Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
ELCIC congregations are welcome to republish this material in their church publications. Please acknowledge its original publication by including the credit line:
Canada Lutheran, Volume 21, Issue 5.
More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
Marriage ceremonies are considered a solemn rite in this church, but not a sacrament. Christ assumed marriage as a universal human phenomenon. Why, then, do our members speak of "Christian" marriage? I prefer to speak of the vocation of married Christians.
Baptism into Christ is a call to discipleship for Christians in marriage. My reference is St. Paul in his letters to the Galatians and the Ephesians.
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27–28 NRSV
Being clothed with Christ in baptism calls us to live with one another the way Christ lived with us. It is a standard for life-giving faithfulness based on Jesus' own cross-bearing attitude toward us.
. . . I beg you to live in a way that is worthy of the people God has chosen to be his own. All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God's people. We have only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Ephesians 4:1, 4–5 CEV
One standard applies to all human relationships. Paul uses the same standard to discuss husbands and wives; parents and children; employers and employees. All are to live toward the other as Christ lived toward them.
If it were up to me, I would base the marriage rite on our Affirmation of Baptism. The couple would join the congregation Sunday morning, making public confession of their faith. There would be prayers asking the Spirit to fill them with the gifts that make for living in Christ. They would be reminded of the promise made to them in baptism, and they would be asked to once more affirm their commitment to Christ:
You have made public profession of your faith.
Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism:
to live among God's faithful people;
to hear the word of God and share in the Lord's supper;
to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed;
to serve [your spouse], following the example of Jesus;
to strive for justice and peace in [your home]?
(Adapted from Holy Baptism and Related Rites © 2002 administered by Augsburg Fortress)
Marriage is one way of living the baptized life. In marriage, one particular human being can become a flesh and blood application of God's unconditional love to another particular human being. In marriage as in everything else, we are called to be In Mission for Others.
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, July/August 2006