Monthly Archives: September 2011
I don’t usually add these occasional sermons. They usually are so specific to the event that I don’t think there is much that someone could get out of them without that background. This is one I think a little differently about. I really liked this sermon (if I do say so myself). It is short, a quick read and I think presents the gospel in a light and attractive way. It might be worth your 5 minutes whether married 5 mins or 10 years.
Text: 1 Cor 12 – 13
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…”
Our generation has been chastened from some of those stark statements, but we still gather in joy at weddings. Brides – like Delia here, and grooms –like Curtis – will come before God and their assembled family and friends and promise shortly to love, honor and keep in sickness and in health. They will pledge to each other their faithfulness. In other words, to promise that love never ends.
But St. Paul – the writer of those words – is not naïve about love. Listen to how he defines love. It bears all things. So when the mountain top experience of the wedding day is a distant memory replaced by the mountain of laundry. Love bears it.
Love believes all things. I don’t think that St. Paul is asking us to be intentionally stupid here, but is saying that love puts the best construction possible on your spouse’s actions. So when he’s watching football on your anniversary – it is not because he’s an ingrate, but because he really means it’s a big game. Or when she claims that new furniture is needed or that you need to forget about the game to decorate a room – love believes this is a necessity.
And probably most importantly – love hopes all things. Your hopes are now for each other and jointly as a couple. Love chooses to place its hope in your partner – even when it might not be the smart thing. Love choses to hope in the union – when something else might look more hopeful.
And all of these bearing, believing, hoping, enduring…these actions of love are not easy, but they are your choice. The world wishes to say that love should be easy. From mountaintop to mountaintop. God’s revelation is that love is both easy and hard…and much more defined by the hard…and it is in our hands. We choose to continue to love, even when something might not be loveable.
The truth is that none of us will ever live up to that. But we have been given an example and a promise. Christ loved his bride the church. Such that he bore the cross for her. Believes that she is the best thing even though church history might say otherwise, continues in word and sacrament to hope for her… and Christ’s love for His bride the church does not end. How Christ deals with the church is the ideal for marriage – with hope and faith , with forgiveness, and greatest of all, with love.
So we gather in joy for a wedding, because we commit ourselves to that ideal. And we commit to that knowing that Christ has already lived it for us. That when we are weak, He still loves us…and allows us to renew our lives though His never-ending love. Amen.
It is not really fair to make fun of the disciples. We are at a great advantage. We know the full story and we have the Spirit. (Yes, Pentecost means something). And I’m sure I’m bulldozing over huge cultural difference, but I just kinda think that human nature never changes. (Without the intervention of the Spirit.) The disciples’ questions may seem thick, but they are usually very logical. When they ask, like today, who is the greatest – they are asking a real question. Maybe not the way we would put it, but even a question that has prophetic background. Elisha asked for a double portion of the Spirit of Elijah. A prophet who is going away leaves a successor. Jesus has predicted his death three times in rapid succession. The disciples are just asking who’s next in line. What is the succession plan? A natural question.
But hierarchies and succession plans and great leaders are not what the church is about. The gospel does not depend upon the leader. Because the gospel is Christ’s. And he is present wherever two or three call in his name. And what does that look like? Keep on eye on the least – the little child. Be watchful; remain faithful. Look for the lost. Seek reconciliation; not just forgiveness but living with your brother who has wronged you. All of these things are how the church lives grace and depend not a whit on who the local leader is. You can choose to live a life guided by grace. (Enabled by the Spirit). The church is the place where that happens. Where ever two people practice grace instead of power – there Christ is.
So easy, yet so hard to do.
I wanted to share this poem primarily because I found it strikingly beautiful.
The woman with the alabaster jar
She knew the lines of a man’s back
as well as she knew the taste
of decanted fig-wine, or the way the spine
girdered the back under her hand;
an uneven scaffolding of flesh under fingers.
It was a gentle gift, this. Acquired slowly
in the stones arranged on her mother’s grave,
in the deep vault of her hip against his.
Dipping like water, she learnt to press libations
into her hair — lavender, dill, coriander;
to twist strands against the frame.
There was salvation in this. And Art too;
that fingers still wet from mulberry
could etch a form of truth on the skin,
like the rim of flung-coin, or the
consolation of Spring oranges and their spurting.
But the truth of them has been forgotten.
His dirty feet and tired eyes, her hennaed-thighs
in sandalwood and linen, how she swung her hips,
how his loneliness was an atrium arching from his chest
to the lip of the buttress; aching for her to unfurl her hair.
The allusions swim around these texts (Matt 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:37-39 – although note that the Luke story is a different setting; also look at Song of Solomon 5:15-16). Does it step over a line for the pious, or does it push to the right line reminding us ‘…and he was made man…’?