Thursday, 20 August 2009

And now for something completely different!

Thought some people might like to read this sermon I've written for a family wedding on August 29th - a week on Saturday!
This is draft 2 - probably will get worked over again before the Big Day!

What does love look like? (Ruth 1: 15-18, 1 Cor. 13: 1-8a, 13.)

We are here today to celebrate love – but what does love look like?
I tried Googling ‘love’ to see what images came up: predictably there were hearts, red roses, kisses… less predictably pictures of Courtenay Love, Swizzels Love Hearts and some rather interesting diet advice with graphic images of love handles.

So let’s leave the internet to one side and ask what this wedding service teaches us about what love looks like.

I love the part of the wedding service in 'Worship from the URC' in which is written in the opening prayer, of the bride and groom:
‘Make them today a sign for us of your love in all creation’.

One answer for ‘what does love look like?’ is here right before our eyes – in Grace & Stephen. Love looks like two happy people, a new chance in life, a working partnership, the ability to be more yourself than you thought possible, a happy family. That’s what love looks like.

It shouldn’t surprise us that we see love most clearly in other people – love is made to be incarnate, to be made flesh, it is seen best in human form. When we feel a loving touch, when we receive a loving glance, when we hear a loving word – it is then we know what love is, what love looks like. Here is love – in these two people about to be married.

Our reading from the book of Ruth reminds us that love is not only about married love: the words we heard were said by daughter-in-law to mother-in-law, but they are undoubtedly words of love.
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay – your people will be my people and your God my God”.
Ruth expresses a love which looks like devotion and loyalty and a commitment to travel together always. That, too is what love looks like.

Our other reading, from the letter to the Corinthians, spells out in more detail what love looks like to St Paul.
His list begins
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude…”.
When Grace told me they had decided on this reading for today, she said, very sweetly “I want this because I can put the word ‘Stephen’ in everywhere it says ‘love’ : Stephen is patient & kind; not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.” Grace then went on to admit that she fell at the first hurdle - ‘Grace is patient’.
Given that we’re all sitting here right now and not in July 2010 as we first expected suggests she might have a point!

Perhaps it will help you, Grace, and others of us who are impatient, to remember Galatians 5 v 22
‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.’

There’s good news here on two fronts – firstly that patience gets relegated to number 4 on the list, but secondly and more importantly, that patience, along with love and all the rest are described as fruits of the spirit – gifts from God.
A gift from God for each one of us – a gift for us to enjoy, and a gift which will grow in us. A divine gift – that’s what love looks like.

And since I started by quoting Susan Durber and the URC wedding service, I’ll finish with St Augustine. He says:
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of others. That is what love looks like.”

We are here to celebrate and share your love today, Stephen and Grace. We pray that love will fill you today and in the days and years to come, and that in that love you will be a blessing to many others.

In the name of Jesus – who shows us best of all what love looks like. Amen.

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