What follows is my sermon at my daughter’s wedding yesterday (posted with her permission) for which she asked me to preside. The texts for the day were the beautiful celebration of love in Song of Songs 2:10-13, the prayer of Colossians 1:9-14, and the word of Jesus to abide in the vine in John 15:4-5, 9-12.
Grace to you and Peace, from God our Father and our Lord and savior, Jesus the Christ.
I have written about six different sermons over the last few days, one of which begins with a joke about the courage it takes to ask your father to preach at your wedding – and the even greater courage it takes to ask your father-in-law-to-be to preach at your wedding.
I find myself struggling because there are so many things I want to say. I’ve been trying to fit everything that Christian faith understands about the holiness and wonder and majesty and goodness of marriage into these few minutes. I want you to see how it all fits together – the whole story of God creating a good and beautiful world – of that world turning away from God and losing its primal harmony – of God’s love for the world, God’s determined work to stand by his creation and reconcile it to himself – and the promise and vision of God’s ultimate success in drawing all things back to himself, in restoring our lost innocence, in healing our broken hearts and communities and world…all that is embodied in those profound Biblical images of the lion lying down with the lamb, of the feast where all people are gathered together at one table, and the glorious picture of the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband.
The Biblical story is of a good and perfect world gone terribly wrong, but ultimately reconciled in a wedding of heaven and earth.
I want you to see how marriage is connected to that great and profound vision of human existence.
I want you to see how the joy of this day echoes with the memory of dwelling in perfect love at the beginning of all things – and how it anticipates that day when all things are made new, when all things are wrapped in perfect love.
I want you to see that the love you have for one another is created and sustained by God’s love. How it is part of the very fabric of all existence.
I want you to understand that our lives are meant to vibrate to that same song of God’s steadfast love that underlies all things.
And I want you to remember that when we use the word love we are not just talking about our emotions, but about that bond that unites us together as one people, one household, one family. It is that bond of love between a parent and child – a bond that is not simply about good feelings, but is a fundamental and unbreakable connection – and yet a bond that can be created with another. That bond, that sense of connection, carries with it the will and desire to see the beloved thrive. This is the nature of the word love in the scriptures. That is the nature of God’s love for you and for each of us. And that covenantal love, that steadfast love, is what you promise and create with your vows today.
As I struggled to find the right words for all this, I realized I was trying to explain that marriage is meant to be holy – to reflect and be shaped by God’s spirit and love.
But as I tried to find a way to say all this, I realized that all anyone here wants me to say to you today is that we love you and we want all good things for you.
And, really, this is all that God wants to say to you today. That reality we call God, that love and life and power at the heart of all things, loves you and wants all good things for you.
God wants to say “You are not alone.” It is God’s will and work and purpose to bring you and all things into his perfect love.
And God wants to say, “Abide in me.” This is our Gospel for today: Christ is the vine. You are the branches. Abide in him. Fruit follows from being connected to the vine.
We love you and want all good things for you. God loves you and wants all good things for you. Abide in his love. Live his love. Rejoice in his love.