For the wedding of Kelsey Hering and Austin Barchenger...
Multi-faceted, Interconnected Dependency
Focus: Christ is love incarnate.
Function: that the hearers fill their lives following after love incarnate.
Grace, Mercy, and Peace from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. At this, the marriage of Austin and Kelsey, we have two texts we reflect upon: 1 Corinthians 13 and Ecclesiastes chapter 3.
Two stories to begin our meditation today, one from my life and another from the lives of Kelsey and Austin. I remember when I was just about to get marriage, I was working at a fancy-dancy apartment complex as a doorman, and I had built up a relationship with a man and his wife as they started their family. And so, a week before my wedding, on my last shift, I asked this man if he had any advice for me as he came in from a walk, and I remember him answering me, as he had a big 100lb dog on a leash in one hand pulling him one way, as he had a two-month-old baby starting to cry in the stroller, as the elevator door was trying to close, all these things happening, he looks back to me and says, “Paul, marriage is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do. But it’s the best.”
Our second story is from Kelsey’s Facebook page: She wrote, way, way back, “We made it through our first pre-marital session with our pastor! We were both asked what love means to us” and I remember this. I had asked, and usually I turn to the gentleman first, and I did this time, and I look over at Austin’s face, and I remember – it was indescribable. He just had this look, it’s a farmer kind of look, like “What kind of a question is that? Love is love. That’s why you call it love.” So I turn to Kelsey, and she had some time to think, and in the end she gave me this definition: love is multi-faceted, interconnected dependency.” I’ve already learned that love is much simpler than that. Love is Jesus Christ and love is Austin Barchenger. They are the love that fills my heart with life every single day.”
Today we celebrate more than the marriage of a charming man to a cute blonde – those are their words, not mine. Let me, as Paul writes in the last verse of 1 Corinthians chapter 12, show you a more excellent way.
Love is patient when doesn’t want to be and love is kind when it’s easier to be to be cruel. Love does not envy nor does it boast of what it’s done. It doesn’t get arrogant or rude. It endures all bad. It bears with strangeness. It takes one look at you and knows you, knows you for what you are, no matter if you’re covered in mud or in the finest clothes you own.
And if Paul tells us what love does, then Solomon tells us when love does it. Love is kind in times of mourning and of dancing. Love is patient in times of weeping and times of laughing. Love endures in tearing and sewing. Love is beautiful because it is eternal.
Does that sound like you? I’ll give you the answer: No. The lesson of our first premarital counseling session is one truth of your marriage you will learn again and again and again. It’s the lesson of 1 John 4: In this the love of God was made manifest – was incarnate – among us, that God sent his only son into the world so that we might live though him. God is love and love is this: Chris has died, Christ is raised, Christ will come again. Before you would give yourself to your spouse, know this: that you are not your own, and you were never were. You have been bought with a price. You have been taken up in the arms of love incarnate.
If you want to learn how to love, if you want to fill your life and your marriage with good things, then follow around the man, Jesus Christ, as we see him save his people. Hear him speak truth that hurts to people who need to hear it. Watch him dole out unconditional love when he sits in the dust next to those who’ve really screwed up. Let his grace first wash over you and all your imperfections and then, and then, when you recognize yourself as a redeemed Child of God, then take up your role to look like Christ in the life of your spouse.
And that is why marriage is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. But it’s the best. Because no one and I mean no one else in their life will get the awesome, insane, incredible privilege to speak a multi-faceted interconnected word of forgiveness and grace to them again and again and again. Now, don’t get me wrong – to forgive isn’t to say that it’s ok, it doesn’t matter, don’t worry about it. When you forgive, you are saying, I know you have done wrong, and it hurt me. But I choose not to hold that hurt against you. I will pay your debt. To look at your spouse when they are at their best, and when they are at their worst, to say precisely when you see their imperfections and flaws, that you love them no matter what.
And so your love is a chasing after his love for you. So you two get the great privilege of loving each other when you are loveable and when you are not-so-loveable. When Austin, your boots are fresh and when your boots are muddy. When Kelsey your car is clean and also when your car is not so clean. When Austin you are home at 6pm, or when you’re home at “Farm-time” 6pm, which I hear is more like 8. It means that apart from your vocation as child of God, you are now known first and best not as reporter, not as farmer, not as son nor as daughter but as husband and wife.
Marriage will be the best thing you ever do when it is a place of clearest following after Jesus Christ.
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