Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Love That Turns the World Downside Up

Grace Episcopal Church, Madison NJ
The Wedding of Stacey Small and Kyle Bossard
July 20, 2012

Colossians 3: 12-17
Psalm 67
Matthew 5: 1-10

The Love That Turns The World Downside Up

            We members of the clergy sometimes use a kind of shorthand when we talk about officiating at weddings. We’ll say something like, “Yes, I’m really looking forward to marrying Stacey and Kyle on Friday!”

            And, like all of you, I really have been looking forward to this great day when we celebrate the love and commitment of these two exceptionally fine people.

            But, I’ve been married for fifteen years so I’m not marrying anybody.

            Actually, my job is not so different from yours. We are all here as witnesses to this beautiful event. We’re here to cheer on Stacey and Kyle, promising our support and care not just for today but long after the tuxedos have been returned and the wedding dress has been carefully stored away.

             We witnesses are promising that we’ll be there for Stacey and Kyle during the years ahead, in good times and not so good.

            So, no surprise, today’s ceremony is all about love.

            But, this love isn’t just romantic love – though that kind of love is important and wonderful and anyone who knows these two knows that they are very much romantically in love.

            But, the love that God has given to Stacey and Kyle is much richer and much more life-giving and much longer-lasting than romantic love.

            The kind of love that God has given to Stacey and Kyle is the kind of love known in Greek as agape – the self-giving, self-sacrificial, self-emptying love of God.

            And those of us who know Stacey and Kyle know that they really do share agape love – the kind of love that inspires us to sacrifice for one another, the kind of love that moves us to put the needs of the other ahead of our own.

            They’ve shared this kind of love with each other for a while, but today here in this sacred space, in front of us and in front of God, Stacey and Kyle are publicly pledging to continue sharing God’s self-giving, self-sacrificial, self-emptying love with each other.

            Now, Stacey and Kyle, it’s wonderful for all of us to witness the love that you share with one another. And I don’t want to take attention away from the two of you on your big day. And, I don’t want to put any extra pressure on you. Well, maybe a little.

            But, this agape love that God has given to you and that you share with one another is much bigger and more important than the two of you.

            For our second reading today you chose what’s known as the Beatitudes – these challenging, mysterious and almost bizarre – teachings of Jesus.

            In the Beatitudes, Jesus offers a vision of a downside-up world in which the poor in spirit receive the kingdom of heaven, in which the mourners are comforted and the meek inherit the earth.

            In the Beatitudes, Jesus offers a vision of a downside-up world in which those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled, in which the merciful receive mercy, in which the pure in heart will see God and in which the peacemakers will be called children of God.

            Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s not really the world I usually see when I open up a newspaper, turn on the TV, or go online.

            But, that’s the kind of world that God has always meant for us to have – the kind of world that God has always dreamed for us to have.

             In his life, death and resurrection, Jesus shows us is that there is only one force powerful enough to turn broken old world downside-up.

            Agape – this love that God has given you and that you share with one another – is the only force powerful enough to turn our world downside-up.

            If you’re open to it, with God’s help, the love that you share will radiate through the streets of downtown Jersey City, down the halls of NYU, around your office, among your family, friends, colleagues - and if you’re so blessed, this love will live within your children.

            And, actually, those of us here today are more than just witnesses of your love. Because, if we’re open to it, the love that you share reminds all of us – single, married, divorced or widowed – that God has shared agape with all of us, too, and God expects us, each in our own way, to share that love with the world.
            Now, again, no pressure, but together your agape love and our agape love can maybe, just a little bit, tilt this broken old world of ours into the kind of world in which the hungry are filled and the peacemakers are called children of God.

            I don’t know, maybe that sounds far-fetched.

            But seeing the love that God has given you, the love you share with each other, and feeling the love that is today filling this sacred place, helps me believe that together, with God’s help, Stacey, Kyle and all of us, really can turn the world downside-up.