Let me preface this with saying that my brother and sister-in-law got married on the same day that Mizzou and Nebraska played football. Seeing as how he went to Mizzou and Christie wen to Nebraska, it made for a fun day!!
The first thing that I think of today when reading this scripture, is that Jesus must not have been familiar with Big 12, Tiger, or Cornhusker football when he said this. How is a Cornhusker honestly supposed to love a Tiger on a football Saturday half way through the season when they are tied for first place in the northern division? But, all joking aside, this scripture still presents a difficult question. How are two people, two very different people, supposed to love one another, in with the same amazing love with which Christ has loved them? And in attempting to address this question, even still, Chad, how is your unmarried, younger sister supposed to give wisdom and thoughtful reflection on this passage and marriage? Frankly, I cannot give that type of wisdom, because I do not know how. Quite frankly, I cannot speak to that type of wisdom for lack of experience. However, I do know how to speak of two parallel things to that type of wisdom. I know how to speak of the gospel, and I know of this love, which Jesus speaks of in this passage, the love, which Jesus shows to us all.
Both families have come here today, to this celebration of love, and have raised you two in love. Love from both families, friends and family alike, are represented here today in the fact that you have over 200 people here to celebrate the love between you two. Chad, I know that we have grown up with love, and Christie, that I have seen immense love within your family. I saw immense love during such a hard time just a few months ago and it still pours out passionately from all sides of your family, including from above. Vince still provides his true and great love to you and your family today, on this joyful celebration of love between you and Chad.
Now I am not suggesting that I even begin to understand this love you two share, because I know it is great and powerful, and something only the two of you can understand between one another. But I do affirm, as does this passage, that it must be like the love God has shown for us. As is the love of Christ, it should be unending, powerful, and unconditional. You can dedicate your life to it, spend a lifetime in this love, and yet there will always be more love than you can imagine, offering more to one another than you could ever know. As I can spend years studying the love Jesus has shown all of us, you can dedicate your life to the love between you two, and in both instances, it should be one of the most eloquent and powerful things you will experience in your life. Whether I speak of the love you two hold for each other or the love God offered to us through God’s Son, Jesus Christ, it matters not, because it holds true for both. Your marriage should be a reflection and joyful celebration of the love Christ has shown to us, and as he charged us to show one another.
Although it was not read today, Jesus continues on in this passage to speak about laying down your life for another as the greatest expression of love. Today you two are laying down your life for one another – not in a sense of a sacrificial death as in the case of Jesus Christ – but in that you offer your lives to one another, to join in life with each other. This sacrificial love you two are showing to one another is what Christ speaks of in John, that we love one another as he has loved us, in the fullest manner, in the greatest way we know how, through the example Jesus Christ has shown us. Christ laid down his life for us, so that our joy might be complete in him, and exemplifies one of the highest forms of love you could know. It is through this example today that you Chad & Christie are laying down their lives for one another in love, giving their lives to one another in love. Through joining your lives together, offering your life to one another, you give new life to your relationship and too each other, newness to a life joined with one another. While marital love is flawed and imperfect, because as humans we are flawed and imperfect, our love should strive to reflect divine love, laying down your life, offering your life to one another in love.
But surely Christ could not have meant that a Tiger should love a Cornhusker! Despite the fact that you as Tigers and Cornhuskers normally do not get along, Chad and Christie I know that your love will work through any dilemmas that may come, through football and basketball season, through joyous and distressing days, through faults and forgiveness, as Christ’s love has done the same for each of us. Christ still offered life to us through our faults, in the same way a new life in marriage is offered despite faults and indifferences that may come your way. Martin Luther says, "Marital love begins when intoxicating love disappears." While I hope this intoxicating love and infatuation does not have to completely die in marriage, Luther's point is well taken: in marriage we must not confuse loving our spouse with always feeling that our spouse is lovely. Although I can’t speak from experience, I trust there will be plenty of bad times in marriage where being "in love" will be replaced with perseverance, the ethic of love, until the feeling of love can be nurtured to return. This perseverance of love, the ethic and principle of love is what always remains, regardless of those feelings of loveliness that may from time to time disappear. Continuing from today, through this commitment and those you have already made to one another, your love will continue to grow through all of these instances, moments in thinking your spouse is lovely, and instances when you think your spouse is many other things, but regardless of these times, there will always be love.
I want to finish today with a reading I have found since starting at seminary; a reading that I believe speaks to love from Christ, and the love we can all show to one another. Whether you are dedicating your life to the love of Christ, or adding to this dedication to Christ through marriage, I believe you must give yourself to love, every type of love, and all that it allows you to enjoy in life – because of love.
Kind friends all gathered 'round, there's something I would say: That what brings us together here has blessed us all today.Love has made a circle that holds us all inside.Where strangers are as family, loneliness can't hide.You must give yourself to love if love is what you're after; Open up your hearts to the tears and laughterand give yourself to love, give yourself to love.Love is born in fire; it's planted like a seed.Love can't give you everything, but it gives you what you need.And love comes when you're ready, love comes when you're afraid; It will be your greatest teacher, the best friend you have made. So give yourself to love if love is what you're after; Open up your hearts to the tears and laughterAnd give yourself to love, give yourself to love. Chad and Christie – may God grant that your love for one another, reflect the love of Christ for us. May it continue to grow as you faithfully serve Christ in the world - through this reflection of love in your marriage today and your reflections of love forever more.