Sarah Francis & Alex Wheble
I love weddings, and it is a great privilege for me to be able to conduct Alex and Sarah’s wedding today. Today we are doing several things, firstly we are celebrating the love Alex and Sarah have for one another. We are also looking ahead to what the future holds for them as husband and wife, but most importantly of all we are asking for God’s blessing to be upon them as they begin this new and exciting chapter in their lives together.
But what does it mean to love someone? Here’s what some children had to say.
Bobby age 8 said, "Love will find you, even if you are trying to hide from it. I have been trying to hide from it since I was five, but the girls keep finding me."
Rebecca - age 8 "When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love."
Chrissy - age 6 "Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs."
Terri - age 4 "Love is what makes you smile when you're tired."
When asked what most people think when they say “I love you”
Michelle age 9 said "The person is thinking: Yes, I really do love him. But I hope he showers at least once a day."
Finally, some sound advice on how to make a marriage last.
Erin, age 8 said "Don't forget your wife's name...That will mess up the love."
Dave, age 8. "Be a good kisser. It might make your wife forget that you never take out the rubbish."
Needless to say, weddings are very special occasions, and so we make a special effort to look our best – and I am sure you will agree with me that Sarah looks beautiful.
Now, although I’m a man, and therefore don’t know much about these things, I do know that a lot of thought goes into choosing the right wedding outfit, particularly the bride’s dress. But how does one dress for success in a marriage? What is the secret for creating a long, happy and fulfilling marriage?
Paul in his letter to the Colossians has some suggestions for a marriage wardrobe. “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness and love. These are the things you should clothe yourself in, if you want a good, lifelong marriage.
Love requires time & commitment
True love and isn’t just about emotions and feelings, true love is about commitment and sacrifice.
Louis de Berniere in his book Captain Correlli’s Mandolin, writes the following:
Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day… No. That is just being ‘in love’, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away… Your mother & I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.
To build a loving lasting relationship takes time & effort. The Christian understanding of love is that love is not so much an abstract noun as an active verb. Love involves doing. It is not only what we say, but what we do, that counts. Marriage is more than finding the right person. It is about learning to be the right person.
True love means putting the needs of the other person before yourself, and that is not always easy. For your relationship to grow and develop, it will need to be nurtured and cared for, and that requires commitment and hard work. But the more you invest in your marriage, the more valuable it will become.
I came across this quote yesterday, which said: “All things need watching, working at, caring for, and marriage is no exception. Marriage is not something to be indifferently treated or abused, or something that simply takes care of itself. All things need attention, care and concern, and especially so in this most sensitive of all relationships of life.
Remember to build each other up, to strengthen and sustain, to keep companionship lovely and alive. Remember dignity and respect; understanding; not expecting perfection; a sense of humor and a sense of what is sacred and serious; common purposes, common convictions, and the character to keep a covenant - in these are the making of a good and solid marriage.”
At the beginning of the service I began with the words, God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them. If you want to know what true love is like you only need to look to God. God is the source of all love. In God we see what love truly is like. God's love for us is unconditional; no matter what we say or do his love for us never diminishes. God's love does not keep a record of wrongs, and it is totally self-giving. This is how we know what love is really like.
Paul, in his letter the Corinthians wrote these words about love. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
For Paul these words are not sentimental idealism. For Paul it was practical, real and true. He had encountered this kind of love for himself in his relationship with Jesus.
In April, when I was on holiday in Kent with my family, we visited the Historic Dockyard in Chatham. There we saw the ropery, where they have been making rope since 1618. We watched as they made the rope, which was made by twisting three cords around each other. The reason this rope was made of three cords, is because one or two cords can be easily broken, but three cords woven together cannot be easily broken.
Marriage is like a three-stranded cord. One cord is the husband. Another cord is the wife. A third cord is the Jesus. On your own, Alex and Sarah, you can be easily broken. Together, you acquire more strength. But when you build your marriage around Jesus, you become three cords woven together which are much stronger.
My experience is that the love of God is practical, real and true, and has the power to transform lives. And you cannot build your marriage on a better foundation than the love of God found in Jesus Christ.
Alex and Sarah as you begin this journey of marriage, my prayer is that you will discover true love in all its dimensions, in each other, but also in the one in whom we experience it most clearly, Jesus Christ, the source and the model of all love.
So, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Amen.