Saturday, 23 July 2016

Sermon for the wedding of Charly & Paul

Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church
Saturday 23 July 2016

Ephesians 3.14-21  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.  16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit,  17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,  21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

It is a truth long established 
that none of us really knows what the future will hold. 

Despite our best efforts at prediction and forecasting, 
tomorrow remains a mystery which retains the element of surprise. 

Not long ago, I had to send a ‘surprise’ email to Charly and Paul,
when we discovered that there was going to be some scaffolding up
on the outside of the church for their wedding.
If you haven’t seen it – just don’t look!

And as political events in the UK over the last few weeks have proved,
none of us really knows what the next day is going to bring.

As Benjamin Franklin famously said in 1789, 
‘in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’.

So why, we might reasonably ask, have we gathered here today 
to witness and celebrate two people 
making promises that they intend to keep for the rest of their lives? 
Surely this is just foolishness in the face of reason and probability? 

After all, we live in a world where impermanence and transience 
are the order of the day. 
Long gone are the days when people trained for a profession 
and then stayed in the same job for 40 years. 
Long gone are the days when people bought a house 
and then lived in it for the rest of their lives. 
I am now living in my fifth house since I got married, 
and have lived in three different cities, and that’s not unusual. 

And all of this uncertainty affects what we mean 
when we talk about marriage. 

A couple of generations ago, 
a wedding ceremony was perceived as the start of a life of stability. 
The process was well known: 
get married, settle down, buy a house, 
raise children, pay taxes, retire, die.

But these days, the promise to love faithfully until death us do part 
can sound a bit weird. 
It is perhaps what we might call 
a ‘counter-cultural’ act for two people to undertake. 

Surely it would be much more sensible to hedge one’s bets, 
rather than jump in for better or for worse, 
for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health? 

And yet, here we all are, 
and here are Charly and Paul, 
and they’ve only gone and done it! 
So, congratulations Mr and Mrs Bhatia. 

They, and we with them, 
dare to believe that there is something really positive 
in what Charly and Paul have just done.

They are entering into a way of living,
where two, let’s face it, highly independent humans 
commit to live together, 
putting each other first
and discovering what it is to be stronger together.

It flies in the face of individualism 
and speaks to us of generosity, grace, and giving. 

A marriage is an expression of a vision and a faith 
that for all its uncertainty, 
the future is worth striving for, worth investing in.

In our reading from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, 
he encourages them to find strength in their inner being 
through living lives which are rooted and grounded in love. 

The ancient world had its share of uncertainty, 
with conflict, sickness, and famine all very real threats to stability. 

So Paul points to something 
that farmers and gardeners will know intuitively, 
which is that if you want to grow something worthwhile, 
it takes investment and commitment. 

He tells them that they are to strive for lives 
which are rooted and grounded in love. 

There are very few quick returns to be had from the soil: 
crops need sowing, nurturing, and patient care 
before the harvest is ready. 
And some, like the olive trees and vines 
that dominate the Mediterranean landscape, 
will take a lifetime to reach their full glory.

In a world of impermanence, uncertainty, and risk, 
the way to inner strength 
is a life rooted and grounded in love. 

For St Paul, all love finds its origin and source in God. 

Like the waters that lie beneath the parched soil, 
sustaining the trees and vines through the long hot summers, 
our lives can tap into this deep love 
which will sustain us through the storms 
and scorching summers that may lie ahead.

It is this deep love which will sustain Paul and Charly 
as they learn to live in humility, 
putting each other before themselves
honouring the strengths that they each bring
and learning to cherish each other for who they are.

But a marriage has implications far beyond the couple themselves.

Those who know Charly and Paul, will know of their love for others,
their commitment to teaching, nurturing, 
and helping people grow and develop.

And from their life together, rooted and grounded in love, 
comes a blessing for the rest of us.
We too are strengthened 
by the love that comes to us through them. 

And I hold this as a mystery of grace. 

I’d love to understand it, but it surpasses knowledge 
and flies in the face of reason. 

But I do know this, 
the power of love that is at work in us 
is able to accomplish abundantly far more 
than all we can ask or imagine.

And it is to this greater love,
that I commend Charly and Paul,
as they start their new life together,
rooted and grounded in love.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Paul and Charly, I am so happy that you have tied the knot! Welcome to the family Charly! Wish I could have been there but circumstances would not permit! Love you both!