Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.
When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be charged with any related duty. He shall be free at home one year, to be happy with the wife whom he has married.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Grace to you and peace, from God our Creator, and Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord and Savior, Amen.
Are you guys nervous? Everybody’s here. They are all looking at you. You guys are going to get married. Say some vows. They still will be looking at you. I think it’s going to happen. And Josh – that verse you chose from Deuteronomy, I think that means you don’t get to go back to the Marines for another year.
Josh and Chelsea chose three portions of scripture for today. The first you are likely all familiar with. This is part of the second creation story from Genesis. What happened in that story was God created Adam, and Adam went around naming various animals. And then because Adam is alone, God decides to create him a companion. And I think all of this can relate to this – because it can be no fun to be alone. Being alone is tough. It is difficult. And this is where the Gospel is found today. A God who loves us, and has created relationship. On this day, we celebrate the love God has for us, in giving both Josh and Chelsea each other as a gift.
It is from this part of Genesis that we get the ever famous pronouncement, “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus recites this passage from Genesis. Becoming one flesh. I like to quote a psychologist who talked about becoming one flesh. His name is Peter Steinke, and he said this. He said, “I really do believe, that when someone gets married, they become one flesh. The question is, which one?” Which one do they become?
The sentiment of that statement is exactly what drives at the heart of being in relationship with each other. Becoming one flesh isn’t so easy. It is very, very difficult. In many weddings there are unity candles, and this is of course to symbolize becoming one flesh – and normally those candles are nice and pretty. But they aren’t realistic. A husband and wife don’t make a nice neat and pretty package. I have yet to have a couple who wanted a unity candle, to buy into my idea of a melted blob of different colors of wax with two wicks that are very hard to find and light. Josh and Chelsea wanted to use unity sand, mixing different colors of sand, because they thought it was more meaningful. I like the idea of sand because it is more accurate. Sand is messy. When you go to a beach… the sand gets in your shoes, and between your toes. I know the last time I went to a beach I was vacuuming up sand for a month. One of the bridesmaids alerted me last night, she said “I am sorry Pastor Lyle, but when we were setting up the sand we spilled some.” I didn’t say it, but I thought it later… great! Sand is messy. Relationship is tough. It is more authentic than it is pretty. How perfect it was that they spilled some of the unity sand. See, the love humans have for each other, it is never perfect.
And that brings us to our reading from Romans. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”
Now this passage from Roman is frequently read at weddings, and one of the things I like to teach about it is this. It isn’t about Romantic love. The apostle Paul is speaking to an early Christian community in Rome that is mired in conflict. It was actually early Jewish Christians and early Gentile Christians that were fighting with each other. And Paul’s message to them, was exactly this. Let love be genuine. Hate what is evil. Hold fast to what is good. Love one another with mutual affection. Outdo one another in showing honor… and Paul’s list of how to love each goes on. It isn’t about romantic love, it is about community love. But the rules are the same. Let it be genuine. Stay away from evil. Love one another.
Where the Apostle Paul has it right is that he is treating love as a verb, and he is teaching the Romans to treat the word as a verb as well. See, love is something we do. Love is an action. Love isn’t something that happens to us. Love isn’t something that passively appears. The cliché’ “falling in love,” that is perhaps the biggest falsehood of our time. Falling in love isn’t love. Love is something we actively do, and not something that happens to us.
Now… I did trick Josh and Chelsea a little bit. I asked each of them two questions and I told neither one of them their answer would be in today’s sermon. I asked Chelsea the one thing you like least that Josh does. Now, I asked for one thing and she quickly said two things. I have a feeling there were possibly more. When he doesn’t clean the house and when he plays video games. Chelsea, when he is stuck playing video games and hasn’t done any cleaning around the house, Paul’s words are for you. “Love one another with mutual affection. Outdo one another in showing honor…” I asked Josh the same question, and he might have known what was up, because he said “Chelsea’s scowl.” Now Josh – I know for a fact when she scowls at you, you probably earned it. And Paul’s words are the same for you. Let love be genuine. Hold fast to what is good. Love one another with mutual affection.
Now I also asked each one of them what is the one thing you admire the most. Chelsea piped up instantly “His sense of humor. He cares for people.” Josh – you might not be in tune with this, but that is a good example of you not treating love like a noun. More like the verb it is. If you treat Chelsea with the same feelings that are behind your humor, you will have a very successful relationship. And Josh’s reply to this same question, “Chelsea’s smile.” Chelsea, if you treat Josh using those same feelings behind your smile, you will also have a very successful relationship.
Our love isn’t perfect. It’s messy. And at times we get glimpses of what can be. And I want to take you back to that creation story, for that is where the Gospel is at on this day. Or love for each other is not perfect. But the love of God for us is most certainly perfect. It is out of this love we have been created. It is out of this perfect love that we have been given a son to die for us. It is out of this love that we have each been given a partner. It is out of this perfect love for us, that God has given us relationship. And especially on this day, it is out of this perfect love for us, that we celebrate the gifts God has given each of you – the gift of each other.
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.