Sunday, 15 July 2012

Love and Marriage: a Short Wedding Homily with reference to 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John 4 and Forrest Gump—for Aaron and Allison Babitzke

This feels like it must be my 843rd homily on love and marriage. Okay, I exaggerate, realistically it's probably only my 70th. I've referred to Forrest Gump's comment before but couldn't resist using it again when The Feather Theme came up.

These days I'm wondering whether there's really any point in a homily at weddings. Most people are thoroughly pre-occupied and distracted, especially the happy couple. Preparation sessions would be better opportunities to make the important and necessary connections between Scripture, the Christian faith, the Church and what they're doing.

Anyway, here's the latest (and my last?):

I wonder if you noticed that the music Catherine played as Allison and the bridesmaids came in was The Feather Theme from the opening scene of the movie, Forrest Gump. One of the things Forrest says in the movie and which sticks in my mind is this:

I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.

Which fits wonderfully with what we’re doing today and what we’ve just heard read from the Bible because if we pay attention to what we heard, we, like Forrest Gump, will also know what love is. And not only that, we will know its origin and how it is to be expressed. Which are good things to know when you’re about to enter into “a holy state,” and “a way of life that all should reverence, and none should lightly undertake.”

Let’s begin at the beginning. Love’s origin. “Love is of God,” wrote John in the third reading, and “God is love” (1 John 4:7 & 8)

How is God’s love most clearly and magnificently expressed? In that "he sent his Son" (1 John 4:9), Jesus, to show us how to live lovingly and, buy his voluntary death on a cross, to set us free from all sin and death.

Not only that, but God loved us first (1 John 4:10), and before we could do anything to earn or deserve it. God’s love for us is not dependent on our behaviour. Not a bad example for husbands and wives, don’t you think? Not a bad example for all of us, writes John, because of it, “let us love another" (1 John 4:7 & 11), he writes, because when we do that, “God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12) and in our marriages and relationships.

The word in the Greek is agape. In Corinthians reading we heard it described as patient, kind, not jealous, or proud, or rude, or selfish, or easily angered (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Anglican theologian, James Packer, puts it this way: “Its total lack of self-concern is breathtaking. It seeks the other’s good, and the true measure of it is how much it gives to that end. Love is a principle of action rather than of emotion. It is a purpose of honoring and benefiting the other party (you’ll hear the word honour used several times during the vows later on). It is a matter of doing things for people out of compassion for their need, whether or not we feel personal affection for them.”

Here’s a way. The word will be mentioned 43 times in the service and in the readings. It reminds me of an organizational website called 43 Folders which is about getting things done. The 43 folders are one for each day of the month—31—and one for each month of the year–12—which adds up to 43. Basically its about planning ahead—you put your to-dos in the appropriate folder so you wont forget to get the things done on the appropriate day and month.

Aaron and Allison, your most important to-dos from now on are to live your I-do's out in love from now on; day by day and month by month. Be first, like God, in loving one another, don't wait for the other to start. Seek the good, the best, for each other. Act on the love you have for the other, not so much on the emotion you might be feeling at the moment, especially of the emotion is negative.

That kind of love never gives up and will never end (1 Corinthians 13:7 & 8).