I love taking wedding services. As I explain in this sermon, I see God in the love of every couple who make vows to each other. But I take a particular joy in the weddings of people I know well. Asta grew up in the Williamstown Uniting Church. One of the past ministers, Bill Lidgett, joined me for the service, blessed Asta and Matthew, and prayed for them. It was an absolutely wonderful day, and I’d like to thank them both for giving me the privilege of being their celebrant.
Sermon for the Wedding of Asta and Matthew
8th of July, 2017
Today is a joyous celebration for us all, including the church. Asta grew up within this church community, and so the community delights in witnessing her marriage to Matthew. I personally am extremely glad that as I marry them I now remember Matthew’s name; when Asta introduced him to me several years’ ago she described him as: ‘This is my … person’ and that’s how I labelled him in my head: he was ‘Asta’s person’. It took until the preparations for this wedding before I could convince my memory to replace ‘Asta’s person’ with ‘Matthew’. Now that that’s happened I feel some added joy, and a lot of relief, as I take part in today’s service.
But the church is always very excited when we celebrate a wedding. And by ‘church’ I don’t just mean the congregation here, although that’s true, especially when we feel that the couple getting married is part of us as Asta and Matthew are. The Church that loves weddings is the entire worldwide Church throughout time and space. This is because the Church believes and has always believed that in the love between a married couple, as in any sort of love, we see God.
The Bible reading that Joe read is one of many which talk about God’s love for humanity. The Church believes that God is love. The Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is a community of love, and humanity is invited to join God in that love: ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.’ The great commandment that Jesus gives his followers is to love one another; as he loves us so we are to love him and each other, and by doing this we become friends with God. Love is at the very heart of the Christian faith, loving one another is Christ’s commandment to us, because God is love and love is of God. And so whenever people love each other and declare their love before their family and friends, the church rejoices with them, believing that in and through their love we see God.
Today Matthew and Asta are called to love each other as God loves us. Jesus says of this love, ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ He says this on his last night with his disciples, on the night that he is betrayed by one of them, the night before he does lay his life down in the crucifixion. When Jesus asks us to love one another as he loves us, he is talking about a love that is willing to die for the beloved. That’s an enormous challenge – to love as God loves. Fortunately, Matthew and Asta don’t need to try and meet that challenge alone. Today and throughout their marriage they’ll be surrounded by people whose job it is to support and encourage them as they live out their love for each other.” SAAnd that
Firstly, there are all of us, their friends and family, gathered here. In a little while you will promise to bless and support Asta and Matthew in their lives together. That’s the part that you play in the ceremony today, and it’s a role you will continue to play for the rest of Matthew and Asta’s lives. They aren’t the only people making promises today; everyone here makes a promise. Attending a wedding has serious implications. It may not have been mentioned on the invitations, but you’re now part of the marriage we’re celebrating.
Secondly, there’s the church. Matthew and Asta will be married according to the rites of the Uniting Church in Australia and the church has a duty to support and encourage them in their marriage, and to uphold them in any and every way that it can. Bill Lidgett and I, as the ministers involved, have that responsibility, but so does the wider church community. Collectively we need to encourage and support couples to love each other as God loves us all, partly by modelling what that love looks like in our own community. Members of the Church need to be willing to lay down our lives for each other.
Thirdly, and most importantly, there’s God. ‘God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them,’ the Apostle John writes in one of his letters. Today, we ask for God’s blessing on the marriage of Matthew and Asta, certain that the God who is love will bless them as they make their promises to each other. As Matthew and Asta make their promises and declare their love, they are not doing it alone. They are doing it in the presence of us all and in the presence of the God who is love and whose love will always surround them. In all the challenges that face them in their life together, this will remain true. God will be with them, giving them the support and strength and courage they will need. Thanks be to God. Amen.