The text below is the expanded version of my notes for the sermon at the recent wedding of two people very precious to us at LifeGiving. It has been a privilege to be part of their story for the last few years and it is, in many ways, a story intertwined with that of our church. These guys have been part of us since the beginning when we used to pray for them to find Christ and discover his will for their relationship. Our joy in their marriage, their beautiful son and their deep-rooted faith today knows no bounds. This is why we do this thing called church.
Your love story has some parts that we know, and other parts that only you know. Like any good story, it has had exciting beginnings, unexpected joys, periods of the mundane dailiness of life, twists where it really seemed to both of you that this love story might not end well, and now – today – we see the very highpoint of your love so far.
All love stories are beautiful. Epic novels, plays, films, music – they all have love as their theme. It stirs something in us, the very deepest part of what it means to be human. Love stories have this power because all love stories are intertwined with the God whose very name is love, who is a communion of love – Father, Son and Spirit.
Genesis teaches that humans have been created in the image of this God, as relational beings who have been made for loving God and one another. There in Genesis, we have the first picture of marriage: Adam and Eve, in the perfect union of love, knowing that their love story was intended to image the love story between God and humanity. Their union is intended as a picture of the union between God and his beloved, intended to point creation towards the greatest love story of all, to be a story of the greatest love story.
The story does not end in Genesis. We read later of a world marred by sin and brokenness, turned away from God, its creator. Brokenness even touches this human love story – the man blames the woman and separation between them begins. In their brokenness, humanity begins to turn away also from the greatest love story, away from the God whose passion for his people is wild and relentless, all-consuming. And it seems that all is lost. No longer will marriage be a story of the greatest love story.
But this God – the one whose love for his people is wild and relentless, all-consuming, the one who is love – this God does love. He does love by sending his only Son to restore the brokenness between God and humanity. And in the Son’s obedient life as the God-man, in his sacrificial death, his glorious resurrection from death which is the evidence that his work fulfilled all that was required in the relationship between God and humanity – in him, the one whose name is Jesus, the way was made clear for the continuing of the greatest love story, the love between God and his people, a passionate love which is wild and relentless, all-consuming.
And in making the way clear for the continuing of the greatest love story, Jesus also made it possible once again for marriage between husband and wife to become a story of the greatest love story. We see in Ephesians 5:21-33, the longer passage from which one of today’s readings has been taken, that Paul talks about husbands loving their wives and wives submitting to their husbands and a submission to one another out of reverence for Jesus. But we notice from the text that he just cannot say these things without making reference to the greatest love story between Jesus and church. In the same way, he speaks to you today, W__ and V__.
V__, you are to love this girl who is to become your wife in the same way that this wild and relentless God loves his people, even as far as laying down your life, your rights, your glory, everything you hold dear – for the sake of presenting W__ to the Master as pure and blameless. Your life as a husband is to be a picture of Jesus’ love for the church, your marriage a story of the greatest love story.
W__, you are to submit to this man who is to become your husband, just as the church submits to Jesus, to submit to his love for you, allowing him to love you and fight for you instead of always fighting for yourself, to respect him and so demonstrate your love. Your life as a wife is to be a picture of the church’s love for Jesus, your marriage a story of the greatest love story.
W__, V__: as your sister – and gathered here today together with others of your brothers and sisters in Christ – we charge you with this responsibility. It gives us joy – much joy! – to stand with you in this high calling and we pray in his name, the most holy name, that your marriage may be a story of the greatest love story, that your love for one another may be like the love between Jesus and the church, a love which is wild and relentless, all-consuming. And we ask that through this love which you have for one another, others may come to know the wild and relentless, all-consuming love that God has for all who will come to him in Christ.
In his name, may it be so.