For my last sermon of the semester for my preaching class, we were given the option to prepare a wedding sermon or a eulogy for a funeral. It only needed to be about 5 minutes. I chose the former. Then, we had to choose between two situations. I chose this one:
Sean and Elaine met in college and began to date their senior year. When Elaine graduated, she returned to your town and started work as a stock broker in her father’s firm. She grew up in your church and comes fairly frequently with her parents, who are also members. Sean went to Chicago to do an MBA. They continued their relationship long distance. When Sean finished is MBA, he moved to your town to be with Elaine and to join a management training program with a local company. He and Elaine have been living together for the last year and have decided to marry. Sean’s parents are divorced and both are remarried. They like Elaine and are pleased about the upcoming marriage. Elaine’s parents, however, are not so pleased that she is marrying Sean, whom they consider to be a nice guy but somewhat immature, and they have been unhappy that the couple has been living together. They will be present and supportive, but there are tensions over the upcoming marriage.
That was the only information given to us. We were, however, given permission to use our imaginations to fill in the pieces if we deemed it necessary. And I took that permission and ran with it. We were also given the freedom to choose our own scripture. Here is what I prepared:
1 Corinthians 13: 1-7 (NRSV)
1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
“Most of you here today probably know that Sean and Elaine have known each other longer than the years they’ve been dating. They started dating their senior years in college, but they first met during freshman orientation. They told me how they were in the same orientation group but it wasn’t until they were in the same biology class their spring semester of their freshmen year when they became friends. Sean and Elaine reminisced to me in our first meeting about how they realized they both laughed out loud at the same jokes their old, witty, dry-humored, grey-haired professor randomly spilled during lectures. To this day, their senses of humor are a huge element to their aura as a couple. They walk into any room and you feel a sense of easy-goingness just fill the room. Often times during our meetings we would all find ourselves just giggling like little kids. (But don’t you worry, we still got down to the nitty-gritty stuff. They can testify to that.) Sean and Elaine love to laugh. And that is such a great and powerful thing.
But there is something else that also makes up their aura as a couple. They also love to love. They love one another in different ways and after maintaining their long-distance relationship for two years, they learned quickly to stay communicative and flexible.
[Look at them…] I commend y’all for that and encourage y’all to continue that. In the scripture Tom read for us a minute ago, we hear about love.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians shows us love in a positive light: that it is patient and kind. And we also see what love is not: jealous, arrogant, and irritable. Now, we can’t truthfully say that we will never be jealous, arrogant, or irritable, right? Things happen at work…or don’t happen at work…and bad moods do happen. But what the good news here is what is said in verse 7: “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” In other words, love trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. This comes from another translation of the Bible that enables me to remind you two today to love and trust God first, because it is through God that you will get through the mood swings and the hard and difficult times.
[Look at them…] Y’all love to love. You’re both good at it in your own special and unique ways, and I just want to remind y’all as individuals and as a couple to love your God. It’s through God that you will love each other better and better every day. Love is the essential feature to life.
So although 1 Corinthians reminds us of a couple of things – to love God and how to love one another in the context of marriage, for example – it also reminds us that this way of loving is not limited to just marriage. It reminds us how to love in the context of supporting marriages.
[Look at them…] Sean and Elaine, look behind and around you. These people are all here for you two. You two asked them to be a part of your wedding day. That speaks so much to how you feel about all of them.
[Look at guests…] So, with that said, all of you have a duty to love and support on behalf of these two laughing and loving people. Love is the essential feature of life. Praise be to our God who loves us so much, who also teaches us to love in return. Amen.”