Friday, July 26, 2013

Fleshing Out Love

Wedding of Alexis Stadstad and Isaac Monke-Lundberg
July 27, 2013
Philippians 2:1-11 and John 13:1-5, 12-17

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.
If you’re paying attention to what’s happening in this wedding service, you know that Lexi and Isaac are “up to something” this afternoon.  They’re breaking the mold, setting aside familiar patterns, thinking and acting “outside the box.”

That’s because they want to share with us three things they believe about marriage.

First, Lexi and Isaac believe that marriage is not primarily about self-fulfillment.   Getting married isn’t first-and-foremost a way to pursue your own happiness, enhance your own pleasure or tend to your own well-being.  Marriage isn’t mainly something you do for yourself.

Not that fulfillment and marriage don’t go together!  Being married to the love of your life is tremendously fulfilling—one of the best things that can ever come our way!   Recently published research even reveals that “couples in happy marriages enjoy better health than their less happy counterparts over the long run.”[1]

Marriage is fulfilling, but it isn’t primarily about our self-fulfillment.

In fact, quite the opposite.   Marriage is about tending the fulfillment of your spouse--the one to whom you commit your life.

And there’s a weird math at work here, because love is something that multiplies only as it is divided--only as it is shared.  Isn’t that strange?  Keep love to yourself and it withers, but share it with another and it “goes viral” in your lives.

Marriage isn’t mainly about self-fulfillment.   It is, rather one of the best ways to show forth what our lesson from Philippians calls “the mind of Christ” that frees us to “look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

Your marriage will be deeply fulfilling for both of you, Lexi and Isaac.   But your fulfillment will come in the round-about way that Jesus sets forth:  Isaac, as you seek to fulfill Lexi’s life, you will be fulfilled…Lexi, as you look to Isaac’s interest, you will find happiness.

The second thing you’re telling us about marriage is that it is rooted in love, but love always needs to be fleshed out.   Love as a stand-alone word is almost useless, virtually meaningless, until it’s given a form, a shape, a pattern—until love is fleshed out.

And you two believe that the best way to flesh out love is through service.   You agree with the old adage that service is “love wearing work-clothes.”

So you’ve just done something rather surprising, maybe even unnerving to us in the congregation:  you’ve washed each other’s feet—as Jesus invited all his followers to do in our gospel reading from John 13.

We sophisticated 21st century folks can barely wrap our arms around the thick meaning of what Jesus did with his disciples.   When Jesus walked on earth, it was absolutely essential to have clean feet after trudging down dusty, dirty roads strewn with garbage and manure left behind by all the critters who shared the road with you.

But washing feet was one task that not even a slave could be commanded to do in the ancient world—it was that demeaning, that distasteful a task.   So in Jesus’ time everyone normally washed their own feet—no one would ever be expected to do that for you.

….which is why Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet was so shocking.  Jesus bent as low as anyone could bend when he knelt before his followers, one by one, and washed away the filth of the road from their weary feet.

Today, by washing each other’s feet, you are telling us that you intend to flesh out your deep love for one another by serving one another—serving—and therefore loving—in ways that will know no bounds.

This, too, is definitely a Jesus-thing.   As followers of Jesus, you are falling into line with your Lord, who goes to any lengths to flesh out his love for us—even to the point of dying on a cross to save us and send us into his service.

Isaac and Lexi, I wish you much happiness—in the romance of your married life, in the joy and laughter you will experience, but also in the service to each other that will be the hallmark of your life together in Christ.

There is one more thing you want to tell us today.  And that’s that your marriage isn’t just about serving each other.   Your marriage is also about serving others, serving the world.

Getting married is consistent with your deep desire to serve others, in care for God’s world.    You have great gifts and abilities that you could use to make scads of money and buy lots of stuff….but you believe God has called you to the service of teaching.    Your mission as a married couple involves molding and shaping the next generation.

And being married to each other will help you fulfill that mission in God’s world.   The support and strength you will draw from one another will enable you to serve others, in all sorts of ways, but especially in your work as teachers of children.

You therefore help us all to see how marriage is one of God’s best ways of caring for the whole human family. Marriage will be your launching pad into the world, to become God’s hands and feet.

Thank you for gathering us here, Isaac and Lexi, to learn from you, to bless you, to witness your vows, and to cheer you on as you embark on the great adventure of marriage—a marriage in which you will fulfill one another, flesh out love in service, and care for God’s people and God’s world.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.


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