So, What Is Love?

Photo Credit: Cory Garber Photography 

Text: John 15:9-13

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Brett and Ryleigh, what is love? 

Many people will answer this for you by saying that love is a strong feeling of affection toward another person.  In other words, love is an intense emotion.   

Wikipedia will answer this by saying that love is a positive mental state attached to another human being. 

On the other hand, our culture tells all of us that love is love is love. That is to say; people will love in the way that they choose is right for them. Love is whatever you make it to be. 

Hollywood teaches us that love is when two characters meet for 10 minutes and then hook up in bed together – they are so in love, even though they don’t even know each other’s names. 

And others tell us that love is a spark – a spontaneous romantic excitement that happens when two people fall in love. We are told that love is out of a person’s control; love simply pounces on you when you least expect it. 

And finally, some simply say that love does not exist. They say that love is a mythological fiction only existing in romantic novels or big screen movies, like the Titanic Movie –  “Never let go, Rose! Jack, I’ll never let go.”  Tah-dah!!!

Obviously, Brett and Ryleigh, you are here in this sanctuary to join together in holy matrimony because there is such a thing as love. In other words, you are not here for an arranged marriage - a backroom deal conducted by your fathers. Furthermore, you are not here because you just happened to meet last week and are consumed by an emotional spark. But you are here, in this sanctuary, to be married after years of being a couple – being a couple all the way back in high school. 

So, I ask again, what is love?  

Brett and Ryleigh, the Gospel reading that you have chosen for this day from John the fifteenth chapter, answers this great question. In the reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus answers and describes what love is.  However, before we consider Jesus’ words on the subject of love, all of us need to admit that we humans are not really in a position to define love. The reason is, our love is always inconsistent and often erratic. And so, again, it is best for us not to define what love is but instead, to listen to what Jesus has to say about love. And so, in our reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that love is putting your life on the line for your friends. Simply stated, love is sacrificial; love sacrifices, it suffers, and love bleeds for another person.   

And so, Brett and Ryleigh, with this definition of love from Jesus, you already know what this love looks like. Yes, you have experienced and have been recipients of this sacrificial-and-suffering-kind-of-love.   You see, while you were helpless babes (dead in your sins), the Lord - out of great love and rich mercy - hunted you both down, grabbed ahold of you, put His name upon you in baptism, placed you in the ark of His Holy Church, and made you His own. He did this because He sacrificed everything on Mt. Calvary for you, Brett, and for you, Ryleigh. And so, Jesus this day declares you both forgiven, loved, and redeemed unto Him.   Right now, you have love because you have Christ, and Christ has you.

And so, today at this wedding, you not only have love from Christ, but you enter into this holy estate of marriage where you will love each other the same way that you are loved by Christ.  

Today, Brett, the Lord places you into this holy estate of marriage so that you can be to Ryleigh what Jesus is to you. As Ryleigh’s husband, you are to love Ryleigh as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. Brett, this means your Lord invites you to lay down everything for Ryleigh - your pride, your self-concern, your desire to assert your own selfish-sinful-will. He calls you to cover her sin and her blemishes and love her as you would love yourself.

And today, Ryleigh, the Lord places you into this holy estate of marriage so that you can be to Brett what the Holy Church is to Jesus. As Brett’s wife, your Lord calls you to respect and trust Brett, as the Church trusts in Christ. Ryleigh, this means your Lord invites you to set aside your pride, your self-concern, and your desire to assert your own selfish sinful will. And instead, He calls you to love, serve and trust Brett, just as the Church willingly and joyfully loves, serves, and trusts in Jesus.

As we know, though, this kind of love does not come naturally to any of us, which is why the Lord calls both of you to remain and abide in His love. As Christians, Brett and Ryleigh, you are not tossed into this often-loveless world on your own to fend for yourselves. The Lord does not even bark at you to try to produce this kind of love from your willpower. But instead, the Lord graciously establishes you to abide in His great love. He has already called you in baptism to make yourselves at home in His love, and now today, He places you both into this most Holy Estate of Marriage so that you can give and receive love for one another as husband and wife.  

And for the times that you do slip out of this love of Christ, which will happen, remember that the love of God is not some unpredictable emotion or some spontaneous spark, but instead, this love is a constant gift given to you in baptisms and a love that you are positioned to give and receive in this most Holy Estate of Marriage.   In a word, there is more forgiveness and love in Christ than sin in the both of you. And so, be brave to acknowledge your sins to one another, be bold to admit your failures in this marriage, and be quick to return to the forgiveness and love of Christ that is especially for you and for this marriage. 

Brett and Ryleigh, today is your wedding day. God be praised!  Continue to abide in the love of Christ that is for you, and take your places as husband and wife to freely and joyfully love each other the same.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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