(A homily given by Denis Haack, based on Romans 12:1-2, 9-18, at the wedding of Lauren and Sawyer Koops, October 2, 2010 at Edina Covenant Church, Edina, MN.)
The Scripture you chose for your wedding begins with a simple command, “Present your bodies.” Did you notice how you’ve acted that out today? In fact, everyone sitting here today went to a lot of trouble just to watch you do it.
Your parents flew in from Arizona, we drove up from Rochester, and your friends and relatives came in from all over the place. You got permission to use this church. Somebody arranged these flowers, and ordered candles. You even got new clothes for the occasion. You chose music to be played, you arranged for a minister to be here, and you planned this ceremony. Some of your very best friends agreed to dress up in ways they don’t usually dress and stand in a line to listen and watch. We all even stood up and watched as you presented yourself, Lauren. And now here you are, the two of you, presented body and soul, in front of all these friends who came for no other reason than to witness it. St Paul said to present your bodies, and you’ve done it here today in a big way.
“Present your bodies to God,” is what he actually said, and whether it seems like it or not, that is exactly the case today. God is present here with us, because he promised to be present, and the God revealed in Holy Scripture and in Jesus does not break his promises. God is present, along with untold numbers of angels who are always intensely interested when heaven and earth meet in moments of special grace and glory and power.
And this is a moment of exactly that sort. In all the celebration we are having with you and for you, let’s make sure we don’t forget this part of it. Today in you, in your love, in your relationship, in this place, the moment we are sharing together is specially charged because heaven and earth are meeting in a way that is really quite extraordinary.
One proof is that even math has stopped working. Or more accurately, math is working at a far deeper, mysterious level here today. When you walked in here, 1 + 1 = 2. But when you walk out, 1 + 1 = 1.
Don’t ask me or anyone else to explain that, because no one can. We just know it is true, and as a result your life is forever changed. You may look the same as you did before but in the sight of God and us, 1 + 1 = 1, and that changes everything. It is a deep mystery of reality from beyond the edges of time and space, and it’s worth celebrating. That’s really all we can do. When we come face-to-face with the sort of mystery that breaks through when heaven and earth meet, the wisest choice is not to try to figure it out but to stop and wonder and celebrate in worship.
At this point someone might say that all this is fine, but St Paul said far more in the text than just “Present your bodies to God.” If you listened at all, they might say, what he said seems just a little overwhelming.
That’s true. The text that was read also says we are supposed to dislike what isn’t good, and like what is good. We’re to have affection and personal care for one another. We’re to be zealous and fervent for the truth, always rejoicing and patient even when things are falling apart, and when hard times arrive we aren’t supposed to let them get us down. We’re to be humble and hospitable, to honor one other, to never be elitist or prefer people who are like us, to cry with friends whose lives disintegrate in some way, to be generous, and even be kind to everyone who does us wrong.
That’s an impressive list, and it can seem overwhelming. That is especially true when we stumble upon disappointments along the way, so that things haven’t turned out as we might have hoped and dreamed. We are badly broken people in a badly broken world, and viewed from that perspective the Scripture text you chose can seem not just difficult but impossible. We’d like to be the sort of people St Paul describes, but we aren’t. And we know in the bottom of our hearts that this is true no matter how hard we try.
So, what then?
The answer is actually quite simple. The answer is to go back to the beginning of the text, to presenting ourselves to God. When we present ourselves to God as we are, body and soul in all our brokenness, he meets us with grace and forgiveness so that we can be grateful and go on to love and be humble and hospitable and forgiving because he has been so gracious to us.
We each need to present ourselves to God, day by day. You will find that every time you do, Sawyer and Lauren, he will meet you with grace and forgiveness and warmth and love so that you can love him and each other in return.
It’s the way grace works, the wonder of what it means that 1 + 1 = 1. Just as only God could work the math to make that true, so only his grace can support you day by day so that love is possible when things get hard, as they always do in a broken world.
The German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a wedding sermon while he was in prison awaiting his execution by the Nazis. He wrote this several decades ago, but his words are so deeply rooted in the revelation of God that they transcend geography and time. He wasn’t able to speak these words to the young couple in person, but I can speak them here, to you, today. And I want to do that, so please listen. Here are Bonhoeffer’s words:
Marriage is more than your love for one another. It has a higher dignity and power, because it is God’s holy ordinance... It is not your love that sustains your marriage, but from now on, the marriage sustains your love.
Sawyer and Lauren, we are here as your friends and family this weekend, not merely to witness your “I do.” That’s part of it, but we intend far more than that. We want to not just witness your “I do” but to affirm it and celebrate it. We want to affirm you, your relationship, your love, your commitment, and your marriage. And because we are also the people of God, part of his family, if you listen closely to our affirmation, you will hear something else, something much deeper that comes from beyond the edges of time and space. It is God’s affirmation, his affirmation of you, your relationship, your love, your commitment, and your marriage. And his unabashed delight in all that is transpiring this weekend.
It is the reality of that delight that can sustain you in the days and months and years ahead. God delights in what is happening here, heaven and earth are meeting, math is being redefined to a deeper reality, and all of it because of one simple act: you have presented yourselves and will keep on, day by day, in good times and bad, in easy times and hard, presenting yourselves, your bodies, your all, to God. It’s not your cleverness that makes the difference, but God’s delight.
Depend on that, and you will find that it is enough.