Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wedding Sermon V

The House of Wisdom

Proverbs 9
 1 Wisdom has built her house;
       she has hewn out its seven pillars.
 2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;
       she has also set her table.
 3 She has sent out her maids, and she calls
       from the highest point of the city.
 4 "Let all who are simple come in here!"
       she says to those who lack judgment.
 5 "Come, eat my food
       and drink the wine I have mixed.
 6 Leave your simple ways and you will live;
       walk in the way of understanding.

It is a joy and an honor today to speak at the wedding ceremony of L and M. I have known them since my days as a youth and I am happy to see them step forth onto a new phase in life. L and I go way back. He was my very first bass student back in the days when I was figuring out bass for myself. And because he had me as his teacher, I knew even then back in those days that he was obviously not very good in selecting guidance. Yet, we find him today, a mature and respectable young man with a promising future. How can this be? Since I am speaking on Proverbs today, I believe there is a saying that goes: behind every successful man… … I’m sorry, my memory is failing me these days. But thankfully, we now have the ever reliable internet to inform us on matters big and small.

These are my online findings. Apparently, there are various ways to end the saying. There is a thought-provoking one: Behind every successful man, there are a lot of unsuccessful years. That coincides with Proverbs 14:23 “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk only leads to poverty.” That’s one way to end the saying. There is also a sad one. Behind every successful man is a woman – who keeps asking him when he will come home for dinner. This reflects the cost of success in a global city life. I found a funny one that says: Behind every successful man stands a woman and the IRS, or in the Singapore context, the IRAS. One takes the credit, the other takes the cash. But the one that tops them all is the quote from ex-American Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. He says, “Behind every successful man stands a surprised mother-in-law.”

The saying I’m actually looking for is of course, behind every successful man is a woman. M is a wonderful influence in the lives of those around her, and I think L is a living testimony of that truth. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson from the movie As Good As it Gets, she has a quality that makes you want to be a better person. So I asked myself, what can we expect from the union of these two wonderful people? They have battled through the years of discipleship in Jubilee and the test of a lengthy period of dating. I think that there is much that they can offer as spiritual leaders to the youths under their charge and also as forerunners being one of the earliest among their peers to be married. And therefore L and M, this is why I have chosen today’s passage on Wisdom as a vision for what your marriage should exemplify.

I understand that you have not bought your own place to stay. But where HDB has failed you, I can alleviate the situation for you. I will now give you some pointers on how to build a house. First, make sure you have your seven pillars for the house. These seven pillars represent completeness and stability. Getting these seven pillars will not be easy. Though you have come a long way, you have to continue your commitment so that what you build has strength and character. There will be some lousy contractors out there that are undisciplined and without knowledge (9:13). They will tell you to take the easy way out by using lousy materials. They use tiles known as "assume too much" and bricks that are called "take things for granted". They will corrode the house that you are building. The last time I tried this tile called "assume too much", my bedroom got drenched with spousal unhappiness mildew and I had to sleep on the couch for a week. Many in the world also give bad advice, “Stolen water is sweet; food eat in secret is delicious!” (9:17) Tiger Woods used some of this advice and last I heard his house is splitting into two. The reality is often “Garbage in-Garbage out”. If you do not take time and effort to put good stuff into your house, time will show that your house will be unsafe to live in.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” (14:1) You can decide for yourselves which seven pillars you want for your house. A pillar of family ties, a pillar of brothers and sisters in Christ, a pillar of spiritual understanding, a pillar of mutual service and so on. The bottom-line is that a house with seven pillars indicates that you want it to be a magnificent and solid construction. And I hope this is the proud display that you will show to those whom you can influence. It is a house that can weather storms and quakes. It is a house that is a labor of love. It is a house that others can take refuge in.

Though we can see that such a house would be a comforting and secure place to live in, the purpose of building this house is not only for your private enjoyment. As members who have benefited much from this community, I hope that you also have the generosity to share this place with others eager to learn. But you can tell that it takes time to prepare. The house of Wisdom is a busy one when it invites others into its place. It needs to cook the food, to set the table and send out the messengers. (9:2-3) It is preparing a sumptuous feast. To do likewise will take sacrifice on your part. You have to bear the fruits of a healthy relationship, like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22). These are good things people can partake in. But without this diligent preparation, you will only have dubious things to offer. Those who eat at the house of Folly die of malnutrition or food poisoning.

The writers of Proverbs are wise because they know from the observation of life that the Lord has placed his laws into the world. There are right things to do and right decisions to make that will lead to a rewarding life. Scoffers and mockers who despise the will of God suffer at their own peril. L and M, let your marriage be a positive sign to others. Through the way you conduct your marital relationship, you show that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (9:10)

In the world today, there are many voices out there each claiming to be the voice of truth. As a pastor, I have reasons to be concerned about the future of our youth. It brings great joy to me to see L and M, beloved youth cell leaders, now joining the ranks of those giving a good testimony to Christian marriage. Let this be a marriage that treasures faithfulness, romance and above all a deep relationship with God. I will pray for you that the rich blessings of our Heavenly Father be upon you and indeed this house that you build be a bountiful blessing to those who follow.

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