Weeding and welding

Sermon preached at the wedding of Clare Brinton, unspecified church in Fleet, Hampshire, 12 August 2000

It is not only the Guardian that has a monopoly on this phenomenon. Of late, it has undertaken to publish corrections to its typing errors and omissions of information.

There is a long history behind this. The parish magazine is a great example. All articles of this nature appear to have been composed by the willing soul, Miss Print.

A recent example:

At last Sunday’s baptism, the children were christened as Kate and Sidney, and not Steak and Kidney as in the magazine. Also we apologise to the couples in the two marriages last week. We mentioned that there was a “weeding” and a “welding” in our parish church, rather than a “wedding”.

This, in fact, is a fortuitous mistake of Miss Print.

At a marriage this double process is vital at its outset.

Let’s take the first. The Weeding.

Every individual comes to marriage with a particular history, a particular insight, and I’m sure many imperfections. That’s why the weeding is important. It won’t happen overnight. Each day you may find in your individual ways things that annoy you; but also things that give you, by surprise, unexpected delights from the other.

He likes old cowboy films, she insists on two sugars in the coffee. They both hate children wearing jewellery – OK, these are individual prejudices – but each of these occasions are sharp reminders that you don’t marry a carbon copy of yourself, but an unique individual; and that from your union comes a special blend that could not have existed without your joint and willing co-operation.

Yes, you will have arguments – some call them “hitherto undisclosed extended parameters” – just another way of saying, “where are you coming from?”, “I didn’t know you felt like that”. I just call these ‘weeding’. Marriage is an adventure of discovery, mostly one of delight. When you get caught out, then that is a test of trust and commitment.

But after the weeding comes the welding. I don’t mean a non-distinguished amalgam of parts. Each is unique, each is distinct, but thereby the production of a new creation.

D. H. Lawrence in The Rainbow writes:

…it seems to me that a married couple make one angel… and an angel’s got to be more than a human being. So I say an angel is a woman and a man as a soul in one, they rise united at the Judgement Day.

But there is also a blessing and a warning from Kahlil Gibran, who says:

Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it be rather as a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from the same cup… Like the pillars of the Temple stand apart, and the oak and cypress grow not in each other’s shade.

I like the ‘arch’ imagery. It recognises the tall, straight, individual history from which you grew before you met. It recognises too the curving at the height of the pillar, as you come to be joined in the service and thereafter.

When Christine and I were sanding the stairs we were exhausted, and had to lean on each other to remain upright. Please buy a bungalow and you may be spared that dilemma.

But leaning on each other is what prayer is about. That is both the secret and public cement that builds a marriage. Not merely words voiced, but that willing exchange you have between each other which is offered to God’s blessing and re-charging.

God is greater than anything we can perceive, but through his Son, Jesus, he has made him eternally accessible. Make that the prime source, in whatever way you feel you can access it. It has weeding and welding and wedding intimately involved,

“for only the hand of life can contain your hearts”

and present you both faultless on the last Day.

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