The Work of Love: A Wedding Sermon

Text: Colossians 3:12-17

R and C, it is a privilege for me to be able to speak to you today, along with your friends and family gathered here to support you, as you celebrate your wedding.

When I think of weddings, aside from being reminded of my own, my mind turns toward the wedding scene in the movie The Princess Bride where Princess Buttercup, in despair at the presumed loss of her true love Westley, dejectedly consents to marry the pompous Prince Humperdink.  However, unlike that wedding, today we have the opportunity to witness and participate in the joining of two people who genuinely care for and love each other to the point of mutually consenting to forming a new life together within the covenant of marriage.

In a culture where promises are easily made and easily broken, the promise that R and C are making today is a big deal.  They are making a promise to each other that will fundamentally change their lives.  They are making a promise to bind themselves together in love.

But what does love look like?  Love is a word that is tossed around so much in our culture that it begins to lose meaning – I love the Montreal Canadiens.  I love the new Batman movie.  I love this sandwich.  This is not the kind of love that R and C could ever base their relationship upon because it is selfish and superficial.

So, we ask again, what does love, the kind of love that grows and sustains a marriage, look like?

I think R and C have a pretty good idea of what this love looks like because they chose Colossians 3:12-17 as their marriage passage, where St. Paul writes:

 “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”

It’s amazing that a letter written 2000 years ago has wisdom and truth that remains relevant for today.  To be clear, Paul is not offering us good advice.  Rather, he is directing us in a way of life that is defined by love.

According to Paul, love is a complex web of emotions, values, and commitments.  It is a way of life made possible in and through the love of Jesus Christ.

Paul is saying that Christ offers us the perfect and complete example of how we are to love.  Christ is the one who, out of his great love for all of humankind, came to earth to show us what it means to be human.  Someone once said that Christ became human so that humans might become divine.  Now, there are several different ways one could interpret this, but the one I want to suggest to you today is that this means is that Christ shows us what real love looks like.  The Bible tells us that “God is love”.  Therefore, if Christ is God, then Christ is love.  If Christ is love, then he is calling us, as his brothers and sisters, to participate in his love by showing that same love in all of our relationships.

This is a tall order.  It doesn’t look like the romantic fantasies of our culture.  Rather the love that Christ calls us to is hard work.  It is the hard work of building and maintaining trust; the hard work of being thankful for others, even when you’re tired of and angry with them; the hard work of commitment when it would be easier to give up; the hard work of forgiveness when trust has been betrayed; the hard work of being faithful when it is easy to be distracted; the hard work of putting someone other than yourself first.

As humans, our default behavior tends toward selfishness – my needs and my desires are what matter most.  Or, in the words of a bumper sticker I saw recently, “It’s all about me”.  But, is this any way to live life?  Sadly, for many, it is.  Perhaps this way of life will give temporary pleasure and fleeting happiness, but it can never give lasting meaning, fulfillment, and joy to one’s life.  So, it would seem that when it comes to a way of life, the choice is clear – between self-directed love and self-giving love.  The latter is God’s norm for human relationships.  This means that humans are created to be in relationship with others.  We are not meant to go through life alone, but we live a life with and for the sake of others.  Listen to these words from the book of Ecclesiastes:

“Two are better than one…If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.”

Marriage is a unique human relationship where self-giving love can grow and develop to its fullest potential.  It is unique because it is within the promises of marriage that two people commit to creating a mutually shared identity and growing into that new identity together.  As in the words of Jesus – two people become “one flesh” – “no longer two individuals, but forming a new unity” (Mark 10:8).

This means that in the context of your marriage, R and C, today you are becoming a reflection of each other.  Your individual identities are now bound to each other to the point that to think of yourself is to automatically think of your partner.  Plus, this is not something that only applies to you – it also applies to how your friends and family relate to you.  No longer can they relate to you as individuals; they relate to you as couple, even when the other is not present.

R – who you are is now bound to C; C, who you are is now bound to R.

Because of your promise to each other, each of you is for the other.  Each of you has promised to lose your individual life and find it in each other.  This doesn’t mean that you stop being individuals with your own particular personalities; rather, it means putting an end to a “me first” attitude and always acting in terms of “us first”.  It is the hard work of letting the other be who they are, not as your want them to be.

You are creating a new identity together, an identity defined and shaped by mutual self-giving love, trust, and faithfulness.  This is difficult for many to accept because it flies in the face of what our culture tells us, namely that marriage is a pragmatic relationship that can be ended as soon as one or both of the parties is no longer receiving what they want from the relationship.

However, we know that all great love stories are about lasting love, a love that grows the more it is given to the other.

The kind of love that always seeks the good of the other.

The kind of love that is rooted in faithfulness and commitment to the other.

The kind of love that learns to rely and depend on the other for strength and guidance.

The kind of love that is patient and kind.

The kind of love that Christ shows us and calls us to show to others.

Of course this doesn’t mean that your marriage will be perfect.  However, it stands as a constant reminder about what your relationship is called to be through the hard work of love.  A relationship based upon emotion and physical attraction is ultimately selfish and shallow.  A relationship based on commitment and self-giving love will, in the words of St. Paul, “always trust, always forgive, and always persevere”.

R and C, you have chosen a great passage to begin your marriage.  Let it be wisdom for your journey together.  Return to it often – read it on your anniversary, after a fight, when you need a reminder of the promise you’ve made to each other, and when times are great.  Internalize it and let it be the definition of your relationship.

If I can give you one piece of advice it for your marriage it is this – in your lives and in your marriage, live this passage.  Look to Christ as the source and foundation of your new life together.  Let him be the example of how you are to love each other – with a love that is completely devoted to and for the sake of the other.

Now, may the peace and love of Christ keep you in tune and in step with each other as you grow in love.

Amen.

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