With those very nice Bible readings (1Cor13:1-8a; Col3:12-14; Matt5:13-16), I also want to drop in one more huge thought from a little Bible verse we’ll hear tomorrow in worship, which is also a pretty good mark of what this day is about. It says, “God is love.” (1John4:8. 16)
Now, that’s about the most helpful direction and overarching sort of statement I could think of. I mean, try to picture other things that God could be. We might imagine that God is Power. Or that God is Controlling and in control. Or that God is All. Or that God is Justice, about right and wrong and following rules and punishing offenders. Or that God is in heaven.
As much or as little as any of those might be true, they aren’t what we have in the statement God is Love. And I think I don’t prefer them. I’d be scared of a God who is only about power and might. I have questions about defining God by control; because what does that have to say about the earthquake in Nepal or about our own stubborn sinfulness, even to those we have said we love? I’m not helped by a God who is off in heaven, or a God who is inconspicuously a spark inside of everything. Those aren’t what I need.
A God of love, though, of compassion, a God who is with me in my needs, a God who won’t forsake me or forget me.
The problems are that sometimes we’d prefer something more than love or something other than the hard work of love. A God of power wouldn’t have died on a cross. A God of purity wouldn’t have hung out with the screw-ups and the failures and certainly wouldn’t tell us to love our enemies and those who are hard to love (especially a word for weddings of those closest to us). A God of black and white, right and wrong, simple answers wouldn’t have created a complex, hard, sad world, which is also a wonderful, beautiful, delightful world.
That somehow says this God is true for your relationship as well, Carrie and Jake. It’s not about perfection or wedded bliss. It’s not about everything being easy. Rather, your love and your relationship are about coming together, about supporting each other in spite of or even because of the hard times, and trying to figure out your differences and complexities, and continuing to work at it, because you matter to each other. Plus all the joys and delights of meals and great music at concerts and the Badgers and good times with Cadence and trips to Port Washington and enjoying Duluth and all the other stuff. It goes together as one package, the good and the bad and somehow all better because of love.
That’s an amazing thing, but also intimidating. This is big stuff. See, as you love each other, you are doing God’s work. As you commit to love in your wedding vows, you are committing to a godly task. As you strive to love each other, and to love each other’s families, and to continue growing in love and loving the world, you are embodying our faith, acting as the body of Christ, representing God who so loved the world. It’s big stuff.
And it could seem nearly impossible. That list in 1st Corinthians is quite a chore – to be patient and kind and never rude or insistent or selfish, to be able to bear everything and endure all things. Oof. It says that love never ends, which sounds exhausting.
It makes the other reading from Colossians sound better, that you clothe yourselves with compassion and humility and love. Clothing yourself and putting on Christ sounds easier and more sporadic. Like putting on a jacket or a pair of boots, you just could do it when you need it and take off love other times. Except we know that’s not really how it works, either, to be only occasionally loving. We may have moments of better or worse, but it isn’t something we get to stop.
So, for all of that, the real blessing today, of your shared commitment, of being in love, is that you’re not at it alone. It’s not only that you need to try harder to do what’s godly and good for each other. It’s also that God’s love abides with you. You cannot make yourself light or make yourself salt, as Jesus said. You are made bright and salty, you are made loving, by God’s presence. That is what unites you, what binds you together in a union, what sustains your life in blessing. The greeting we offer as we start worship isn’t just a wish or a suggestion. It is the reality you live in, for each other and for all: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit is with you. Amen