Thursday, 13 August 2015

Sermon at the Wedding of Jonny and Sarah Steele

‘Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.’ I John 4

When looking around at the world we can all too easily have a sense of fear and dread. Wars and rumours of wars, violence and betrayal leaving us cold, in an emotional and spiritual winter with hope often buried deep in the frozen ground of fear.

Turn on the tv or look on the internet and very quickly you will hear someone telling you that there is not enough; not enough money, not enough security, not enough protection, not enough to go round. Over and over again we hear the language of scarcity, a narrative that tells us there is not enough and it creates within us a feeling of fear, a fear that drives us to grasp and strive and desire to get hold of that which we think we haven’t got enough of. We think that if we can grab it, and get more of it, whatever ‘it’ might be, then we will be ok. But all that happens is our fear increases and our sense of lack grows. And in the midst of it all we lose sight of what it means to be human.

But then we find ourselves together on days like today, in moments like this, and hope rises out from the barren winter like the morning spring sun with healing in its wings.

In moments like this we realise there is not a lack or a scarcity, but an abundance, an abundance of love. In the presence of abundant love the scales fall from our eyes as we see what it means to be truly human, and such abundance fills us with faith and hope, casting out fear.

Marriage is not a mask of sentimentality that denies the beauty and brokenness of this world, rather it is a shared love that lives in the reality and truthfulness of the world around you.

Jonny and Sarah, your marriage is a gift from God, a reflection of His love for us all. Marriage is not a contract but an entering in to life together where abundant self-giving love defines who you are together. Marriage, like any deep relationship, requires hard-work, patience and forgiveness as we look to have our selfishness and pride transformed into love and humility.

Love is not a product that is brought and sold. It is not a commodity that we use to increase our status in society or become successful. Love is not given in exchange for something else. Love simply is. Free, undeserved, unconditional. It has the power to transform entire nations, to bring the powerful to their knees and raise the heads of the oppressed. Love is ultimately defined and seen in and through the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The problem is that the human imagination is not able to take in who God is and how he has revealed himself to us through Jesus. 'We are overwhelmed. God’s inexhaustible creation, limitless grace, relentless mercy, enduring purpose, fathomless love: it is just too much to contemplate and understand.' This is the language of abundance. 'It is a tidal wave of glory.'

This abundant love of God is not saying that God is some kind of self-help guru who wants you to be healthy, wealthy and successful, no, that is not the gospel. Rather the abundant love of God, this 'tidal wave of glory', is seen through the lens of the Cross of Jesus in which we look into the long spectacle of eternity and see the love of God breaking into time.

May you know the strength of this love for one another through all times and in all situations. But you need to listen to each other, forgive one another and be patient, for marriage is the honesty of commitment, trust and perseverance. In the difficult days be patient. In the times of stress be forgiving. Laugh often together. When fires rage and floods threaten know that love is stronger. God, who is Love, has promised to be with you, never to leave or abandon you.

You have each other, however it not only the two of you; you have a community of family and friends around you. Never believe that your marriage is just about the two of you. No, marriage is a gift to the community, and so find support, wisdom, joy and beauty in your marriage through family and friends. You're not on your own.

Your life together will be like brush strokes creating a painting, the kaleidoscope of colours representing the plethora of events and emotions, each one shaping and forming the story and picture. We trust and pray that the abundant love of Jesus will be the canvas and the frame of your marriage, a picture of hope, a testament to the faithfulness of God, a glimpse of His perfect love that casts out all fear. You are challenged to follow the way of love, this love of Jesus that 'lifts us from the dark valley of despair to the bright mountains of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy.' God Bless you both.

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