Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.1 Corinthians 13; 4-8
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
I once said I would never use this particular reading if I was ever asked to do a wedding address because it is so overuse, and misused in wedding ceremonies. But when I had decided what I was going to say this seemed the only appropriate reading. If someone ever tells you God doesn’t have a sense of humour they don’t really know God.
And God’s humour roles on as, thinking my children had grown up and I was finally free from responsibility, I was sent grandchildren!
I have two grandsons.
Now, one of my grandson’s has been learning an important life skill. He’s been perfecting the art of transactional relationships which I’m sure you’ll agree is pretty cool for a four year old.
This is how it works. We go for a drink and a cake and he makes his choice. Then as we sit enjoying our fare he will break off a piece of his cake and offer it to me. Obviously it would be rude to decline such an act of kindness so I accept. Then once he’s sure I’ve eaten his gift he will say, “Grandad, I’d like to try a piece of your cake…as you’ve had a piece of mine”. What can I say?
And that’s a transactional relationship. And transactional relationships are the currency of life because it is a fundamental part of our nature to want something from life. In our jobs we want certain things from our employers, our colleagues. With our friends there’s often a feeling that if I do that for you, you’ll owe me or I’ll be building up Brownie points which at some time in the future I will be able to cash in. “What’s in it for me” is the expression. And even in what should be our most intimate of relationships, marriage, there exists a transactional element.
For a modern marriage so often remains two individuals who elect to occupy the same common space. And they want to go on behaving like they did before they married. They want to have their own bank accounts and transact over expenditure on household bills. They want ‘Me’ time so I can be an individual and do ‘My’ thing.
I love reading. I read all sorts and was recently reading on relationships. I read one book where the author describes catching himself planning how he would treat his wife to dinner and other favours in order that he could expect sex that evening. And candid as he was, the author asked the questions: ‘How many of us have done that or something similar’. Me I do the cooking in order that I get my clothes washed.
But this is not the relationship that this couple are entering into today, at least that’s not what it’s intended to be. The Apostle Paul in his Letter to the church at Corinth strives to remind us all of the very nature of love as we have heard in our reading.
It’s not impatient, or unkind. It’s not proud or about me or my. It’s not transactional.
It protects, it makes one vulnerable because it is willing to trust and extend hope. It risks the chance of heart ache and having experienced this, it picks itself up and goes on.
Because the sort of love that this marriage ceremony is about is a love that perseveres in seeking the highest good of the other. That’s what Paul describes and wittingly, or unwittingly, this couple have today entered into a covenant of the heart that says “I am committed to helping you become the very best person you can be. From this day forward that’s my life’s goal”.
That requires sacrifice on our parts. That requires self denial. And marriage should be a commitment to denial if required. As much as any great achievement can trace a path of sacrifice on the way to success. Everyone who have ever achieved anything has done so at a cost and the more personal the achievement the greater the cost to self.
A story is told of the great artist Picasso. It is said that one day he sat in a cafe drinking coffee and as he did so he took a napkin and doodled on it. An American lady in the cafe noticed this and watched with interest. Then, as he got up to leave he made to pocket the napkin. The American lady leapt up and approached Picasso saying “Sir, don’t take the napkin away. May I please buy it from you?” Picasso thought for a long moment and then said “Certainly. It will be $10,000”. Understandably the lady was amazed and exclaimed: “But sir, it only took you a few moments to draw what you have drawn” And to this Picasso replied: “No Madame, it has taken me a lifetime of practice and sacrifice to be able to do what I have just done”.
(To the bride and groom) From this moment forward take hold of Paul’s words on love. It’s patient, it is kind, it is not self seeking, and in marriage it’s commit to sacrifice if required, to make the other the best person they can be living the best life they can have.
Does the perfect marriage exist? Today you begin a great adventure to find out.