First Corinthians 13:4-13
(shared at the wedding of our daughter and new son-in-law, June 18, 2005)
We just heard Don read a definition of love that comes from the first century preacher and evangelist, Paul. “Love is patient; love is kind,” he says. “Love is not envious or boastful...It does not insist on its own way...It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
We’ve all collectively heard that passage read at hundreds of weddings in our lifetimes. And though Paul originally wrote it to remind a first-century congregation in conflict of their need to love fellow believers, his description of love really does apply to all of our relationships, including marriages.
In fact, I believe that without the sort of love Paul talks about, all our marriages, friendships, and other relationships are doomed to fall apart. For any marriage to work, the ties between us must be strengthened by mutual selflessness and supportiveness.
But, Brien and Sarah, let me ask you a question which, in the fogs in which you may find yourselves right now, you probably won't be able to hear. I hope though, that it’s a question which, in one way or another, you’ll ask yourselves every day your whole lives: "How does our love for each other measure up to Paul’s picture of love in that passage we had read at our wedding?"
If your experience is anything like mine has been the past nearly-thirty-one years of being married to Ann, I think your answer each day will be: I don’t quite measure up.
I say that because sometimes I am arrogant or rude toward my wife. Sometimes, I'm envious or boastful. Sometimes, whiny or contentious.
You may say, “Even if that does happen to us, Cinderella and Prince Charming, we’ll just work harder at loving each other.” That’s good, of course. Everybody should work at their marriages because, as another Paul (McCartney) writes in a song called, We Got Married: "It's not just a loving machine; it doesn't work out if you don't work at it."
But if you’ve ever found yourself on January 2, forgetting the New Year’s resolutions you made on December 31, you know that saying that you’ll work at keeping your love alive won’t work.
You see, neither of you and not one of us in the world, can manufacture the kind of tough, resilient, devoted, tenacious, never-give-up love that we need in order for our marriages to be what we want them to be. (Or, what God wants them to be.) If we try to love each other on our own power, we’ll find ourselves giving up.
Power to love like that must come from an outside source and I know of only one. It comes from the One Who loves us so desperately and completely that He divested Himself of all the comforts of heaven and all the advantages of being God to become a baby, was reared in the family of a poor carpenter in a backwater village, then subjected to temptation and humiliation and execution on a cross, and finally raised up from death, all so that He can give everyone who follows Him fresh starts, new lives, and endless love. Jesus is the One we need to make our loves and our lives work. Without Him at the center of our days, we’re just wasting our time. With Him, as He tells us, “all things are possible.”
I spoke with a colleague of ours the other day, Pastor Roger Lawrence. I told him that today, you two would be married. He said, “That’s wonderful, Mark. On Father’s Day weekend, you get a new son.” Ann and I are glad about that. And I can tell you, Don and Charline, that you are getting a fabulous new daughter in Sarah.
But I want to tell you two, Sarah and Brien, not to be too confident in yourselves or your love. And don’t think you have to face the future alone. God has designed all of us to need one another and there are lots of family and friends willing to help you.
But more importantly, the God Who is with us here this evening, is willing to be there for you every moment of every day.
Make Him central to your life together. Worship and pray and read God’s Word and receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion together regularly. Serve others in Jesus’ Name. In short, submit your whole life, all your decisions, your marriage, your total selves to Christ.
Then, your love will be more than just resilient and strong. It will, each day, become infinitely better than it is right now. You’ll be empowered to live life as it’s meant to be lived: as an adventure in which, with God’s help, we challenge ourselves to be more, live more, love more, and accomplish more than we ever could on our own steam.
So, here’s my message in a nutshell: Put Jesus Christ first in your life. You will never regret it.
Here are links to some recent wedding and marriage posts:
Our Daughter's Getting Married; People Wonder How I Feel About That?
Mistakes Help Make Weddings Memorable
Importing the Love You Need
Marriage: Laying Aside and Putting On
Sometimes Tears Come
UPDATE: Many folks were concerned that I wouldn't be able to emotionally handle the wedding ceremony of our daughter and new son-in-law. But I can report that I didn't shed a single tear. I'm certain the reasons for that were several. First of all, unlike the wedding I mention in Sometimes Tears Come, when emotion had arrived unexpectedly, I had steeled myself for that eventuality. Secondly and more importantly, I prayed like crazy, asking God to ensure that I would keep my focus steadily on him and on the bride and groom. I asked Him to block all self-indulgence. God heard and answered those prayers.
By the way, my wife and I watched today's showing on TCM of the Spencer Tracy classic, Father of the Bride. While watching it, emotions sneaked up on me and guess what? My eyes misted.