1 John 4:7-12
The Message (MSG)
7-10My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can't know him if you don't love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. 11-12My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!
First let me say how honored I am to be a part of this celebration. Ally and Phil, you have been two of my best friends. I can’t tell you how much I admire how you have both given your lives to literally spending every afternoon and every summer over the last few years, playing with children, and letting them know that someone loves them. I have witnessed this love being expressed toward these children and it is that same love that first brought the two of you together, together to be a sign of that perfect love God wants us to show the world.
Now, certainly much can be, and will be said about your summers and weekends together, serving at The Warren W. Willis Youth Camp… And to all of Phil and Ally’s friends that are already tired about hearing about this mystical cult campground that tends to turn friends into lovers, you are about to hear a whole lot more today. Having been to my share of these camp weddings, I have some advice on how to survive all the inevitable insider camp talk and the flash mob folk dancing when Cotton Eye Joe is played… Before the end of my sermon, just jot down the number of times you think camp will be mentioned tonight. If at the end of the night, you are the closest without going over, you will win an all expense, paid trip on a cruise with the newlyweds on their honeymoon.
But seriously, it is my privilege to say a few words about the vows you are about to make to one another. There are only a few places in the life of the church when we ask people to make vows. In each case, the vows are a part of a vocation – a calling from God – to love.
There are the baptismal vows, which were made on your behalf and renewed at your confirmation. In those vows is the calling, a vocation, to love God and love your neighbor.
There are the membership vows you made in joining this church. In those vows is the calling, a vocation, to resist evil and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves, and to support the Body of Christ with your prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.
And in just a few moments you will make the vows of a marriage covenant. And what is the calling of marriage? Marriage is a call to love one particular imperfect human being as Christ loves them.
There is no ideal life of Christian love free from visits from in-laws, noisy family meals, sex, paying bills, karaoke, and watching TV. Everything about your life together can be a sacrament of God's creative love: your bodies, freedom, feelings, work, play, or prayer. You will experience God's love in your love of each other, you will experience God's call in the challenge of your life together, and God's creativity as you grow, and change together.
Your love and faithfulness makes Christ visible. In the same way your relationship has been centered around loving children and youth, your marriage is a ministry for the world—a sign of that perfect love God wants to show the world through you both.
And this is why the church asks you to make these vows publicly. We need you to make and faithfully keep this covenant of marriage to help us all see and understand God’s faithfulness and love for all of us. You won’t be perfect in that, but we are all called to go onto perfection, to keep trying, to keep forgiving and asking for forgiveness, to keep offering and receiving love, to keep being faithful to one another – just as God has already so done for you.
So, I invite you now to prepare your hearts, minds, body, and souls to make your vows to one another before God and the community of the faithful.