Selah: Instructions For A Marriage – A Wedding Sermon

Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 67; 1 John 4:7-16; John 15:9-12

Sophie, Tyler, I am going to give you a word for your marriage and life together. It’s a Hebrew word. It’s used seventy-one times in the Book of Psalms. Selah.

Do you know that word? Selah. It’s used twice in the psalm you chose for this evening (Psalm 67). Scholars aren’t sure of its exact meaning or how to translate it. So, it’s often omitted from the psalms we read. And when it is included it’s not translated. It’s just selah, like we heard a few minutes ago. 

Most scholars, however, agree that it was an instruction to the musicians and singers of the psalms. They think it was an instruction to slow down, pause, pay attention, reflect, stop and listen, allow silence. It created a space or an opening. It’s not so much an interruption as it is a connection between what went before and what is coming next. And I think all that applies to your marriage. 

I hope you will carry selah with you every minute of every day, and that you will let it carry you. Make it a part of your lives. Weave it through the fabric of your marriage. Let it tie you to God and each other. Whisper it to one another like a lover’s code word — Selah.

On those days when life is full, complete, and more than you ever imagined it could be; when you discover that you are “more together” than you ever thought possible (Wendell Berry); when love is strong and passionate; when life seems too good to be true; when you experience your own or the other’s beauty; when you laugh until your belly hurts and tears roll down your cheeks; when life is abundant and you are filled with gratitude — Selah. 

On those days when life is difficult and bumpy; when you feel lost or confused; when feelings are hurt; when life asks more of you than you think can give; when you’re busy and missing each other; when your heart is breaking with sadness and grief; when you are scared and overwhelmed; when being married is the hardest work you’ve ever done — Selah.

And on those days when life takes you by surprise; when you get what you never expected or asked for; when you can’t foresee or know what’s ahead; when, for better or worse, the impossible happens — Selah.

Selah is: 

  • A pause to remember the beauty of creation, the wonder of life, the mystery of love, and the gift of your marriage;
  • A call to pay attention to each other and what really matters;
  • A slowing down to be present to life, one another, and God; 
  • A silence in which you listen and hear a different voice, a new voice; 
  • A space in which you say “Thank you,” or “I’m sorry,” or “I love you;”
  • An opening revealing an excess of love and the incompleteness of your marriage. 

Let me explain what I mean by the last one.* Your marriage will never be complete. This incompleteness, however, is not a deficiency, failure, or an imperfection. It is, rather, a testimony to the excess that is in each of you. It’s the promise of more to come. This incompleteness is not a hole to be filled but an openness to the future. 

And the future is always coming to you, always asking something of you, always bringing something to you. What that something is, I don’t know and neither do you. But I can tell you this, it is both beautiful and risky. So I give you that word again — Selah.

Selah recognizes the “beautiful risk” (Emanuel Levinas) inherent in life and love. That “beautiful risk” is at the heart of the vows you will make.

Your vow to love and cherish the other has no why behind it. Love is not an exchange or transaction with the other. Love has no because. There is no reason for loving the other. You love because you love, because you cannot not love. The only condition for your love is that it is unconditional and given in all conditions – for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. And that kind of love is beautiful and stunning. It’s the way God loves. 

And it’s also risky. You are vowing to love and cherish not only who the other is in this moment, or who you think he or she is, but also whomever he or she might become, even though that is unknown and unforeseeable. You are vowing to love and cherish not only in this moment and these circumstances but in the next moment and in whatever the circumstances might be, even though that is unknown and unforeseeable. You are vowing to love and cherish from this day forward come what may. 

And that risk does not tarnish or diminish the beauty of what you are doing. It only makes you, your vows, and your marriage all the more beautiful. 

In this beautiful risk you hold before us the image and likeness of God in which you were created. You show us what faith looks like. You inspire us with hope. You call us to take the beautiful risk in our own lives. You reveal the life and love of God. 

And now, in light of all that I’ve said, there is only one thing left to say and only one thing left to do. Selah, selah, selah.


*The ideas and some of the wording for the remainder of the sermon are inspired by John D. Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2007), 45.

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