Do you remember your wedding vows? Perhaps you remember saying, “I do,” but do you remember what you agreed to when you said it? As a pastor, I get to stand with couples as they make vows to live as husband and wife “for as long as [they] both shall live.” For newlyweds this is a day of joy, celebration, and anticipation. The weightiness of their vows waits for the happy couple in their future. But I also walk with couples to the end of this vow through the valley the shadow of death. As joyful as it is to hear couples recite vows at their wedding, it is a pastor’s sacred privilege to observe vows faithfully discharged on a couple’s last day as husband and wife.
Not long ago, I sat with “June” at the bedside of her husband of sixty-nine years. As his earthly life was fading, she told me the story of their life together. It was a hard story. A life of challenges, setbacks, disappointments, sickness and some good times too. “How did you make it through?” I asked. Never looking up, she quoted without hesitation.
“For whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” Ruth 1:16-17
As she spoke, I was struck by the remarkable picture of faithfulness. That vow, so easily spoken seven decades earlier, had been faithfully kept through poverty and plenty, sickness and health, better and a great deal of worse. It was not merely promised. It was lived.
It is powerful to see vows made and kept, “so long as [they] both shall live.” Far too often it is a pastor’s grief to see vows made and broken. This kind of grief was what caused the weeping prophet, Jeremiah, to weep. Yes, he was sorry for the consequences of God’s judgement against his own people, family, and land, but much deeper than that, he grieved a marriage broken – a marriage between Christ and His Church.
Years before Jeremiah’s time, Moses stood before the people on the edge of the Promised Land and administered the wedding vows. The covenant was confirmed by the words of God, “I will be your God and you will be my people” – the language of a wedding in ancient Israel. But the covenant came with both promised blessings for faithfulness as well as threatened curses for unfaithfulness. Both to the blessings to the curses, Israel consented, declaring, “Amen, so let it be.”
But now in Jeremiah’s day, the marriage of the people to their God is faltering. The people have strayed. They have treated every other lover as a husband (Baal in Hebrew) and have despised their true husband. They have been unfaithful to their vows. In fact, they have forgotten their vows. The consequences, the curses, for their unfaithfulness are coming home to roost. The prophet reminds them, warns them, and points them back to the vows they had made so many years ago. And so he reminds us.
The life of a Christian is one of making and keeping vows to our beloved. Not in order to earn His love, but because He loves us. Christ’s love is what captivates us to live lives of grace and gratitude. This is what Jeremiah reminds the people as he pleads with them to turn away from being “turned away” and to turn back and follow Christ.
Join us this Sunday, October 6, as we consider the warning from Jeremiah to remember our first love and the vows we have made to belong wholly and only to Him. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.