Thursday, 7 September 2006

A Wedding Sermon About What Love Is: for Daniel and Carrie Stotz

Friday, 01 September 2006

In the movie Forrest Gump, the character of the same name—a simple man by the world’s standards—says something like, “I may not be all that smart, but I know what love is.”

You’ve probably noticed that love is a bit of a theme running through this service so far. In fact we’ve heard the word at least a dozen times up to this point. And I’m pretty sure that none of us—including Carrie and Daniel (how can they be?)—are all that smart when it comes to marriage and relationships—it’s a bit of a mystery. But if we pay attention, this service and those passages from the Bible, will teach us something about what love is, how it applies to marriage and particularly to Daniel’s and Carrie’s new life together.

For example, on the opening page of the service, we heard that it is God’s purpose that Daniel and Carrie are giving themselves to each other in it. It is also God’s purpose that they shall grow together and be united in it and that they may know each other with delight and tenderness in acts of it. The passage from Mark reinforces the idea: “at the beginning of creation” we read, it was God’s purpose to make “‘them male [Daniel] and female [Carrie].’ For this reason a man [Daniel] will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife [Carrie], and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one.” Carrie’s and Daniel’s love for each other in this marriage will be the fulfilling of God’s law and his purpose for them.

We also just heard what love is like in practical terms—very useful for day-to-day married life—it is patient and kind, doesn’t envy or boast, is not proud or rude, isn’t self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, doesn’t delight in evil, but does rejoice with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. It never fails. Kind of sounds like for better of for worse, doesn’t it. We also heard that this love will bind them together in perfect unity.

In a few moments I’m going to ask each of them if they will give themselves to each other. Why? To love each other—in those practical ways we’ve just heard about, long after the rosey, romantic glow they’re feeling now gets mixed up in the ebb and flow of day-to-day married life—children, work, familiarity, money—so long as they both shall live. In fact, they’re going to make a solemn, public vow to love one another for the rest of their lives according to God’s holy law.

Then we’ll pray that their lives together will be a sacrament—an outward and visible sign—of God’s love to our broken world so that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt and joy overcome despair. We will also pray that they will “so live together that the strength of their love may enrich our common life and become a sign of [God’s] faithfulness,” and that their home will be a place full of love.

Finally, as we ask God to bless their marriage, we’ll ask that “their love for each other [will] be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle about their shoulders, and a crown upon their foreheads.”
So, Daniel and Carrie, the thing that is going to make this marriage work is love. Love for one another. Love that you decide to do, day by an act-of-the-will, no matter how you feel, love given and lived out in practical ways. But you have to choose to love. If you don’t it’ll just lie there. If you let it lie there long enough without choosing to exercise it, it will dry up and blow away. Use it or lose it. That first Corinthians list is good to put on—Carrie I will be patient with you and kind to you. Daniel I will not envy you or boast about how much better I am at something than you. Carrie I will not be rude to you or keep a record of ways in which I think you’ve wronged me—you see how it can work.

One final thing. As we heard at the beginning of this service, your marriage is part of God’s purpose for you and for us. Not only that, but God really loves you. He wants you to enjoy one another but he would also really like you to enjoy him and his love for you by making him a part of your home and your life together through Jesus so that, as we shall shortly pray, one day, after a long and happy married life, you will be brought to that table where the saints of God feast forever in a heavenly home—rather like the best wedding reception that you can imagine but that goes on forever. Just as you need to decide to love one another, you also need to decide to invite Jesus into your life together. Do that and find a good church, then you’ll get to enjoy the best of both worlds. That goes for all of us, actually.

There. Marriage and relationships might still be a bit of mystery for us, but, hopefully, like Forrest Gump, we now have a better idea of what love is.