I speak to you in the name of God who is creator, redeemer and sustainer of all life. +
I am here on serious business today. I am here to warn you all of a great threat to us. A threat to our way of life. A treat to the ease and comfort in which we live. A threat to the personal security that we so often take for granted. I am to speak to you about something, which if left unchecked, could turn our very world upside down.
Some of you may already be thinking that a wedding is not the place to bring up such dire warnings. Weddings should be light, and funny. A wedding sermon should, at minimum, offer some advice to the couple and not take up too much time. Well I apologize in advance because I cannot in good conscience let this opportunity to warn you, my family, my dear brothers and sisters in the faith, of this imminent threat that we face.
Now for the Pentecostals here today I will go to scripture to make my case. Anglicans – and I know there are some us here too – you can zone me out here and join me again when I rally at the end. You see scripture is full of warnings about the threat that I am concerned with today. So I will let scripture speak for itself.
Our first warning comes from the Old Testament, from a collection of erotic love poems no less. Perhaps you’ve heard it before. In Song of Songs we are told:
“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned (Song of Songs 8:6-7).”
Like the modern prophet Johnny Cash, the ancient writer of this poem warns us of the fiery danger of love. Love is a burning fire and it cannot be put out. Love consumes all it encounters and not even our money, our wealth, can protect us from its heat. The young lovers from the Song of Songs are warning their audience of the dangers of love. Proceed with caution lest you too be consumed in loves heat.
In the New Testament, Saint Paul picks up this warning. In writing to the sophisticated, well-educated Corinthians, who were over flowing in spiritual gifts, he warns them of the insidious danger of love:
“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 The Message”
His warning rings true today. Love will turn you into a spineless, wimpy push over. Love will take over your life if you let it. Love will turn your world upside down.
Jesus also knew the dangers of love. On the night before he dies he has this stern warning for his disciples: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15: 9-12). The disciples must have looked around the room and said, “Love these guys! You gotta be kidding!” Love the betrayer Judas, the tax cheat Matthew, the thick headed Peter, the reign-down-God’s-judgement Zebedee boys! No thanks Love.
And if that’s not enough in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus goes even further with his warnings on love. When asked to sum up the law, the black and white, do’s and don’ts, easy to follow Torah, Jesus complicates things by saying, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandment Matthew 22: 35-40.”
It’s bad enough that love expects me to devote myself to my disciple friends, but to love my neighbour is just too much. Jesus obviously didn’t know my neighbour. Couldn’t Jesus foresee that in the future, in our globalized technologically connected world, sure anyone and everyone could be your neighbour. Who can live up to that?
The writer of 1 John goes even further: “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” 1 John 4: 7-8. That’s it, that seals the deal. If God is love then there is just no escaping it. Wherever there is love, whoever is loving, however they are loving, that’s God. How are we supposed to control love, regulate love, legislate love. It’s just not possible.
By now I hope that you have caught on. I am being facetious. This is tongue in cheek. I’m having a go at you all. But all joking aside love is serious business. None of what I have said is untrue. In fact it is the gospel truth. Literally, as the young folk say.
Love is risky. Love is demanding. Love is costly, or better yet priceless. There is a power in love. Love casts down the wealthy and powerful, and lifts up the poor and lowly. Love cannot rest as long as there are hungry children, broken hearts, or captives of any kind. Love can change the world, turn it upside down in fact, make up down and last first. Love does this not in feats of strength but in weakness. Love is weird like that. Love brought Jesus to the cross and out of the grave. Love is constantly poured out on all flesh, making all things new. Yes God is love and the older I get the harder it is for me to tell the difference between the two. If you like the way things are, if you are comfortable, if the status quo is fine by you, then you best steer clear of love.
But in spite of all the warnings from scripture, in the face of a world that seems bent on the opposite of love, and perhaps in contradiction to common sense, two more people gather before God, before us, to commit their lives to love. This is not Anna’s or Kevin’s first encounter with love. They have seen what love costs, what love demands. They know that to love means to leave self behind, to empty oneself, to give it all. They know that love opens one up to ridicule, abuse, sacrifice, loss, great loss, loss that leaves us broken and second guessing as to why we even loved in the first place. Love breaks us open, exposing the raw tendons of our lives. Yet in spite of this knowledge they come together. Drawn to love.
Their love today is a sacrament, an outward expression of invisible grace. As Christ gives his life for the church and the church in return gives its life for Christ, so do Anna and Kevin give themselves to each other. Their lives lived in love are not to be hid away but to be lived out in public for all to see. Their shared love is a symbol of the love of God for the world, overflowing to all whom they encounter. Their home a sign of God’s in breaking Kingdom where justice and peace abound, where love is a higher law.
We who gather here will uphold them in prayer and support them as they answer love’s call. And today too, we are reminded of love’s call on our lives. As we witness the vows of Anna and Kevin may we have our own love strengthened. But not only to a theory or an idea of love, but like the rings exchanged this day, may love be given and received. Let us recommit ourselves the radical weak power of love, the love of God, in which we live and move and have our being.
May this be our prayer, in the name of God who is love, God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen +
Reprinted with permission from Neo(un) Orthodoxy.