I know you think that I'm going to give you a sermon right now, and I admit, that is something I've been known to do - from, oh, time to time - but - no - in fact - instead I'm going to summarize the best part of last week's sermon in church, because it has stuck with me all this week - and it's worth all of us going into the weekend together, thinking about it.
The title of the sermon was, "And the Greatest of These is Love." If you're like me, you sort of cringed just now. Your body tightened. You thought of all the weddings you've been to where Corinthians was read... love is patient, love is kind, love is not boastful... you know the bit. Needless to say, lovely as these sentiments are, this was not in my wedding ceremony and I always find it a bit, mmmm, ambitious, for a young couple. Maybe for a new parent, it makes sense as a parental vow. But at the outset of wedded life? Hmm, I say. Hmm.
So Reverend Bill read the familiar lines to us, and mentioned that they were, many years ago, in HIS own wedding ceremony. Then he stopped. Never insists on its own way? Endures everything? He admitted to falling short of those standards, and who doesn't? But that's not a description of human love, he went on to explain... that's a description of God's love.
Whoa. Hold the phone.
I bristle at the phrase "God's love" - but I work hard to translate it. I hear "the love of the universe" or "the love of the infinite" instead. Because if the language, and concept, of a knowing, or patriarchal, or authoritative God/god is troubling to me, I still can't un-know that someone watches the watcher. Some part sees the seer, and observes even the most conscious of my behaviors and actions. I mean, how can I observe my own thoughts? How can I sit back and see myself? I only do so from the perspective of... yes, a soul. A spirit. A calm, content, wise and loving center within me - within each human being - that is infinite and unaltered by the tribulations of any given day.
So Reverend Bill, what you're saying is that within each of us is a love that can bear all things - even the accidents and deaths we think will break and kill us - and endure all things - even the endless madness of polls, politics, people voting against their own self interest - and hope all things - even if past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, the world might change, and so might my family - and believe all things - even that my mind might not be the Very Best Judge Of All Happenings Planetwide, and there might be things I don't understand, or even things that contradict each other but are simultaneously true.
So of course we read this at weddings. Of course we want our partner to be perfect, and for the holy sacrament of commitment to make the new "us" perfect - for the reading to infuse guaranteed success.
But what we forget is that it's already within us. Heavy stuff, to be sure. But remember that that love is within you this weekend, while you're out there in a rather mean, cold, dangerous, unlucky world. Because if you forget it's there, you might get way, way, scarily, off the path. And even if only one other person in the world loves you, they'll miss you on the path with them a whole lot.