I have a daughter who is evidently allergic to Valentine’s Day. Also to paper hearts (her desire to be a cardiologist notwithstanding), glitter, mushiness, most candies, and anything in pink.
Privately I have to admit she has a point — the whole secular holiday of Valentines does seem to be much of a muchness, and most of that muchness seems to be about selling a very commercial idea of romance.
So why are we holding a renewal of marriage vows on the eve of St Valentine’s Day?
Well for one, I rather think that our Christian faith has something very important to say about Love. A love which is both greater and more simply real than any pink glitter’d heart can contain. (I’m sure glitter’d is in a poem by Donne. Or was it George Herbert?).
But Christianity also has something important to say about Marriage. Marriage is not just something between one man and one woman: Marriage is also between a married couple and their community of faith. Marriage is between God and all of God’s people. Marriage is an icon by which we understand Christ’s faithfulness and through which we better understand both the hope and the struggle of his Church. After a couple of difficult years of maintaining relationships through lockdown, pandemic, home schooling and uncertainty, we really need to remember that we are not alone in our relationships, and that relationship takes renewal.
Marriage isn’t just for married people. The pink hearts and glitter might be just the thing for a couple, and romantic dates (whether you’ve just met or have been married for years) are usually best at a table alone, just the two of you. But marriage is about community.
And that’s why at Sunday’s 4pm renewal of marriage vows, the first promise I’ll be asking won’t be just to the married couples, but to the whole congregation:
In this church community, in your workplaces, your neighbourhood and families, there are couples in need of your prayer and support.
Will you seek out, support and uphold them, in their marriage now and in the years to come?
We will, with God’s help.