Friday 13 January 2017

I have chosen marriage as my subject this week.

The Catholic Archbishop of England and Wales once issued a pastoral letter which was read in all Catholic churches which challenged the government’s redefinition of marriage; as no one in authority within the Anglican Church has had the courage to do so, or perhaps because of a lack of belief in the (sole) traditional marriage definition, we should join our Catholic brothers and sisters and appreciate the Cardinal Archbishop’s act.

It is significant that the woman appointed by the government to examine the issue of community cohesion and integration attacked the CATHOLIC Church, not just the Church, for its homophobic attitude and its opposition to gay marriage when appearing before a Commons Committee.

Let us turn to some verses from the Old Testament in the book of Genesis, God said, ‘it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper for him. So the Lord God caused man to fall into a deep sleep. Then the Lord God made a woman and brought her to the man. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they shall become one flesh’

If you but a new car or electrical implement you are given a manual which tells you how to get the best of what you have got, a sensible person will abide by the manual. When God created the world He ordained marriage, He set out in His manual how we can have the best in that relationship, it is called the Bible.

I once attended a Church where the Minister refused to have the Old Testament read or preached upon as he considered it of no relevance. Our Lord constantly referred to the Old Testament, particularly when referring to marriage.

Let us turn then to the Scriptures where we read God having created the earth with all its elements and animals then created man. He then saw that man was lonely and loneliness can lead to depression. God saw that man needed a companion,

We are told the man was sleeping when God decided to make woman. So God gave woman as man’s helper, someone who can be at man’s side. who will give life more meaning, pleasure and support; someone to love and cherish. Matthew Henry wrote, ‘woman was made not out of man’s head to rule over him, not out of his foot to be trampled on, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, near to his heart to be loved’

Most men if honest would concede how their wife has been of much help. When I was a Vicar, Olive, my wife, attended every service I took, and not being one who liked the limelight, preferred to be amongst the congregation, where in fact she became very popular. People who wanted me to know something, but didn’t want to tell me directly, would use her as a communication, and I would be advised as to who needed attention and help, in addition of course to telling me what I shouldn’t have said.

The Bible states, ‘he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the Lord.’ God has now made two people, man and woman, Adam and Eve. He is an all powerful God and one who knows what He wants and what is best for His world. He could have made a Tom and Harry or a Margaret and Elsie, but He did not, just Adam and Eve.

God however gave us free will and if some people choose to take a different way, so be it; all of us will have to answer one day for all
of our actions.

We must accept that God knows best and when he wanted man to have a companion He made a woman as the perfect answer, someone who could complement man in every way, physically and mentally in a way other men could not, and men throughout the ages have appreciated and recognised this. God wanted to supply what was lacking in man’s life and together they could have children and create the ideal family. God planned the human heart to love, marry and have children, otherwise mankind would become extinct.

So we have two people, equal yet different, no question of superiority or inferiority. They were not meant to be identical, men are generally stronger physically, more aggressive, with a greater propensity for leadership, women softer in nature and sensitive and caring, specially equipped to be mothers, and usually live longer.

In the film ‘my fair lady’ Rex Harrison playing a professor of phonetics asks ‘why can’t a woman be like a man, and gets the answer, ‘because she wasn’t created to be’. We are a mixture that complements one another.

The Bible states a man should leave his parents and cleave to his wife. Cleave means glued together, so the two should grow in love through the years in an exclusive commitment. As they do so they share likes and dislikes, and whilst they will have different strengths and weaknesses, each will help the other. They will find they can know the other’s feelings and often anticipate what the other is thinking. They need to trust each other and have no secrets. The wife is now the one in the man’s life who takes precedence over all others.

Marriage today is under attack as never before and not seen as a lifelong commitment, divorce is easy and generally taken as acceptable. Jesus laid strictness on marriage but ruled divorce out. In Britain we have one of the lowest marriage rates in Europe but the highest number of divorces.

In the days of Henry Ford and the Model T, someone asked him to say what formula he attributed his successful marriage. He said, "The same formula as the making of a successful car: stick to one model."

Marriage is the bedrock of society, yet now long held beliefs are being challenged. Marriage lends stability to society and builds a framework which is held in high esteem. It is one of the most important aspects of our culture which no government has the right to redefine or diminish its value.

Jesus highly valued marriage and performed His first miracle at a wedding. One boy asked by his father what he learned at Sunday School, told the story of this wedding and his father asked him what that taught him. The boy answered, ‘if you are going to have a wedding make sure Jesus is there’. A much better answer than that of another boy who was asked did Prince and Cinderella live happily ever after said, ‘No they got married’

Marriage is a solid foundation for the bringing up of children, who are a key factor in God’s intention for marriage. I once remarked to a Jewish Rabbi that I had never known a Jewish boy (or girl) get into trouble for anti-social or violent behaviour. I asked him what he attributed this to and he said ‘the Jewish Mama, she keeps control of her family.’ I am sure that is true, but there are many Christian mamas too, perhaps not as many as hitherto.

Those of you in my generation will remember that women when they married did not usually go out to work, most in fact thought it their privilege to look after the home and children, which again is why there was nothing of the anti-social behaviour we now hear of and see.

When God’s plan for marriage is not followed there are so many failed ones. We need to return to the Biblical pattern where the secrets of a happy married life are laid out.

When two people appear together at Church for the wedding service, they pledge their faithfulness to each other and there is the giving of a ring(s). The ring has no break, no ending, signifying unending love. The ring is made of gold for precious and longevity.

I close with the words of Archbishop Nichols, ‘we have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations. What a wise man.

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