>I recently had the privledge of presiding at my brother’s wedding in Nashville. It gave me a chance to reflect again on God’s triune love, which is the context for all other loves. Below is my wedding sermon for that occasion.
“My beloved speaks and says to me:
‘Arise, my love, my fair one and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come…
Arise, my love, my fair one and come away.
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
A seal upon you arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave…
If one offered for love all the wealth of
his house it would be utterly scorned.’”
Song of Solomon 2:10-12; 8:6
Anyone who thinks that human love and passion is the sole fodder of late night TV or romance novels has conveniently forgotten or neglected passages like this found in the Song of Solomon. Right here in Holy Scripture, one can find red hot passion, love given to another with complete abandon, poetic musings of love’s mystery and magnetism. Here we find human love expressed vividly and unapologetically, and the backdrop for all of it is God.
“Love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave.” Not a bad place to start for a couple entering into the covenant of marriage. Of course, the fun part is at the beginning: “arise, my love, my fair one and come away.” Passion numbs our common sense and allows us let go of the fear of losing control. That is a good thing, because control is one of the first things to go after one says “I do.” Passion can also place our reason in parenthesis, allowing us to plunge into deep water and explore whatever mysteries there are beneath the surface. It is impossible to know what surprises lie on the other side of marriage vows, but passion helps cut the rope of fear, anxiety, and cold logic that holds us at bay and allows us to sail into un-chartered waters with hope and expectation.
The grace of falling in love is that we are invited into a mystery that promises to move us away from insular and self-absorbed lives. In marriage, the paradox of the gospel is embodied in some small way – that in losing ourselves for the sake of another, we may find ourselves and become something more than we would otherwise be. In marriage, you – Kenny and Andrea – both enter into union and communion with one another – your life together as one is greater than the mere sum of your individual lives and the lives of your families. This is divine mathematics, where 1 + 1 equals more than 2, and where grace causes the equation to explode with possibilities for new love, new hope, and new service to God and to the neighbor.
It is not a coincidence that the early church has often looked at the Song of Solomon as a testimony of God’s love for us. True human love with all of its passion, ecstasy, and beauty springs only from the fountain of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. That fountain flowed most vividly on the cross, where love poured down in streams of blood – where the greatest sacrifice of all was given that the world might find true life and true love. God is the first and last Lover, and all human love worth having is grounded in and through that love.
In other words, because God first loved you Andrea – you can give yourself to God and to this man. Kenny, because God first loved you, you can give yourself to God and to this woman. Because God is love – a perfect community of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit – you can love one another as the love of God purifies and perfects your love for God, for one another, and for your neighbor.
God’s love and passion is the ground for love given in marriage, but is much more than that. God’s passion is for all of us. God’s passion for the world is red hot – desiring all our hearts, our minds, our bodies, and our souls. We have been loved with complete abandon – a love that wants to flow into and through all other loves and relationships – a love that forgives us even as it empowers us to forgive one another – a love that sacrificed all for us that we might make sacrifices for one another, in sickness and in health, in life and in death – until the day when we shall all be reunited with the Great Lover of our souls – when we shall all be fully enveloped in a love that surpasses all reason and understanding. A day when our love shall be made perfect and we hear the words from our Lord: “Arise, my love, my fair one and come away.”