Below is a talk I gave at my friends wedding yesterday. It was a beautiful day.
In a few moments we are going to look at the verses that Emma & Edd have chosen for today.
But first a story.
Hands up if you knew Emma when she was 16?
When Emma was about 16 she would meet with a small group of friends and my wife, usually after school and normally in the context of tea and cake! The purpose of these meetings was to support each other, journey a few things in life and pray together. On one particular session the girls were considering their hopes and desires for the future. Naturally the discussion lead into which subjects to continue on with, possible universities, careers they aspired to etc. Emma was 16, but one of her hopes was an outstanding and brave one for her age. “actually I hope to meet a nice man and get married”. Now of course these were confidential meetings and so I didn’t hear about any of this until roughly 6 years later.
Edd was beginning a gap year at All Saints, Ilkley. I was to be his supervisor and so we began with outlining Edd’s responsibilities and how he would spend his time. Edd was involved in lots of activity at church, there was a Tuesday night group (TNT) that met in church. Edd seemed keen to go but I felt I needed to let him know he didn’t have to and it was ok to have Tuesday nights off. But Edd did keep on going to TNT and by now Emma had returned to Ilkley from university and was also attending TNT.
The gap year progressed and soon it was reported to me that Edd & Emma were now ‘together’. As the end of the year approached, Edd, who had made some courageous decisions during the year, was beginning to question what was going to follow the gap year. To help I devised an exercise that divides life into different parts and then Edd over a number of weeks would pray about and dream how he would like that part of his life to look. This is a difficult thing to do as it means naming your hopes. But in the relationship section Edd was certain, he saw himself as married in the future. He would drop subtle hints about that future being with Emma and in the not too distant future, but also expressed concerns that perhaps Emma didn’t feel the same way. One evening after meeting with Edd I went home to Jemma and told her how keen I thought Edd was about Emma. Something jogged Jemma’s memory and for the first time she told me about the time Emma had shared how one of her hopes for the future was to meet a nice man and get married.
This meant I had a decision to make. a. Was Edd a nice man? b. Should I tell him Emma probably was the marrying type!
Well I decided not to tell Edd, if he was going to get there then he had to do it alone. Today we’re all glad you did Edd but for quite a few months I wanted to say just get on with it, it was obvious to all outsiders. I would see you and then go home and say to Jem, “Edd still hasn’t proposed!”
That’s my story about Emma & Edd getting together, but I wonder if you noticed something in that story? Both had hopes and desires for the future, in some ways those hopes are beginning to be realised today. The other thing was to get to today Emma & Edd had to be active and involved. Naming our hopes is a powerful thing but also makes us feel vulnerable. Of course Edd had to propose and Emma had to say yes!
Today is the start of your married life, neither of you actually only wanted to be married, this day as the pinnacle. Instead what you hoped for is this day as the beginning of a life long love relationship. A relationship in which you will flourish and can nurture your hopes and desires.
A life long love relationship…
The reading chosen by Emma and Edd begins with these words, “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved..”
These verses are taken from a letter written to a community of Jesus followers. A community beginning to understand they are chosen by God, made right by Jesus and a community being brought into a life long live relationship with almighty God.
Now the other thing I didn’t mention when I told my story is Edd and Emma today place God at the centre of their wedding and so their marriage because they too are Jesus followers. Beginning to understand they are chosen by God, made right by Jesus and lead into a life long love relationship with almighty God.
So what we read today from the Bible is as applicable today as it was when it was written. It’s about a life long love relationship, in the letter between Jesus and his bride, the church, today between Edd and Emma at their wedding. But more than that hopefully there will be something for us all to consider.
Another question, perhaps an obvious one – who spent a bit longer than normal choosing what to wear today?
Why do I ask? Well our reading puts focus on how we clothe ourselves. It seems to suggest that when considering a life long love relationship it matters what we wear.
Because of this I have investigated and discovered that Edd has an odd dress sense.
So it matters what we wear particularly when we’re at a wedding, but we all know this is not just about how we look but who we are, our character.
We are to put on clothes like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with and forgiving others.
Take a moment to consider if these were items of clothing which would you readily wear and which feels ill fitting for you? How many times do we hear people say things like “I’m not a very patient person” or know those who struggle with bearing with others and find it tough to forgive?
Consider again the list, compassionate, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing and forgiving others.
Edd and Emma asked my children to lead the bridal procession today – they all looked great in their outfits but Judah, my son is 2 and a bit sensitive about what he wears. At the final fitting there was no way we could persuade him to put on his cool new red shoes. We didn’t push it but if we had it would have ended with a tantrum as he protested about not wearing that particular piece of clothing. Isn’t it sometimes like that with this list? The items we don’t like, we’d run a mile before facing wearing something we don’t like. The truth is this list is really hard to achieve, it’s a high standard.
The passage goes on to say “wear them all and cover them with love”. Judah’s outfit was incomplete without his shoes and so we are encouraged to wear all of these virtues and cover them with love
Today when love is in the air, covering with love feels easy. But when Edd criticises your cooking, or leaves his pink tutu on the bathroom floor, or you’re late because Edd is painting on his smile. Emma how does covering with love go then? We all recognise this?
The only person to wear these clothes full time and cover them with love was Jesus. That’s because they are His clothes, His attributes, His characteristics.
Today Edd has hired his clothes, they will need returning, if they’re not returned the shop will take them back. The love we are to put on is Jesus’ love, Jesus’ love is freely given, it can’t be earned and it’s non returnable.
So, yes it matters what we wear (our character) and we have to be involved and active in sustaining a life long love relationship but Jesus knows we won’t always get it right, we will mess up. And that’s why we cover all with Jesus’ love.
Jesus’ love never runs out. It doesn’t depend on mood or circumstance
Jesus’ love says I choose you, you are of great value to me. I would die for you, I’m fact I did die for you.
Jesus’ love says, when you fall come to me without delay…because when you give me your failures you give me the joy of being your saviour.
It matters what you wear but Jesus’ love is not about rules or religion it’s about a life long love relationship.
So, if (or when) you mess up, remember that I’ll fitting piece of the list? Don’t worry – receive Jesus’ love. Today he invites us again, to bring our burdens, receive His forgiveness and begin afresh.
We don’t need to change to believe in Jesus’ love, it’s our belief in Jesus’ love that changes us.
Finally, quoting verse 16 “Let this message of Christ dwell among you richly..”
Emma and Edd, today you start your married life with hopes and desires for the future.
We remember God is our hope, God shared and shapes our hopes, God partners in our hopes.
My prayer is that the message of Christ will dwell among you richly.