Saturday, December 27, 2014

Starting At The Very Beginning

Wedding of Eugene & Lynette

Readings: Genesis 2:18-24; Psalm 32:12, 18, 20-22. R.v.5; John 15:9-12

Eugene and Lynette, my dear friends, I’m not sure if any of you still remember that old musical film from the nineteen sixties entitled The Sound of Music. If you do, perhaps you’ll also remember one of the songs from the film. The song is called Do-Re-Mi. And this is how it begins: Let’s start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start. When you read you beginning with A-B-C. When you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi…

Let’s start at the very beginning… I’m not sure, my dear friends. But I’d like to think that you, Eugene and Lynette, perhaps had these words in mind when you chose the scripture readings for our celebration today. As you know, a wedding marks the beginning of a couple’s married life together. And married life is built on love. But how do we learn to love? Where do we start? Well, from your selection of readings, it seems quite clear that you have chosen to start at the very beginning.

For the first reading you have chosen is a passage from the book of Genesis. Which, as some of us may know, is the book that begins the whole Bible. It is also the book that talks about the beginning of the whole universe. The whole of Creation. And the passage that you have chosen speaks in particular of the beginning of love between man and woman. When you read you begin with A-B-C. When you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi. But what about love? How does love begin? What are the A-B-Cs and the Do-Re-Mis of true love?

The first reading tells us three things about the beginnings of love. The first is that love is not something we can acquire by our own efforts. It is not something that we can manufacture, or buy, or even steal, for ourselves. In the reading, the man is at first all alone. And he can do nothing to change that. He cannot produce love for himself. God has to intervene. It is not good that the man should be alone, God says. I will make him a helpmate. A companion. And so, God creates a woman. Who, unlike all the other animals, is equal to the man. So that she can be a true partner to him. And he a partner to her. Only in this way can the man and the woman enjoy a loving relationship with each other. And this is the first thing we learn about the beginnings of love. We cannot make or buy love for ourselves. Love is a gift from God. A gift freely given and freely received.

But notice also how this gift comes about. Notice how the man is first made to fall into a deep sleep. What is this sleep? It is the silencing of that part of us that tends to get in the way of love. The part that cares only about my own comfort, for example. The part that always wants things to go my own way. The part that refuses to compromise with others. Refuses even to consider the possibility that there may be another way of looking at things and at people. In other words, my dear friends, for true love to be born, the ego has to be silenced. Put to sleep.

But that’s not all. After the man is put to sleep, something else happens. A rib is taken from him and given to the woman. What this tells us is that love begins through a special form of giving. The man gives away not just an object that he has, but a part of his very self. His own rib. This is how love begins. It begins with the donation of self. It begins with self-sacrifice.

These, then, my dear friends, are the A-B-Cs and the Do-Re-Mis of love. This is what you, Eugene and Lynette, have chosen to remind us about. First, that love is received as a gift from God. Second, that love requires the silencing of the ego. And, third, that love is born of self-donation.

All this is, of course, much easier said than done. Those of us here who have already been married for some time will probably be able to testify that it’s not always easy to remember these A-B-Cs. Much less to live them out. Perhaps it’s a bit easier in the first few months of the honeymoon period. When the initial excitement and euphoria of the wedding are still strong. But not so easy when all of that subsides. And the normal stresses and strains of daily life come knocking on our door. When the demands of work increase, for example. Or when a baby arrives. Or when all those characteristics in our partner that we used to consider so adorable, suddenly begin to seem more than a little irritating. When all this happens, how are we to remain in touch with the beginnings of love? How to remember to look to God, the Giver of Love? To silence our ego? And to continue giving of ourselves to the other? The answer, my dear friends, is found in the gospel reading that you, Eugene and Lynette, have chosen.

Here we find the Lord Jesus telling us the secret to remaining in touch with the beginnings of love. As the Father has loved me, he tells us, so I have loved you. Remain in my love. What does it mean to remain in his love? It is first to remember how Jesus first loved us. How his life is a testimony to the A-B-Cs of love. How, by coming among us as a human person, he let himself become God’s Gift of love to us. How he allowed his own ego to be silenced. Especially in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he could have chosen to run away. But, instead, he willingly sacrificed himself on the Cross. So that we might be saved.

It is by constantly remembering and living out of this love that the Lord Jesus has for us all, that we in our turn find the strength and the courage to love one another. Even and especially when the going gets tough. And this is true not just for you, Eugene and Lynette. It is true also for the rest of us, who are gathered here to express our commitment to supporting you in your marriage. Especially those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ. We too are called to remain in touch with the A-B-Cs and Do-Re-Mis of love. By continuing to develop and to nurture our own relationship with Christ. By receiving love as a gift. By silencing our egos. By giving of ourselves to one another. And we are happy to do this. Happy to make this commitment. Because we believe what Jesus tells us in the gospel. That when we remain in his love for us by loving one another, his own joy will be in us, and our joy will be complete.

My dear friends, Eugene and Lynette, when you read you begin with A-B-C. When you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi. What must we do to keep starting from the very beginning of love today?

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