Sermon for Holy Matrimony Saturday 8 September 2012
A moment ago I said to Florence and Kojo the following words, “The vows you are about to take are to be made in the presence of God, who is judge of all and knows all the secrets of our hearts…”
Florence and Kojo, our scriptures and tradition teach us that God knows us completely, he knows the secrets of our hearts and there is no-where that we can hide, there is nothing in ourselves that we can conceal from him. But rather than out of fear, we present ourselves to him, it is more out of a deep perception of his immense love towards us that we can bear to be so honest in our confession and in our prayers to him; for scripture tells us “God is love”, and that love is most wonderfully directed towards his creation.
So being mindful of his love towards us, we are to be ever open to the idea that we can be encouraged, influenced and changed by this divine “love” so that the generous love we are shown, can be reflected through ourselves towards the company we keep and in the intimate relationships we enjoy.
You are both wonderfully committed to this faith and it is a delight that as part of your preparation for Marriage, you will be confirmed as full members of the church by the Bishop of London later this year, taking the opportunity to build on a journey started many years ago, continuing, both of you, to embrace the faith that the church teaches in our Lord Jesus and to lead Christian lives.
But outside of that relationship with God and for a moment contemplating our human relationships with one another, I am mindful that we have little option other than to take a risk in knowing and being known by each other. But take confidence and courage in the love and generosity which comes from God and show it towards one another.
In your relationship you are to share the secrets of one and others hearts, your funny habits, the stories of childhood, the great things you have achieved and the mistakes you have made and regret. You are to share dreams, hopes and ideals, also the realities of daily life, work, study and play. You are to hold nothing back, for all of these things, come together in what is a sacred place, that sacred thing which is this loving and fruitful relationship which you ask God to bless and your family and friends to respect. In coming to know one another more fully, you are to look upon one another with kindness, growing in confidence, and learn always to say, I know you well, and still I love you much; for we trust that God knows us completely, yet despite our flaws, God is still deeply in love with us. And this is how you are to be with one and other, and to replicate in your wider friendships, and encourage in your family life.
Yet, safeguard yourselves against the impatience and annoyance which we can so often allow to develop within us towards that which we perceive to be imperfect. Be cautious not to disregard in one another that which you believe to be inadequate. But celebrate and live with the mystery and complexity of our human nature, always forgiving and always loving, and always practicing what it is to love.
By definition, to be fully human, is to be flawed, failing and blemished, no matter how beautiful we are or how great we might be. But what is remarkable in our human nature is that in spite of knowing ourselves, and our limits, our issues and our troubles, we still strive to be loved, to be known and to know someone intimately and exclusively; someone to whom we can commit our lives and our love in spite of ourselves, committed to one another’s changing beauty and goodness.
You will see throughout your lives many who have become obsessed with perfection; in the pursuit of something unobtainable. But somewhere, somehow, reality has to hit… behind closed doors, in the company of the person you desire and love with all your heart, we have to remember to say, in good times and in bad, because of both what we see as the perfect and the imperfect in you, “I love you.”
Love is the central theme in today’s gathering. None of us can articulate a higher purpose in what we are doing today, because Florence and Kojo, we, your friends and family here support you, and we want to encourage you in these good days and in the years to come, in your love for one and other. A love from which we pray neither of you will ever be distracted.
I cannot believe that it is an accident that we aspire to love and be loved. It is something learned from an early age, it is perhaps even instinctual, and though it trips us all up now and again, to love and be loved in our adult relationships, is to perhaps recapture something of that love which knows no limit, no bounds, of which we read so much about in the life of Jesus and in the Bible.
The love that Jesus holds for all creation, in our most complicated state, demands his all, his life, as the means by which all is made well and restored; where we begin to have choices again, choices about turning to and away from God. But God’s love for us is unbroken and without end. It doesn’t end because he is fed up with us, it doesn’t end because we muck up or get it wrong, or because he would rather pay attention somewhere else … his love for us as St Paul reflected is patient, kind, it doesn’t envy, or boast, it is not proud, rude, self-seeking or easily angered. His love for us rejoices in the truth, it protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres; it never fails, so we can learn a lot from God.
Florence and Kojo, we have very much invested in you, in your relationship and we pray for you and that you will be blessed. For a moment today you are making visible for all of us to see, “that crazy little thing called love” and it’s that love that you have for one and other, which in its complexity and in its simplicity reflects the love that God has for all of us here. At our best, we imitate something far greater than we can see, but I suppose we have to reflect in this service and in our lives where we can, that love finds its source, its origin in God, and now before God and in the presence of his people you reflect that love to one and other. God bless you both, now and in the many years to come. Amen.
Sermon preached by Fr. John Pritchard