Mike Cope's blog

Sunday, June 13, 2004

I'm not usually a manuscript person. But I was this time--just in case my emotionals started to take over. So here it is. (If you don't know our families, it will help in the first paragraph to know that Jordan just finished high school and Chris just finished elementary school.) Matt and Jenna, in many cultures of this world finding a mate isn’t nearly as hard. It’s pretty much all handled by the parents. This is one of those weddings when the end result would be the same either way. Matt, I know that Jim and Jody respect and love you–and would have chosen you as their daughter’s husband if it had been their decision. And Jenna, I think you know that Diane and I can’t imagine more joy at Matt’s selection of a life mate. We respect and love you. As Diane said last night at the rehearsal dinner, our little insider nickname when referring to you with each other or with our closest friends was “The Chosen One!” We love being around your whole family. In fact, Jordan, if you’ll just be really, really patient, we have another fine son on the way. You both bring lots of resources and a few challenges to this marriage. You have strengths of character and of family heritage that will help you. And, of course, you both bring some challenges–some personal and some you’ve inherited from family. E.g., Jenna, whenever you see Matt desperately searching for his keys or wallet or phone, you can smile and think fondly of your father-in-law, your grandmother-in-law, and a great-grandmother-in-law you never met. I don’t want to underestimate the strengths you bring to marriage. Jenna, you are a woman of joy, kindness, and deep commitment. Children are drawn to you like little magnets. When you smile, a whole room is lit up. And Matt, you are a man of courage, kindness, and deep commitment. Children are drawn to you as well. Through great joys and great grief God has molded you into an amazing young man whom I’m very proud of. And yet, my confidence in this union today isn’t based primarily on these strengths of character or family heritage. It is, rather, based on two evenings–one in the summer of 1996 and one in the summer of 1997. I’ll never forget July 25, 1996–not, primarily, because it was my 40th birthday, but because it was the day, Matt, that you, your Mom, and I got into your Papa and Grandma’s pool. Several of your family members listened to you boldly declare your faith and I baptized you. Then, one evening the next summer, Jenna, you were surrounded at Highland by 30-40 of the closest people in your life as your dad baptized you. Of course, faith and conversion are much more than those two moments. But that doesn’t diminish their significance! By joining Jesus in the public act of baptism, you allowed God to launch you on a journey that will last forever. And it will make all the difference in the world to your marriage. First, it’ll guide you because you determined that you would commit yourselves to the greatest commandment–to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. In doing that, it takes a lot of pressure off your relationship. You are free to love each other without expecting the other person to fill your life or make you happy. You are much less likely to try to squeeze more juice out of the marriage than it can give. You’ll know that it is the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, who fills you. It is the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, who guides you through the many destinations of your journey. Baptism also blesses your marriage because you were placed in a spiritual family with lots of brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts. Highland has been that most immediate family for both of you – Jenna, for 15 of your 22 years, and Matt, for 13 of your 22 years. Ironically, both of your dads have been ministers there. You’ve been surrounded by mature men and women–many of whom are here today–who have guided and chided you, loved and taught you, and modeled for you the way of Christ. No matter where you go–in Houston and after that–God will raise up for you another immediate spiritual family. Again, this takes a lot of pressure off marriage. You know that there are people to hold you up, encourage you, teach you, befriend you, and pray for you–just as you do all that for them. Another way your baptisms in the summers of ‘96 and ‘97 are important today is that you committed yourselves to the mission of the kingdom and the way of discipleship. In Jesus Christ, you’re learning to live with submission, courage, forgiveness, compassion, and love. You’re un-learning the ways of the world and being re-formed around the vision of the one who spoke these words: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Marriage will be a training camp where you can grow in these new ways of the kingdom. You’ll learn to bite your tongue, to apologize, and to forgive–even as God in Christ has forgiven you. You’ll discover the value of endurance–even on those days when marriage seems sluggish and hard. You’ll recall that in baptism you said you’d follow Jesus–the one who endured. Maybe the words of Hebrews will be echoing in your hearts during those times: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Years ago Paul Simon wrote a best-selling song about “50 ways to leave your lover.” But you, as baptized people, need only one reason to remain: because that’s love as you’ve learned it from Jesus Christ. Our dear friend, Landon Saunders, once wrote these words that still ring true: Marriage means a man and a woman looking deeply into each other’s eyes and saying, “I will never leave you. Others may come and go in your life but I never will. If you wrinkle, I will love you. If you fail, I will stay with you. If you get sick, I’ll feed you, bathe you, sit up with you–anything– except leave you. I will never leave you.” Of course, we could point out that Landon’s a lifelong bachelor. But sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective to see clearly! Your eight grandparents (who represent about 225 years of marriage), your four parents, Justin and Holly, Jordan, Chris, and all of these uncles and aunts and cousins and friends gather here today to add our blessing to this union. We believe that it will be a Spirit-led outpost for the good news of the kingdom of God–a safe place where children are loved, where spiritual family is welcomed, encouraged, and restored, where the poor and disadvantaged are received with God’s love, and where the gospel-formed way of living is modeled. Matt and Jenna, in the words of the Hebrews’ writer: “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in you what is pleasing in him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

6 Comments:

  • Mike,

    This makes me feel almost like I was able to be there for the wedding. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    ~Jenni Trietsch

    By Blogger Jenni, at 6/15/2004 11:55:00 AM  

  • I can't think of a more perfect blessing. Congratultaions (again) to all of you.

    By Blogger Q, at 6/15/2004 12:43:00 PM  

  • thanks, Mike! You didn't ahve to share all of that, but I am SO glad you did. I am so proud of Matt!

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 6/15/2004 12:53:00 PM  

  • Oh my, that's wonderful. Wonderful in two ways:

    First, it's wonderful because that is indeed an incredible blessing for your son and his wife. Many of us have never heard such words uttered out loud by our parents. What a remarkable gift for Matt and Jenna as they begin their life together.

    Second, it's wonderful because I am scheduled to perform a wedding the last weekend of this month, and you just gave me some great ideas to steal. :-)

    God bless you guys!

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 6/15/2004 04:25:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    Wow! What a "holy moment" we experienced being a part of Matt & Jenna's wedding. We were so amazed at the incredible heritage of faith and long, loving marriages represented by both families...that 225 years of marriage between the grandparents is an average of over 56 years each! We were further amazed at the reception to see great grandparents that had been married 45, 50, 60 plus years as well. What an incredible testimony! I join you in feeling that God has blessed you all in ways even greater than you could ask and imagine. Rob and I also pray fervently for the day the "chosen ones" enter our family and ask that He answers our prayers for our children as graciously as He did yours! Blessings to all of you!

    Cheryl Cunningham

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/15/2004 05:38:00 PM  

  • I had asked several people what you said at the wedding. Thanks so much for sharing. I still wish I could have been there, but I will say Baton Rouge was an interesting place to be. God Bless you Matt and Jenna. I wish you all the happiness. Mike, thanks again. I am so glad I was able to see a little part of the ceremony through your words. Love to you all. Nancy Kirk

    By Blogger Nancyk, at 6/16/2004 09:04:00 PM  

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