermon

A Sermon for the Marriage of Matt Belcher and Aimee Gilroy
23rd May 2015

People often say your wedding day is the happiest day of your lives.*
Matt and Aimee, I hope this isn’t.
Weddings take a lot of planning and they cost a fair bit of money
and they require dressing up on a scale that is rarely repeated again,
and getting married is not something you do every day of your lives,
hopefully you only do it once.
So we might lean towards saying a wedding day should be the happiest day of a couple’s life.
Certainly our culture, including the church, puts a lot of energy into encouraging people to find the perfect partner, Mr or Mrs Right
and arriving at a wedding day can have taken a lot of heart ache on the way,
a lot of soul-searching and questioning, do I really love him or her?
and so it might be quite right to say a wedding day should be the happiest day of your life,
but as I said, Matt and Aimee, I hope it isn’t.
I hope this is a great day, I hope it is a wonderful and happy day,
yet I hope it isn’t the happiest day of your lives.
Let me suggest why.

I don’t want it to be the happiest day of your life
because it is to buy into the view that getting married is the end of the journey rather than its beginning.
How many Hollywood films, end with a wedding, as if that is the climax to the relationship, as if happily ever after now follows,
as if this is where the story ends.
What a sad view of happiness if the wedding day is the best it gets.

I don’t want it be the happiest day of your life
because that is also to buy into the view that once you’re married it’s all down hill from here.
Think now of the Hollywood films that begin in wedded bliss,
but end in acrimony.
The suggestion is that happiness doesn’t last,
that marriage ends up been the source of unhappiness,
as if to say enjoy today because it ain’t going to last.

Two views – one sickly romantic, the other deeply cynical.
That’s what you’re up against.

Let me suggest
a wedding doesn’t make a marriage,
a lifetime makes a marriage.
The vows made today will declare you are married,
but the months and years that follow will be evidence that these vows are more than mere words.
It doesn’t matter how you got here,
it matters where you will go from here.
My hope is that happiest days are still to come,
that in the vows you are making,
in the blessing of your relationship,
you are creating something that will last more than one day,
and that will weather the difficult days,
that will become an alternative to the Hollywood version.

Which brings me to my second reason for saying this is not your happiest day.
The Bible doesn’t provide many specific readings for a wedding,
unless you want to choose something from Song of Songs.
Most of the Bible readings people choose for a wedding day are not about what it is to be husband and wife,
but what it is to be a member of the church.
The two readings we have heard from the letters of Philippians and 1 John are no different.

What this means, I suggest,
is that for those who are Christians
being married is not something separate from being part of the church.
Your being part of the church takes priority over being married,
your happiest day, if there can be such a thing,
should be your baptism day,
for in your baptism you discovered that God’s love for us comes first.
So while you might think that your getting married is
because a decision you’ve made together for love,
the church is expecting you to be good witnesses, both inside and outside the church,
of what love after God looks like.
It says in the bible reading from 1 John three times that we should love one another, and this doesn’t mean you should love each other because you’re husband and wife,
but because you’re Christians.
Jesus’ command ‘to love one another’ even applies if you’re married!**

Marriage for those who are Christians is a vocation,***
a vocation in how to love.
You have not been asked ‘do you love each other’, but will you love each other.
Loving each other today is hopefully fairly easy, but the vows you are making are to love each tomorrow, next year, until the end of your lives.
Love is as much the fruit of marriage as its cause.

Marriage is a vocation in how to speak truthfully.
In the vows you are about to make,
you are making possible honest speech.
When a relationship is fragile, sometimes lying feels necessary to sustain it,
but for those who are married,
you can take the risk to speak honestly,
you can be free to speak truthfully,
for you are about to say to one another
for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health, in other words, whatever happens,
you will love and cherish each other.

Marriage is also a vocation in faithfulness.
You are saying today that for the next 10, 20, 50 years or whenever death parts you
you are committed to each other.
No other commitment that you will make in life
is similar, other than the promise at your baptism.
At your baptism, God says I love you,
and I will never leave you or forsake you;
marriage reflects that love and commitment.
This is what makes marriage a risk, a joy, an adventure,
and flipping hard work,
because in too many ways that can be grasped,
you have no idea what you are doing today.
You will change and grow,
and life around you will affect you,
and what will hold you together is the love of God declared to you in baptism,
and the promise you are making to be faithful,
and the rest of us here who are your witnesses today.

Today is a happy day, a joyful day,
it is a day that recognises there are happy days still to come.
For Aimee and Matt you are beginning the adventure that is marriage.
Today is a happy day, a joyful day,
it is a day when the church says we expect you to help us
show what love looks like, what truth sounds like and what faithfulness is to watching world,
a love, a truth and faithfulness already given by God in Jesus
and whom we seek to follow.
Today is a happy day, a joyful day,
and I’ve said more than enough, Amen.


* I owe the line of thought in this sermon to Kim Fabricius' Ten Propositions on Marriage, especially proposition 2.

** This line is from Stanley Hauerwas.

*** This section on vocation is inspired by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, The Truth About God: The Ten Commandments in Christian Life (Abingdon, 1999), pp.98-100