October 11 – ‘Til Death Do Us Part

You may have weddingseen the story last winter about the Connecticut couple who have been married for eighty years and were recognized as the “longest married couple” in the country. It’s a wonderful story and if you watch the video you will be amazed at the love and vitality of John and Ann Betar. As it turns out, and the story acknowledges as much, the Betars really don’t have the longest lasting marriage in the country. According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), the Betars are #15 on the worldwide list and only #9 on the U.S. list.

As the story goes, John and Ann married on November 25, 1932, having eloped because the marriage was contrary to Ann’s father’s wishes. Apparently a case of father not knowing best.

At 101 and 97, John and Ann have to know that ‘til death do us part can’t be too far away.

In the vows we use in the wedding liturgy from the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, the man and the woman promise to be loving and faithful in plenty and in want; in joy and in sorrow; in sickness and in health; “as long as we both shall live.”

The point of marriage, then, is not a world’s record for longevity, but love and faithfulness as long as both husband and wife are living. John and Ann Betar were married at age 21 and 17 respectively. Becky and I were 26 and 22. I don’t think we’re going to threaten the Betar’s longevity record. But we keep working on love and faith.

On Thursday evening, October 17 (the day after our anniversary), we will begin a six-week adult series, “’Til Death Do Us Part,” which will be a study of the Biblical witness and the Christian understanding of marriage. I am excited to be leading the class and about what we will learn together.

In case you’re wondering, the class will be rooted in the Bible and the ways people of faith have understood the Bible’s relatively few references to the nature and substance of marriage. It will not be:

  • A time for political fights. The definition of marriage is a hot button issue in our culture and our denomination. We won’t avoid the topic of same-sex marriage, but it is not our primary purpose in meeting.
  • A marriage enrichment time. Couples (attending together or not), singles, previously married and never married folk are all welcome. I hope that our understanding and appreciation of marriage will be enriched, but that is not our primary purpose in meeting.
  • A necessarily comfortable time for all in attendance. We will listen carefully for what the Bible and our tradition has said about marriage – marriage and Christian faith, marriage and divorce, marriage and gender roles. I know I won’t be comfortable with all we learn; you may not be either. My comfort in not our primary purpose in meeting. 

So, there are some things the class will not be, things that are not its primary purpose. Our primary purpose? To hear what the Word has to teach us about living lovingly and faithfully with our husband or wife as long as we both shall live.

If you make 80 years, good for you. If you make loving and faithful as long as you both shall live, blessings, indeed.