Col. 3:12-17 & John 15:9-17
Phoebe and Nathan’s Wedding
Here we are. Here it is. My sister is getting married. I remember how Phoebe and Nathan surprised us all on that Christmas morning when mom opened up that last present telling us that you had decided to get married. I remember the tears of joy and congratulatory handshakes that were passed around as you both surprised us with such wonderful news. And now, we’ve come to that day we’ve all been waiting for as you both embark on this new life together making vows that you will love, support, and care for each other as life with all its up and downs comes year after year. I had almost forgotten how long you’ve known each other, but life has gone by almost too quickly. But, as I’ve gotten to know you Nathan over the years, and as I’ve gotten to know my little sister more and more over the years, I love, perhaps more than anything else about your relationship, how you came to love and accept each other as you are and not as you would want one another to be. I appreciate that more than anything else, because it is that which is going to get you through your life together more than anything else as you should keep coming back to that point where you simply recognize that the other is worthy of your love and care.
This also has reflected greatly in your choice of scripture readings for today. First, we hear of Paul telling a fledgling Christian community to bear with one another in love. Then we hear Jesus again telling his disciples to love one another as he has loved them. Now, while both readings speak of the loved shared within a community of people, you don’t love the other person because they say the right things. You don’t love the other person because of the wonderful things that they do. You love the other person simply because they are loved by a God who gives up everything to be with the creation that God has made. The people that Paul is writing to in this letter to the Colossians are just beginning their life together as this new community of Christians. They are struggling with what it is they need to be doing in order to be good followers of Christ. They keep hearing about things that they are not to taste, touch or handle. They keep hearing that there is secret knowledge and teachings that they need to acquire if they are truly going to be able to have a part in God’s salvation for us. In essence, they hear that they need to act right enough, speak right enough, and even eat right enough to be able to be loved by God, as if what Jesus did on the cross was simply not enough.
But, that’s not the love that God shows us when Jesus is nailed to the cross. When we see Jesus, we see the full depths to which God goes for us AS WE ARE and not as God would have us be. God comes to us as sinners, as broken people, as a people in desperate need for compassion, forgiveness, humility, kindness, and in desperate need for something to truly be able to trust with our life and our love. God comes to us, claims us, and loves precisely for who are and not for who we should be. This is the love that Jesus is telling his disciples to have for one another. He’s telling them that this perfect self-giving love is what we should aspire to, because it allows us to see the inherent worth in the other person and not simply the outside and external qualities that we so often can become infatuated with. This is the basis for a community that is finally able to live for others and not only yourself. “No greater lover than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends?” That is truth and a whole life-giving truth! When you see the love the love that God has for another person, when you see CHRIST in that other person, you are finally able to forget yourself and live fully and freely for the other person.
Nathan and Phoebe, this is something that I already see in both of you as you have come to dedicate your lives to each other is this day. In your love for one another, I see an acceptance and respect for who the other person inherently is. There may be things that you might change if you had the power, but I’m not sure you would both really want to do that because you both love each other as you are.
This doesn’t mean it is always going to be easy. This doesn’t mean that you’ll never wish one or the other would change. There will be fights. There will be disagreements. But it does mean that, as long as you keep in mind the love that God has shown for both of you and everyone else here in and even outside the church, you will be able to come back to love that is freely won and given to us by Jesus – our friend who has given up his life for us. Keep that in mind and you will be able to bear with each other in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and love.