(We were not able to celebrate our 50th because of Covid so this Sunday we are reminding ourselves and the church of what it takes to go the distance.)
Verle and Lois Bell would like to celebrate God’s ability to, not only, begin a good work but, also, to perform it until the end.
Almost 52 years ago, on November 27, 1970, Lois Bishop and Verle Bell, by God’s grace, made a promise to each other.
They promised to focus on and love God and then each other more than on: work, family, hobbies, sports, and even ministry and any other relationship.
This promise was to hold true in sickness and in health, in poverty or prosperity, for better or for worse.
Of course, they were in love and the promise seemed an easy one to keep.
However, they knew that there would be ups and downs and only by God’s grace and power could they go the distance. So, they did not base their promises on their own strength or on personal righteousness, but rather on their belief in God’s capacity to see them through.
Before committing to each other, they both had given their lives to God as their Savior. Verle was saved at age 5 and Lois at 13. Jesus had already been their life’s companion and their Lord. They believed God was joining them to each other and that by drawing closer and closer to the Lord Jesus Christ, he would then knit them closer and closer to each other.
Their promises have been tested both by sickness and by health, both by financial struggles and by wellbeing, by the difficulties of raising children, by frustrations with the body of Christ, by patterns left over from their childhood traumas and by struggles with the temptations of this world. But in all these things they were more than conquerors through Christ who love them and gave himself for them. When they were weak, then they were strong, for God’s strength was made perfect in their abundant weakness. So, they decided, “to glory in their weakness, that Gods’ treasure might be obvious to others, seeing Gods’ beauty in their earthen vessels.”
They believed that marriage was the first thing God ordained to show us how to be in relationship with each other and with him. They believed that the promises they made were “no matter what covenants” and not just preferences. That these promises were not based on either their own strength or the other persons’ doing their fair share. It was not a 50-50 arrangement but in all or nothing commitment. They believed that to make a promise to God and then say, “whoops, that was a mistake,” was not an option.
They have found that marriage has been God’s way of helping them grow closer to him and to each other, Gods’ way of refining them, that he might eventually present them to himself, perfect and without spot or blemish. In marriage they learned to experience what it means to be married to Christ as his bride, to spend themselves for each other as Christ did for them.
They wish to glorify God’s sustaining power, and, trusting that God will finish what he has started, they give each-other tokens that the original promises have only gotten stronger and deeper.
Lois, I gave you this ring to remind you that you are loved, through me, by God’s endless perfect love.
Verle, I give you this ring to remind you that you are loved, through me, by God’s endless perfect love.