I’m going to start, Karly and Brian, not with the Bible reading, which would usually be the basis for a sermon. Instead I’m going to start with the Velveteen Rabbit, because it’s been occurring to me how fitting that reading is for the two of you. I really like that idea of “real” along with love, particularly as I think about the two of you.
Maybe to begin with that in a more general way, we contrast “real” with an “idea.” The way these words work is that what’s realistic is contrasted with what is ideal or idealistic. One is only in your head, imaginary, while the other is in action, is tangible and touchable and factual.
So as you are embarking on your wedding day, it’s great to see that you two are not thinking about your marriage and your wedding only ideally, but also encountering this day in a real way. It’s not about having the perfect ceremony (otherwise, of course, you wouldn’t have asked me to be here!). More important than pretend things is what is real, like the tangible, touchable fact that you get to stand here and hold hands with each other. It’s delightful that you know that that’s what’s important about this day.
That’s one way to think about what is real with love. Another aspect of that is just how real the two of you are in conversations with each other. I’m grateful that I got to witness and share in it in our pre-marriage sessions. I admire and enjoy how you relate to each other, that you’re able to admit to each other that you get into silly arguments and can laugh about it. Other couples I’ve worked with have also talked about personality differences and ways of looking at finances and frustrations with habits around doing the dishes, but you’re the first in those conversations with me to bring up the etiquette of toilet paper role replacement. That’s keeping it real.
And, again, I love how well you listen to each other in those conversations, not stubbornly holding your own point of view, but hearing each other and recognizing that you can change to be better for each other.
When we talk about “real love” with the Velveteen Rabbit reading, that’s what it means. Typically, we wind up thinking about love as what the other person does that’s attractive, that you fall in love because they are lovely or loveable. But that’s just a response, and an easy response. Real love is about taking the initiative. It’s just the sort of thing your vows will promise to each other, not only to be there when things are happy and simple, but to abide with each other in all circumstances, to continue striving for the sake of the other person. That you’re committing to that for each other in marriage is what makes all of the celebration of this wedding day worthwhile.
But also, since you decided to have the wedding here in this church, I have the benefit of pointing out something else. You talked with me about how God is confusing, or mysterious. You’ve said you’d guess God is supportive of your relationship and eager for you to do well, and I’d certainly agree. But as Christians, we don’t believe it’s all mystery or guesswork or, in our earlier words, that God is only about our ideas in our head or even that God is what is ideal.
As Christians, we believe God is real, and God’s love is real. For a three sentence long Bible study, it’s interesting that you chose the Bible reading from Song of Solomon because although the Bible is about helping us know who God is, that’s one of only two books in the Bible not to mention God. Instead, it is plain old love poetry, and pretty visually graphic love poetry at that. But people figure it got to stay in the Bible because as we look at a couple in love, that reveals something to us about how God loves us. Your love for each other, Brian and Karly, makes God’s love real. God’s love is realized in you.
But that’s not all. See, as Christians, we also point to the physical embodiment of God’s love in Jesus, as God in the flesh, God made real for us. Much like your vows, the love we see in Jesus is the kind that reaches out in times of need, that doesn’t only look for things that are happy but abides even through sadness, a responsive love, giving of himself and even giving up life, but giving in such a way that death cannot stop God’s love, but brings you to the feast of eternal life. It is that love that holds and sustains you today, in the years to come, and forevermore.
So for today, congratulations. And forever, know that you are really blessed in love.