We look at good words from the Jewish Torah for this non-Lectionary possibility for a wedding reading:
For the LORD, your God, is bringing you into a good country,
a land with streams of water,
with springs and fountains
welling up in the hills and valleys,
a land of wheat and barley,
of vines and fig trees and pomegranates,
of olive trees and of honey,
a land where you will always have bread
and where you will lack nothing,
a land whose stones contain iron
and in whose hills you can mine copper.
The table, as it were, is set. The ancient Israelites experienced grace and blessings from God. At the end of slavery and wilderness wandering, was a place they could call home, a land of natural resources and a potential for a life of plenty.
Why would I suggest such a reading? In part because I think that for many people, the single life is very much a time of unsettled wandering. The union of two lovers often accompanies the commencement into adult life: graduation from college, first jobs, first home–the life events that happen with a marriage of twenty-somethings. For many couples, economic security they’ve only known as children is now at their hands. There is also the emotional richness of marriages after a significant period of the single life–years that may include a sense of loneliness and longing.
For a couple that is successful in material possessions, these words ring as a caution:
But when you have eaten and are satisfied,
you must bless the LORD, your God,
for the good land he has given you.
Be careful not to forget the LORD, your God,
by failing to keep his commandments
and ordinances and statutes
which I enjoin on you today:
lest, when you have eaten and are satisfied,
and have built fine houses and lived in them,
and your herds and flocks have increased,
your silver and gold has increased,
and all your property has increased,
you then become haughty of heart
and forget the LORD, your God.
Otherwise, you might say in your heart,
“It is my own power
and the strength of my own hand
that has got me this wealth.”
Remember then the LORD, your God,
for he is the one who gives you the power to get wealth,
by fulfilling, as he has now done,
the covenant he swore to your ancestors.
Moses was speaking to his people, urging them not to get too proud over their achievements. As a metaphor for marriage, the caution is well-taken. Many of us might pride ourselves on pursuing and winning a beloved. Instead of power and strength, it may be charm and good looks. Many cultures, modern and ancient, looked favorably on the achievement of gaining a spouse. And when the wife or husband was no longer the beauty, the breadwinner, or the polite and companionable partner, then the spouse could be discarded like a possession.
The metaphor of the Israelites in the promised land strikes me as apt for the marriage. It is God who is part of a sacramental covenant. It is God who has made us the way we are, to “fit” with another person the way they are. If we try to maintain a relationship based on our own strength, we may well fail. Not only when our strength fails, but when we lose our chemistry, our sobriety, our youth, our wealth, our good moods, our job, our good cheer, our social status, or anything in which we might take pride.
On second thought, maybe this isn’t the best reading for a wedding day. But if a couple were to choose it and take it seriously, I’d think they’d have a better chance than most for a fruitful union.