Two weeks ago I began a new sermon series on marriage. Marriage is a difficult topic to address, simply because more private pain is held from marriage and parenting than any other aspect of our lives. We’re not comfortable talking about our family struggles, and that isolation leads us to errantly believe that we’re the only ones who struggle with our spouses and our kids. So when marriage is addressed, congregants tend to think the preacher is speaking directly to them. Nothing is farther from the truth.
With that in mind, here’s how I’ve approached this series. First, I opted to steer away from the rhetoric of Paul and Peter. While their instructions can be very helpful, they are served without the context of story. It’s like purchasing an item that requires assembly without diagrams and illustrations. Rather than lean on Paul and Peter, I chose to develop a series based on the stories of marriages in the Bible and called it Love Stories. I believed and still believe it would be helpful to study marriage our of the story of marriages.
Another benefit of this strategy is the value of authenticity that Scripture has when it communicates the narratives of biblical characters. God presents his characters “warts and all,” and that is true of the marriages that are depicted. None of them are perfect and each of them have their particular struggles.
The other decision I made about this series was that I would team teach it with my wife, Lisa, to provide a complete voice. As a man, I am influenced by my maleness which colors everything I say about marriage and family. This is one of the interpretive challenges that Paul and Peter have. We are led to believe Paul was single at the time of his writings, however, in order to have achieved the status of “Pharisee of Pharisees,” he would have had to have been married. We don’t know if Paul’s wife died or if their was an unfortunate divorce, but for what its worth, I believe he at one time had been married. We only know of Peter’s marital status because Jesus healed his mother in law from a fever (Matthew 8:14ff), but we know nothing else of his experience. The point is that Paul and Peter, even under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, give one perspective. To create a “whole voice,” Lisa agreed to share the platform with me for four weeks to preach these four sermons. It has been positive and helpful, and our congregation has been grateful for the color and insight she adds.
We have shared in the preparation as well as the presentation and have done our best to create balance and authenticity. I believe its been effective without becoming gimmick.