You know, one thing that I’ve noticed about weddings—heck, I’d go so far as to say my gripe about weddings—is that the attention seems to be zeroed in on the bride and the groom. That may seem appropriate, but let’s ask who’s really most important here. As lovely as you are, Michael and Lisa, I’m going to steal your spotlight and direct the camera back on me for a moment. (Knowing your humor, and trying to make a larger point, I hope it’s okay.)
So to begin with the risk of drawing too much attention to this sermon, and realizing that I’ll never live up to the standard anyway, I’m going to highlight a line in the Bible reading you chose. It talked about speaking in the tongues of angels. Obviously there’s nothing in the lame words that I put together that could attain those heights, so I guess I am indeed left in the opposing category of the noisy gong or clanging cymbal. Having realized that, where it might make you think I’d go ahead and shut up instead of blathering on, making noise up here, instead I’ll foolishly press on, since I still cling to my “childish ways.”
Which leads to the next line with prophetic powers and understanding mysteries and knowledge. And, boy, even if I couldn’t articulate in the language of angels, at least here I’ve got the chance to…well, let’s face it, I’m not going to stack up well in this category, either. I mean, I enjoyed our pre-marriage counseling sessions together, but whatever good you managed to glean from any of that had nothing to do with my wisdom or insight. So prophetic powers are definitely out of my weakling reach.
The list continues on from there in even harder ways: moving mountains, sacrificing bodies and life itself. Even the bit about patience and kindness and not being rude, not boasting, not insisting on my own way. Maybe my strategy here of taking this time to focus on myself was a bad idea.
But that’s okay, because I really wanted to turn it back around to you two, anyway. See, in these categories, you two stack up much better than I do, not least because of the love you have for each other. You really are eager to listen to each other, to try to figure out the right words and the right tone. You bear with each other quite naturally and indeed rejoice in each other. Your love is a beautiful thing.
Still, though, if this is only about trying to measure yourselves on not getting irritable or always being patient, obviously I’m not the only one who’s going to fall short. All of us do, including you two.
So how do we proceed? Do we lower the bar and just say we’re not perfect and then go ahead and put up with a mediocre, marginal kind of love? That doesn’t seem like a very preferential option, especially today. It would leave you with vows that sounded something like, “Well, I mostly like you pretty well, and we’ll generally kind of get along, and it will be okay to spend the rest of our life together, probably.” You’re not here because you want to say that.
A bit different, you could use your vows to set the high standards, to hold you to account, to keep working at love, trying to improve.
But there’s something still more in those words of love. I get to remind you, because this is a sermon, that you are here because this is a church. And that points to the better, fuller solution, to the true embodiment of this love. See, what 1st Corinthians is describing sure isn’t best seen in how good of a pastor I am. It’s not best in our families or communities. It’s not even most in how loving you are to each other; though that is a very good reflection, in the words of that reading, it is still kind of a hazy image in the mirror.
The fullness of this love is revealed for us in Jesus. This is how we know who God is, and what God means for our life. In him, we learn that love is reliable, is trustworthy, and really is always worth it.
God is not about to abandon you when the going gets tough, much less to cause you pain or distress. This is what we know in the cross of Jesus and in his resurrection. This is the long-suffering love that brings you through it to the other side. It’s a love that fits with your vows that promise to share all the circumstances of life together, but it even goes beyond the partition of death to bring you to something still new, a reunion, a grand eternal wedding feast.
This is the heart of love. Sometimes we reflect it well, and sometimes not. Even the church too often distorts that image of love. Yet the best of our relationships are guided and sustained by it, even if imperfectly. Still more, this love of God for you and with you, it never ends.
But there I will end. So for your love, and for this even grander promise, congratulations, Lisa and Michael.