Today the church celebrates the festival day of the Reign of Christ – or Christ the King Sunday, as it’s also known. Hopefully by now you’ve noticed that we’re also celebrating a wedding today! These are actually themes that go together very well. Today we celebrate that Christ is our one true ruler. We remember that our true citizenship is as citizens of his kingdom – we are all citizens of the kingdom here.
The kingdom of God is spoken of throughout scripture as a place where there is no more mourning or crying or pain, where there is no more death, where the poor and the lowly are lifted up, and where all creation lives in perfect harmony and love. And one of the most common images used in scripture to talk about the kingdom is the marriage feast.
Today, we celebrate the marriage feast of Joshua and Esperance. Today they make their vows of love and faithfulness to one another in the presence of this assembly. And the celebration of their marriage actually has a lot to teach all of us about God’s kingdom of love.
As I just mentioned, the scriptures often use the image of a marriage feast to talk about the kingdom of God. They speak about Christ as the bridegroom and the church as the bride, bound together in a cosmic relationship of love. And this wedding is a celebration! It is marked by a massive feast – a feast that everyone is invited to share.
Christ’s wedding feast is a reflection of God’s abundance and generosity – remember, this is the same guy whose very first miracle was to turn water into gallons and gallons of wine. Christ, our king, knows how to party! And there is joy in the kingdom – there is laughter and fun, as creation was meant to be. This is a joyful day. As I have helped Esperance and Joshua plan and prepare for this day, I have seen them laugh together and enjoy each other. Their wedding invites all of us to share in the joy of the kingdom.
Joshua and Esperance have come to unite themselves in the holy bonds of marriage. Marriage embodies the love that is the whole foundation of God’s kingdom. This love is deep and faithful and lasting. Our gospel reading for today is all about this kind of love.
In this reading from John, Jesus sets all love in the context of the Trinity. “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you,” he says. The three persons of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – love each other. God is a divine, dynamic relationship of love – love that spirals out into all creation. Jesus embodies the love of the Trinity to his disciples and to us. And in response to that love, we are each called to love one another. In fact, as Christians, we are commanded to love one another just as Christ has first loved us.
And this is serious love we’re talking about. God’s love for us isn’t a fleeting, temporary thing. God’s love is eternal and unbreakable. It has no limits. This is love that is willing to make sacrifices for the sake of another person, even to sacrifice one’s own self-interest or one’s own life. This love is deeply invested in the well-being of other people – all other people – it is love that goes out of its way to fight for their good. And as Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, this is love that bears very recognizable fruits; fruits like: patience, kindness, truthfulness, and hopefulness.
And finally, this is love that is chosen. “You did not choose me,” Jesus says, “But I chose you.” Esperance and Joshua have come today to make their public vows of love here in this assembly because they have chosen one another. Their promises to love and to be faithful to one another are echoes of the promise of love that God has made to all of us.
And they remind us that love is more than just a feeling. Love is more than the butterflies and the warm, fuzzy feeling of being ‘in love’ with someone. Love is a choice. Love is an act of will, a decision we make day after day, even when it’s hard. Love is a choice we make even when the people we choose to love aren’t very lovable. God knows – literally God knows – that none of us are very lovable all the time, and yet God chooses to love us anyway.
Today, in the middle of our feasting and celebration, it is easy to love each other. But I’m sure that there are plenty of folks here who have been married a while who can tell you that not every day is going to be like this one. That’s why marriage is a commitment. It’s a daily effort to live out the promise that God has made to each and every one of us: to love us for our whole lives long.
Human love is an imitation of divine love. Whether it is between friends and family or between strangers or between a bride and groom, our love imitates the love of the Trinity, from which it came. It imitates and comes from the triune God who first loved us. And love is how we participate in the kingdom of God. Love is how we witness to the kingdom of God, how we show the world who we are and whose we are.
Let this wedding celebration and this marriage that we celebrate be signs to all people of God’s faithful love and joyful abundance. May Joshua and Esperance be witnesses to all of us gathered here today of God’s faithfulness, hope, and love, reminding us that the greatest of these is love.