Wedding Homily Nick and Ashley
“Look how far we’ve come.” “It’s been a long, bumpy road.” “We can’t turn back now.” “We’re at a crossroads.” “We may have to go our separate ways.” “The relationship isn’t going anywhere.” “We’re spinning our wheels.” “Our relationship is off the track.” “The marriage is on the rocks.” “We may have to bail out of this relationship.”
All these expressions and many more like them assume a popular picture of love and marriage—love is a journey. The metaphor has been further elaborated: “The lovers are travelers on a journey together, with their common life goals seen as destinations to be reached. The relationship is their vehicle, and it allows them to pursue those common goals together. The relationship is seen as fulfilling its purpose as long as it allows them to make progress toward their common goals. The journey isn’t easy. There are impediments, and there are places (crossroads) where a decision has to be made about which direction to go in and whether to keep traveling together.”
Metaphors such as “Love is a journey” are often dismissed as unnecessary window dressing. When we want to communicate clearly, we speak literally. But when we want to write poetry, compose a speech, or prepare a wedding sermon, we grasp for analogies, images, and metaphors. Metaphor is sauce to tasteless food; it adds flavor, but the food is food regardless. But that view is completely wrong. Our language is shot through with metaphor, even when—especially when—we think we are speaking literally. Metaphor is an irreducible element in our speech.
And this is not only the case in our language; metaphors and images are irreducible elements in our thoughts, plans, and actions. Metaphors motivate us and shape our lives. Images provoke and discipline our desires because they fuel and energize imagination. When we say, “Love is a journey,” we are not merely connecting two realms of life. We are identifying certain important features of love: love takes time, love develops and moves, love seeks certain ends or goals. This metaphor tells us what to expect in marriage—that not every road is equally smooth, that at times we will have to slog uphill and at other times we can coast, and that some marriages run out of gas or crash and burn before reaching their destination.
Joel and Jordan, as you enter into a marriage covenant today, it is worth pondering this question: What metaphors and images should shape your expectations, hopes, dreams, and actions in marriage?
According to Scripture, marriage is fundamentally metaphorical. The very essence of marriage is to be a picture of something else: the union of Jesus Christ and His church. There are many other images of marriage in Scripture as well, but this evening we’ll examine only one of these. Proverbs 9 uses one of the most common biblical metaphors for love and marriage—the image of the banquet, the analogy of food. This is not the first time Solomon uses this metaphor in Proverbs. Throughout the first eight chapters, Solomon teaches his son about two women, Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly, both of whom seek the attention of the young prince. And throughout these chapters, Solomon frequently describes sex in terms of food, equates hunger with sexual desire, and renders an invitation to bed as an invitation to a table. Warning against the adulterous woman, he tells his son, “Drink water from your own cistern, and fresh water from your own well” (Prov. 5:15). In Proverbs 7, the seductress entices the foolish young man with promises of spices and drink: “I have sprinkled my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with caresses” (7:17–18). The young man goes off like an “ox to the slaughter” (7:22), and in her house of death the seductress devours him.
There are more positive uses of this metaphor as well. “Your love is better than wine,” says the bride of the Song of Songs (1:2), and later she describes her lover as an apple tree loaded with fruit (2:3, 5). And the man responds in kind: “Your lips, my bride, drip honey; honey and milk are under your tongue” (4:11), and he speaks of his bride as a garden full of “choice fruits” for her husband to taste and “eat” (4:13, 16).
But how is marriage, how is love, like a banquet? What kind of life does this metaphor imply? What does this metaphor teach us about marriage?
In Scripture the deep connection between food and marital love is the covenant. A covenant is a lifelong union between two persons. In marriage, this union is symbolized in many ways; for example, by the fact that husband and wife share a common name. Jordan came here today as Jordan Amos, but she will leave as Jordan Myers. That union is symbolized in Scripture with a common robe: “Spread your covering over your maid,” Ruth says to Boaz on the threshing floor (Ruth 3:9). That union is symbolized in the physical act of sex, uniting a man and woman quite unmetaphorically as one flesh. Food is also a symbol of union. In the Old Testament, there was an animal slaughtered for sacrifice, and when the worshipers all ate from it, they became one. In the New Testament, there is one loaf of bread, and we are all one body because we partake of the one loaf. Food, like marriage, binds two into one flesh and by one flesh. If marriage is a banquet, that means that you, Joel and Jordan, have become one flesh; you partake of a common table, a common plate, a common cup, and you are called to pursue an increasingly intimate union.
For humans at least, food is never simply for sustenance, never merely fuel for a biological machine. Food is also for delight; it brings pleasure. Scripture celebrates the abundance and variety of food that God has created. God offers every fruit-bearing tree to Adam and Eve, and He promises figs, grapes, pomegranates, and raisins to Israel. The Lord gives Israel a land flowing with milk and honey, and He requires that every sacrifice be seasoned with salt. At the temple, Israel feasts on beef, mutton, lamb, and varieties of bread, all washed down with strong drink. Joel and Jordan, since your marriage is a meal, you are called to take delight in one another, and to give delight to one another; you are called to taste and celebrate your distinct flavors, and you must never lose your taste for one another.
In Scripture, there are clean and unclean meats, foods permitted and forbidden. For Israel, unclean animals symbolized idolatrous nations, and avoiding unclean food reinforced Israel’s separateness and her exclusive devotion to Yahweh. Solomon makes the same point with his story of Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly. Both offer food, and choosing Wisdom’s table means renouncing the table of Folly. Joel and Jordan, by the vows you take today, you are declaring that you have chosen to feast only on each other, and that means every other table, every other banquet, is off limits. You are committing to sit at the same table together until death, and so you must resist any enticements to share in another feast. Here there is a difference between marriage and a banquet: Banquets are public and communal, while the feast of marriage is private and intimate. It is a table reserved for two.
Finally, at a banquet, food is shared. Only barbarians gorge themselves without concern for anyone else; civilized people restrain themselves and leave food on the tray for others. Bread is broken and passed from hand to hand, forming a circle of table “companions.” In the banquet of marriage, you are to share selflessly all that you are and all that you have. Your gifts and talents, your time and energies, your wealth and goods are food, which each of you freely puts at the other’s disposal. Joel, strive to turn everything the Lord places in your hands into food to nourish and sustain and give pleasure to Jordan; and Jordan, do the same. Feast on one another, and be diligent to prepare a continual feast for one another.
Today you begin the banquet of your marriage. May your marriage be full of variety and spice and surprise. Above all, strive to make your marriage banquet a banquet of wisdom, a marriage banquet founded on the true wisdom that comes from the fear of God. And, as the Lord blesses, may your table be like the table of Psalm 128: “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table. Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD” (vv. 3–4).
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.