On Saturday, Joel and Kat got married. It was the most amazingly awesome day, full of love, pride, tears, joy, delight and a sense of privilege at being part of something so beautiful and transcendent. There is something incredible at watching the baby that you gave birth to become an eloquent, mature man who takes your breath away with his love for his bride. They asked me to preach at their wedding and this is what I said. I think I just about held it together.
We have just witnessed a slight shift in the cosmos. None of us are the same as we were when we entered this church.
Kat has become the fifth member of the select group of women in this room who go by the name of Mrs Baker. Not only is she the most gorgeous member but I think she is the best actual baker.
Jan and I have become mothers-in-law, and together are going to redeem the reputation of that much maligned section of society by being totally awesome.
Simon’s best mate is now a married man
Joel and Kat are now husband and wife, and that has rippled out and touched us all.
But this is not just an event, or a happening. This is a part of a becoming.
This wedding is not a destination; it’s a beautiful pause on the journey where Joel and Kat have forever changed the way they travel – from solo travellers to mysteriously becoming one flesh.
Sarah read those beautiful words from Songs of Songs where one lover says to another: Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm.
Kat has a tattoo of Africa on her right foot – a place that captured her heart and touched her soul.
If we were able to see Joel and Kat’s hearts now, we would see something like a newly inked tattoo – on Joel’s heart it says Kat’s and on Kat’s heart it says Joel’s
It’s not a seal of ownership, or possession –
Because love liberates rather than controls
Rather than saying how can you meet my needs, Love asks how can I help you to thrive.
Instead of saying how will you make me happy, Love says how I can enable you to be all that you were born to be.
So it’s not a seal of ownership, but of commitment
This is the one I have given my heart to
This is the one I will travel through life with
This is the one whom my soul loves.
Today you’ve made big promises to each other – to be faithful, to honour one another, to love each other until you are parted by death, and we applaud you for that.
The easier and the safer option is not to aim for big things. There’s a prayer attributed to Sir Francis Drake which says ‘Disturb us Lord when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have become true because we dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.’ You have not chosen the safe option, you are not dreaming small; you’re choosing the adventure of marriage, pushing into the future with strength, courage, hope and love.
Of course we wish for you the ‘better, richer, healthier’ side of those promises but inevitably there will be moments of sickness, seasons when you’re poorer, times when things get worse.
How can you keep these promises? What resources do you have to draw on?
Firstly, you have each other. I’m probably biased but you are both amazing, creative, strong, sensitive, compassionate and resourceful people. Your relationship has survived time spent on different continents, and studying at universities that were miles apart. You’ve negotiated night shifts and tight deadlines, and Joel saying ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ to every piece of work that comes his way. You know how to cope with Kat always being early and Joel always being late. You have dealt with Joel being permanently attached to his laptop as if it were an extra limb. I think you will rise to the challenge of crafting life together.
We heard that many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. It’s true that often times of crisis bring you closer together. It’s not the dramatic events of life that destroy love – it’s more likely to be taking each other for granted, a slow drifting apart, the creeping up of indifference. So if I’m allowed to give you some advice today it would be to protect your time together, work hard at listening to each other, commit to speaking openly and honestly, decide to always be kind, speak well of each other, sort out disagreements quickly.
And then you also have all of us, surrounding you with love and support, cheering you on from near and far. Today we have promised to support and uphold you, so please hold us to that. We want to be your companions on the journey, to help you thrive, to learn from and be inspired by you, and to love, pray for and nurture you in return. You have our permission to tell us when we’re not doing enough, or when we’re interfering too much. You are allowed to ask for help, or for space, or for advice, or to borrow the car.
And then around, and within, and above and below, you at the centre and us around you, is God who loves you passionately and without compromise. Before creation, God knew both of you. God is the source of all love; God is the love that loves us, unconditionally, sacrificially, redemptively. Love is not one of those finite resources that gets used up. The more you love God, the more you’ll be able to love each other.
The bible is full of different descriptions of God’s love – rich metaphors that help us understand God’s relationship to us. I want to close with just one of those. In Isaiah, God says about the people he loves ‘See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.’ Where you have each other’s names etched on your hearts, God has your names etched on the palms of his hands that hold you as you set out on this journey together. On this journey of marriage, God goes within you, behind you, ahead of you, under you – walking with you each step of the way.
Joel and Kat, thank you for inviting us to share your day with you. We look forward to sharing life with you and watching you grow together in the years ahead. Amen.
(Photo by my niece Georgie Claire Low )