Avril at Romsey

… and Lancefield and Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon

A Wedding Sermon

It’s been a while since I posted a sermon, so here’s the sermon I preached yesterday at the wedding of two of the Janet Clarke Hall alumni. I made it through the service without crying, but got weepy when I was thanked in the speeches and had to be comforted by the groom’s mother. Plus, they gave me a beautiful teapot! The reading was 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

In April Steve and Katherine sent me a card for my birthday. Among other things it said, “Have a nice year – we know what the highlight will be!” The next time I saw them I said how nice it was that they’d remembered that I was going to be ordained this year. But I do have to say that presiding at this wedding is undoubtedly going to make it into one of the top two places on my list of reasons that 2008 was memorable.

This is a wonderful day, a day of great joy and celebration. I first met Katherine and Steve in 2002, although at that point I only knew Steve as the voice on the other end of the phone in 4d’s room. They’ve both grown and changed a lot in the past six and a half years, and during that time they made the exciting and courageous decision that they want to spend the rest of their lives with each other. As someone who knows them both and loves them both, I’m happy and proud to be involved in this service.

I’m happy and proud not just because I know Steve and Katherine well, not just because I’m looking forward to a lifetime of fabulous meals in their home – although I’m very much looking forward to that – but because I’m a minister in the church of God, and the church always gets excited when people get married. The church knows that God is love; that affirmation is at the very heart of our faith, and so whenever people love each other we believe that God is part of their love. This should be both a great reassurance and a great challenge to Katherine and Steve as they begin their married life.

The challenge first. The love that is of God, the love that today’s scripture reading describes, is demanding. The love outlined in this Bible passage is agape, charity, the love between God and humanity, the love we see first and fully in God. It’s an appropriate passage to be read at a wedding because in marriage a couple are invited, encouraged, to love each other as God loves us all. This reading describes what that love is like: patient; kind; not envious, boastful or arrogant or rude; not insisting on its own way; not irritable or resentful. It tells us that love never begins with the question: “What’s in it for me?” Instead love starts by asking: “What is best for you? What do you need?” Love’s nature is to seek not its own needs, but the needs of others. And this love enables us to bear and endure whatever life may bring us.

This love is the power of God, the gift of God, poured out into the very depths of our being. This description of love is also a description of God. Hence the reassurance. As Katherine and Steve begin their married life together, they don’t do it alone. There are people whose job it is to support and encourage them as they seek to live out their love for each other.

Firstly, there are all of us, their friends and family, gathered here. We will promise later in this service to bless and support them in their lives together. That’s the part that we play in the ceremony today, and it’s a role we will continue to play for the rest of Katherine and Steve’s lives. They aren’t the only people making vows here today; the rest of us will make promises too.

Secondly, there’s the church. Steve and Katherine’s wedding certificate will say that they were married according to the rites of the Uniting Church in Australia, which means that the church is also implicated in this relationship. The church has a duty to support and encourage Katherine and Steve in their marriage, and to uphold them in any and every way that it can.

Thirdly, and most importantly, there’s God. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them,”[1] the writer of the first letter of John tells us. Today, we ask for God’s blessing on the marriage of Steve and Katherine, in the sure and certain knowledge that the God who is love will bless them as they make their promises to each other. As they make their vows and declare their love, they are not doing it alone. They are doing it in the presence of us all and in the presence of God. Just as we will support them in their marriage, God will support them, too. Saint Michael Leunig writes that there are only two feelings, two languages, two activities, two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, two results – love and fear. Steve and Katherine have chosen love over fear, and the God of love will bless their choice. Amen.


[1] 1 John 4:16.

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July 13, 2008 - Posted by | Ministry | ,

7 Comments »

  1. An excellent wedding sermon. Possibly the best I’ve heard (and I’ve heard some shockers — unfortunately, they’re the more memorable).

    You even started with a gag! And closed with a deft canonisation. (But a couple IS invited, please.)

    Comment by Olivia | July 13, 2008 | Reply

  2. Nice sermon Avril.
    When read aloud, are sounds much better than is. (The rules of English are flexible enough to cope with a minor change like that.)

    Comment by Pete | July 14, 2008 | Reply

  3. Just as good as it was on Saturday Avvers. I’m not in much of a position to critique sermons, but it sounded lovely. you did such a champion effort.

    Comment by Rosie | July 14, 2008 | Reply

  4. Gorgeous as always Avril. Just to weigh in to the debate (my first ever blog comment!) – ‘couple’ is an exception to the collective noun rule. Technically, ‘the couple walked across the tarmac and I waved at it’ or ‘the couple bought its first house’ is grammatically correct, but it sounds ridiculous. So ‘couple’ in many instances is regarded as a regular plural and not a collective noun.

    Comment by Jenni | July 15, 2008 | Reply

  5. lovely sermon avril! I’m so sorry I had to miss it!

    Comment by Veryan | July 15, 2008 | Reply

  6. Beautiful.

    Reference for the quote/paraphrase from “Saint” Michael Leunig, please!

    Comment by Heidi | August 2, 2008 | Reply

  7. Dear Avril,

    I enjoyed reading your sermon – it took me back, or bound me in, or some such thing. I was pleased that I had unwittingly borrowed from Leunig – what follows after my little rant here is from commencement here in 2003. I took ‘love and fear’ from a fellow called Ralph Roath – a fantastic Welsh fellow working for the Baptist Union when I wrote a book for them in 1994. He had been treated abysmally by Mother Church when his marriage disintegrated, and left the Anglican Church, but retained his sense of perspective. We were having coffee in Kew when he suggested that all human emotion could be reduced to love, or fear. It stuck with me.

    The College is in wonderful shape – it is as it should have been, and in no small part due to the work of those who came before like yourself. It is amusing to read my text, and reflect that while I was being highly aspirational back then, we have pretty much gotten there. And you should look at the new web site, complete with movies (and of course done on the super cheap).

    Best wishes,

    Damian.

    It has been a good O week. And tonight, we celebrate the commencement of the academic year and the coming together of the college for 2003. You may have noticed that, at JCH, great things are achieved because staff and students work together. It is my pleasure to offer the toast to the Student Club on behalf of my colleagues in the Senior Common room, including tutors and staff of the College. Armed with a cooperative spirit which may be unique in the colleges of the university, I believe that we will have an outstanding year. As an historian, I see most human activity seated in two basic human emotions. One emotion is love. Love gives us the courage, the umph, to try to let people close, to offer friendship, to lay ourselves open to the possibility of ridicule or hurt. You may have felt this feeling of love at times this week – although, as Principal I would ask you not to discuss this in graphic detail with me. The other emotion is fear. And, I dare say, in all the adjustments to college life, and to the commencement or continuance of studies, there may have been moments when you felt anxiety and perhaps a touch of fear. What am I doing? Why am I lying on my back waving my legs and arms around? Why do they want to take another photograph? Is this the right lecture theatre? The bridge between love, and fear, I think, is hope. Hope allows us to move on, into uncharted waters, and to push boundaries in our personal and professional lives. It is my basic and sincere hope that we will support each other in the sometimes intense hurly burly of college life in the weeks and months to come. When I ask myself the basic question ‘why are we here?’, a variety of personal reasons come to mind as a possible answer – ‘because I don’t know Melbourne, because I got into my university course, because I want to involve myself fully in university life, perhaps I’m not quite sure why, but I came anyway’. I would hope that, before the end of the year, we will come to realise that we are here, above all, for the common good. Whatever country or state or course or stage of life, we are here each other.

    Here are some of my hopes for 2003

    That we work well as a community, building trust and understanding
    That war is averted where there is the possibility for peace
    That I can continue to bowl for another few cricket seasons, and that JCH makes the final and plays on the University Oval
    That as we grow tired, and feel ourselves under strain as a community, we find renewal and refreshment and rest in college
    That, as a College, we keep our sense of humour

    Here are some of my fears for 2003
    That we fail to reach our potentials as a community, and aim low in search of safety and compromise
    That the truth is not heard among the business, bustle and noise of college life
    That we fail to see our place in the world beyond our walls
    That my speeches get longer…. and not shorter, as the year goes on.

    Comment by damian | January 30, 2009 | Reply


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