Brian and Myria,
It gives me great joy
to stand before you today, celebrating the conclusion of all the preparations
we have made together for your marriage. In fact, as joyous as this day is for
the two of you and your families and friends, just imagine my joy:
You’re the fourth of four couples I was juggling through pre-marital counseling
at the same time; the fourth couple to be married here in the last month.
Although that was
certainly an interesting scheduling challenge, I do find the time I spend with
couples such as you very rewarding and uplifting. In each session, I find that
there is still much to learn and apply in my own marriage, even though I’ve got
a few years’ experience on you. And I know that the two of you have also had
challenges in your lives, in your preparation for your wedding today, and you
will have them your marriage to come. Yet I pray that through it all your
wedding will be joyous and your marriage will be rewarding and satisfying.
There’s an important
distinction to be made between a wedding and a marriage, of course. In spite
of all the juggling and stress and expenses of planning for an important event
such as this, anyone who is honest will tell you that the wedding is nothing in
comparison to what couples have to deal with later in marriage.
After the flowers
wilt and the candles are extinguished, after your hair turns white and your
bridal gown turns yellow, the joy of what God is doing in your lives this
afternoon won’t matter much if you don’t let Him guide your thoughts and words
and actions in the years to come.
I could say something
like, “Your wedding isn’t important, it’s your marriage that counts,” but that
would be both true and false. Certainly a day such as today doesn’t make or
break your marriage, but you are here in God’s house today, standing
before His entire Church of every time and place. It is here you will make
your vows—solemn promises to each other and to God—and here you will have
Him—and not me—join you as husband and wife. I’m not joining you in marriage
today; He is. It’s one of many gifts I know He will bless you with together in
the years to come, part of an uncountable chain of gifts with which He has
blessed you, starting with your very lives, then your births, and then your
re-births in the waters of His holy baptism.
To consider these
gifts even further, I want to reflect a moment on the second reading for your
wedding service today, that from chapter 4 of St. John’s first letter to the
Church. It begins, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from
God.” So, there you have it: Yet another gift from God given the both
of you: Love. John goes on to say, “whoever loves has been born of God
and knows God.” That makes something quite clear to us: We can’t really
love unless we are God’s own. For all the affection that might be expressed to
other people by those countless millions who do not confess Jesus as Lord and
Savior, that affection can’t be viewed as love apart from the Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit. It might be sweet, it might be caring, and it might be nice, but
it’s not real love.
For real love, the
sort of love that is perfect and true and completely faithful, can come only
from Him—for God is love, the only true definition of love. And true, perfect
love is shown only in His actions. Foremost in this expression of love is the
love of God shown in His sending of His Son into the world, giving to us sinners
the redemption of our lives by His sacrifice. That’s the love we need above
all others, beyond the love you have for each other, beyond the love you even
have for precious Avery.
We might recoil from
a statement like that at first, because we always have great loyalties and
affection for those closest to us. Yet as St. John said later in the text: “if
we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.”
The love we have for one another isn’t a natural act of humanity, really—human
affection initially arises primarily out of our selfish motives. We seek and
give what appears to be love because it fulfills a need in us, a need that only
God can truly fill.
But in testifying
that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world, we receive the
gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in that way, God dwells in us. It is the
expression of the faith He gives us which enables us to love Him, to love one
another, and to have hope for this life and the next.
As you begin your
life together as husband and wife, I hope that you will remember that truth we
spent so much time working to understand in our time preparing for this wedding
day, and for this marriage: That love means value. You have
such great value to God that He expressed His love for you in a sacrificial
way, by sending our Lord Jesus to suffer and die for you, that you might have
forgiveness, life, and salvation.
In the same way, you
will demonstrate the love you have for each other in showing that your spouse
has value to you—such value that you, too, will willingly sacrifice
yourself and your own selfish interests and desires for the other. Such value
that you, too, will offer unconditional forgiveness to one another when the
other turns to you with a confessing and repentant heart.
In this way, you will
see God’s love made perfect in your marriage, so you may have confidence in
days of trouble and conflict. As you turn also to our Lord with repentant
hearts that confess Jesus as the Son of God, you will abide in His love and
trust in its promises, that you may have confidence for the day of judgment.
us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of
God, and knows God.”