By Carl Stagner
At first, there were just a few. Then seven couples wanted to participate. Finally, there were thirteen participating couples at the modest-sized country church in Nebraska, Indiana. On Valentine’s Day 2016, the Church of God at Nebraska, Indiana, took intentional steps to publicly honor the sacred institution of marriage in a culture that increasingly does the opposite. As a part of their worship service, a remarkable thirteen couples—from seven years to fifty-nine years married—renewed their wedding vows. The unique service not only reaffirmed each couple’s love for each other, but also made a few dreams come true, as well.
The couple married fifty-nine years reflected back on their early years, and though they were delighted to come together in holy matrimony, they were unable to have a wedding reception. Fifty-nine years later, the Church of God at Nebraska gave them the reception they never had—complete with a wedding cake!
Another dream-come-true centered on a pair of lavender gloves. Her wedding day was fast-approaching, but all the bride could afford was one or the other—the lavender shoes or the lavender gloves. She so desperately wanted those lavender gloves, too, but the money simply wasn’t there. On Valentine’s Day 2016, the Church of God at Nebraska made it possible for her to wear those lavender gloves as she renewed her vows to her husband.
“I am not a crier,” Pastor Todd St. John explains, “But I was standing next to couples when they renewed their vows, and it almost brought me to tears. When I said to one of the husbands, ‘Will you reaffirm your marriage until death do you part?’ He looked at his wife and said, ‘It has always been my privilege to do so.’ To see so many express their love was powerful for me. I also heard a younger couple ask one of the older couples what the secret to their lifelong marital bliss was. They said that they hold hands everywhere they go. That also tugged at my heartstrings.”
Pastor Todd encourages other married couples to consider the value of renewing marriage vows. “I feel like a lot of people become complacent. I work construction all the time. You’re always working with the same machine, doing the same tasks day in and day out. People are married so long they can become complacent, too. The romance goes out. They don’t communicate like they once did. This, however, is a fresh start.”
Todd’s wife Delora sang a love song she wrote as part of the service, and Todd delivered a sermon that expounded upon the classic text from 1 Corinthians 13. His prayer is that the couples that renewed their vows, as well as those who watched from their seats, wouldn’t forget the lessons of such a special day. “Marriage is a covenant,” Pastor Todd explains. “It’s not about what our government says. It’s what God says—one man and one woman in holy matrimony. I wanted our people to grasp the holy aspect, and be reminded of the importance of putting God first in everything, including marriage. There’s more to the Christian life than just getting saved. There’s more to getting married than just getting married. That’s just where it all starts.”
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