(This was supposed to be posted on the 29th, but WordPress decided not to. Oh well. Here it is anyway!)
One year ago today, Guion and I got married at the Chapel of the Cross. Guion’s mentor and our pre-marital counselor Cleve May gave a beautiful and soul-stirring homily for our ceremony. He was kind enough to send it to us a few weeks ago as a reminder of the promise we made to each other, and so I wanted to share it with you today.
We’re celebrating our year together on the beautiful shores of Atlantic Beach right now, but our thoughts will be very much with that heart-stopping moment on May 29, 2010.
Abby and Guion, I know that the commitment you make to one another today has been thought through and prayed over for a long time, and over the last several months I have so enjoyed the privilege of sharing with you the counsel of the Lord through the wisdom of scripture concerning the beautiful gift and awesome responsibility of marriage. With these things in mind, I want to encourage you to continue seeking deeper understanding of God’s will for your lives. To this end, I exhort you to implant yourselves in the community of the church, in order that God may grant you wisdom and grace with and through God’s people, that your marriage will be refreshed, strengthened and held accountable in the body of Christ, and that you may continually realize and live into God’s calling for your marriage to witness to the love and faithfulness of God exhibited in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
In the Gospel Lesson Jonathan read a moment ago we heard some of the most potentially daunting and yet hope-filled words Jesus spoke to his disciples and now speaks to us: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you… love one another as I have loved you. In similar fashion, Paul calls us to Christ’s likeness in the Philippians passage Mac shared with us: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. Love like Jesus. Think like Jesus. Guion, do you feel the weight of that? Abby, need we any explanation of why these words can feel so daunting? And particularly in this context, as we gather to witness and bless your marriage, these calls to imitate Christ can sound completely overwhelming because there is a simple fact that everyone here who has ever been married will attest to; there is nothing like marriage to open our eyes to just how un-Christ-like we can be. No other relationship can so expose the sin of our selfishness, our insecurities, and our pride. And yet it is precisely in the face of this simple fact that Jesus’ and Paul’s words are so profoundly hopeful!
You see, Jesus did not merely love us in the past by giving himself to us and for us; Jesus loves us now! He prays for us, and dwells within us by the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is not only a gift of presence, but also of power! Jesus never gave a command in order to crush his people under impossible expectations. Rather, Jesus’ commands operate as sure promises of all that He intends to work in us through the power of the Spirit. Love one another as I have loved you is a command of promise; the Spirit will empower us to love this way. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus is an exhortation of hope! The Spirit will so tutor our minds!
You see, the sustained beauty and blessing of your marriage will require the miracle of God’s producing in you the love and the mind of Jesus. Guion and Abby, as much love as you feel for one another at this moment, I can assure you that there will be days when you wake up and wonder why on earth you committed your life to the stranger lying next to you. In your life together, the feelings of love will come and go, and it will be in the hardest days that you will discover the true depth of love that persists, not because of romance or utility or convenience, but because of the love and humility of Jesus, who determined to love both neighbor and enemy alike, humbly laying his life down for both, and calling us to do the same; because in marriage you will undoubtedly find your spouse to be both your most intimate neighbor, and sometimes the enemy who can hurt you the most. In both instances, you must determine to humbly love, for our Lord so commands, and what He commands he can accomplish in us through His Spirit.
Guion and Abby, I am so thankful that God has given you both the gift of faith in Jesus, and the desire to honor God with your lives, but for the sake of your marriage and ultimately for the sake of Jesus’ name, you must never cease to steward that gift, nurture that faith, and feed that desire. As Paul puts it in the verses immediately following what Mac read about Jesus’ humility: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Guion and Abby, by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells and works in you, love like Jesus, think like Jesus, and your marriage will be what it is designed to be, a beautiful, living picture of Jesus. Amen.