WBB, Marriage and Faithfulness

Title: WBB, Marriage and Faithfulness
Location: Wycliffe College Chapel

Dear WBB friends:

Forgive me for offering a “sermon before the sermon” this week. I know that this is a little long.

It seems that this is the season for weddings in and around the WBB community. Last week we prayed for Bethany Osborne and Ed Miedema and this week we will bless Melissa Graham and Dave Burke.

Now let me candidly admit that I don’t know the “secret” to keeping a marriage healthy. I have no “four easy steps” to marital bliss. In fact, it seems to me that there are no recipes for this stuff and there certainly are no guarantees. So my word to folks entering into marriage is to try to get the starry eyed romantic look off of your face as soon as possible because this business of being married is hard work.

Having said that, however, there is maybe one thing that I’ve come to learn. Okay, let’s be honest, I haven’t really learned this at all, at least not positively. What I am about to say I know to be true through repeated and painful error – a via negativa, if you will.

Here’s the one bit of wisdom that I have to offer to folks entering into marriage: Don’t keep score.

That’s really it. Don’t keep score. Don’t keep score of what your partner does that pisses you off. And don’t keep score of all the good stuff that you figure that you do in this relationship.

Simple stuff. Don’t keep score of how often you do the dishes or cook. Don’t keep score on who takes out the garbage.

More difficult stuff. Don’t keep score of how often your partner says something that hurts you deeply. And don’t keep score of how often you deliberately and selflessly engage in acts of kindness toward your partner. And vice versa.

Or to use Paul’s language in Romans 4, be careful about how you do your “reckoning.” It is a curious word and is used some nine times in the chapter. And while I reckon that most of us do not use this word very often, pretty much all of the translators stick with it. Reckoning is an accounting term and it simply means “to count.”

What will we “count”? What will we add up?

Well the good news according to Paul is that in God’s grace and forgiveness he does not count our sins. He doesn’t have a big ledger book in the sky with all of our sins tallied up.

As Bono once said, that kind  of reckoning is karma. And if karma is true than we are “all fucked.” (I quote!)

God doesn’t keep score like that.

No, when God does his “reckoning” the only issue at hand is faithfulness.

When God puts right what has been so terribly wrong in our lives, in our marriages, in our politics and economics, in all of creation, then that putting things right, that righteousness, all hangs on faithfulness. God’s faithfulness. God’s keeping covenant manifest in the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And God’s faithfulness is what engenders our faithfulness, our covenant keeping in grateful response.

That’s what Abraham is all about. Paul says that the only thing that God reckoned in relation to Abraham, the only thing that “counted,” was his faithfulness. He believed the covenant promised and acted faithfully in response to that promise.

Now some of you might be thinking that there is a lot more to the Abraham story than this. I mean the guy is not always a paragon of covenant faithfulness, is he? But Paul is saying that his failings are not a part of the reckoning that really counts. What counts is that he believed in the promises of God, even when all of the evidence suggested that such a belief was naïve and hopeless.

That brings me back to marriage.

Why should we avoid “keeping score”? Because when it comes right down to it, marriage is all about faithfulness. What is “reckoned as righteousness,” what sets things right in all of our relationships, marriage included, is faithfulness. A faithfulness to God’s covenant – the covenant of marriage, but also the covenant that God makes with all of creation in order to set things right that have become so terribly wrong – is at the very heart of a life that might be reckoned as “right,” as “righteous,” as fulfilling God’s call to justice in all of life.

And here’s the gospel, my friends: “it all depends on faithfulness so that the promise may rest on grace.” It all hangs on grace. Faithfulness is a response to grace, a response to a promise made, a covenant offered.

Back to Bono. “Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.”

Back to marriage. Don’t keep score. Rather, keep covenant.

And if somehow in the brokenness of our lives, the pettiness of our self-interest, the neurosis of our needs, we find healing, righteousness and beauty in our relationships – including our relationships of covenantal intimacy – then, my friends, it will be a matter of grace. Surprising grace. Amazing grace. Homemaking grace.

Wine Before Breakfast Tuesday @ 7.22am Wycliffe College Chapel

Our very own Chelsy Stevens will be celebrating the Eucharist with us. The band has a fair bit of Bruce Cockburn lined up. And I’ll be preaching (as if I haven’t already done that this morning).

Hope to see you tomorrow morning.


Start Time: 07:22
Date: 2009-10-20

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