As I am working away on my own book, I am also consumed with thoughts of marriage and weddings and such. I mentioned yesterday that I had opportunity to read and consider Dr. Luther's "Order of Marriage," and that I might do some thinking out loud about that. It will probably end up being a multiple-post undertaking (though I can't compete with Susan!).
Asking what makes a Lutheran wedding, as various others have apparently been doing lately, can probably be approached and answered in a dozen or more different ways. Wait, how many Lutherans are there in the world? There may be about that many different responses.
If you look at Luther, the starting point is an understanding that marriage is governed not by the Church but by the civil authorities of this world. I suspect this perspective is tied up with the Lutheran definition of what is and isn't a "Sacrament." Marriage is not a Sacrament in the way that Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and the Holy Communion are. (Interestingly, Luther does at times use the Latin "sacramentum" in his discussions of marriage, from the Vulgate of Ephesians 5.) Holy Matrimony is a divine institution, established and governed by the Word of God, but it is administered throughout the world, also among the pagans and all the wicked, not only in the Church between Christians. The government is not free to redefine the substance of marriage, the union of a man and a woman. Yet, it does have the prerogative to determine the "matter and form" by which a marriage is contracted, as well as those things that fall under God's permissive will, for the sake of fewer and lesser evils, such as polygamy and divorce.
I've long been of the opinion that the Eastern Church has a better understanding of marriage as a divine work, as compared to the more anthropocentric view and approach of the Western Church (including Lutheranism). The East emphasizes that God is the One who joins a man and woman together in holy matrimony, whereas the West tends to view the bride and groom as the "celebrants" of this sacred mystery. I believe there is something to be learned from both sides. Luther's emphasis on the role of the government points us to God's authority in the Kingdom of Power, which He administers (for the benefit of His people) through multiple masks and earthly means. The long and short of it is, that Lutheran theology will recognize a wedding and a marriage according to the law of the land.
In Luther's "Order of Marriage," the legal wedding occurs on the steps outside the door of the Church. Then everyone proceeds inside to pray, praise and give thanks, to sanctify the couple and their marriage with God's Word and the preaching of it. I'm assuming, now, that this is why the LSB specifies that the marriage rite should occur at the beginning of the prayer office or Divine Service. I disagree with that rubric, as a matter of preference, but more on that later.
To start with, a Lutheran wedding is one that is administered according to the law of the land. That leaves to be answered a different sort of question: How does a Lutheran approach the sanctification and celebration of marriage with the Word of God and prayer? There is a great deal of freedom in this respect, but also degrees of appropriateness and liturgical decorum to be considered. I suppose that will be something to take up in a follow-up blog post.
Old Lutheran Quote of the Day
1 day ago