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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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The Wedding of Darren Jenkins and Virginia Minh
Centennial Parklands, NSW
May 13, 2016

1 John 4: 7-18a

‘Divinely free’

It’s hard to know where to start. With thanks, certainly, for the honour of presiding on this glorious occasion. Thanks to Virginia and Darren for their trust and consistent kindness over several months. We are blessed to be part of this celebration, drawn into a realm of genuine warmth and respect, adventure and good humour, wisdom and integrity. By grace we have been introduced to one another – strangers that we might become friends.

Greetings from South Sydney Uniting Church and from the South Sydney Herald.

Having said that, I’m still a little awed by the occasion – and by the reading selected by Darren and Virginia from the First Letter of Saint John. I guess it’s right and proper that we feel awed by references to divine love, which also refer to the deepest human desires for acceptance and fulfilment. 

“God is love.” So much is revealed in that short sentence. Our idols, our fixed images and concepts of God are shattered by it.

God is not a being “up there” or “out there”, a being who happens to be loving. God is the loving. And faith is ever this movement from idols to icons of love – from slavery to freedom as the Bible story presents it – from stale answers to nourishing questions, from staid conventions to renewed commitments, from cruel arrogance to prayerful awareness, from objectification of the world to something the mystics (following Saint John) call “mutual indwelling”.

Ultimately, there’s no describing God “up there” or “out there” because God is the love that makes every word and every reality possible. How do we imagine this love? It’s supposed to turn our thinking upside-down, inside out.

One of my favourite songwriters is a recovering alcoholic from Alabama, Jason Isbell, who writes: “You thought God was an architect. Now you know/ He’s something like a pipe-bomb ready to blow.” Ready, that is, to shatter the idols of mastery and fantasy – ready to break our hearts that we might become a little wiser, a little less likely to project our selfish wishes upon others and upon the world, a little more loving.

We imagine this love in and through our being caught up in it – in and through our being included. Divine love, John says, is “brought to perfection in us” – the passion of Jesus the supreme heartbreaking, liberating example.

To see in the Cross, in the Christ story (of Jesus and his brothers, sisters, friends) both disaster and indomitable freedom (John calls it “glory”) is the very definition of Christian faith. It’s a special kind of seeing – akin to blindness – something like weeping, like seeing through tears. “We have seen for ourselves, and can testify, that God has sent the Only Begotten as Saviour of the world.”

It can be difficult to know where to start when we so deeply desire what’s good and life-giving for one another, and for ourselves. And that’s a deeply hopeful – albeit disorienting – place to start. In reverence for one another – in trembling joy – in non-idolatrous love.

It’s difficult, mystical and also profoundly simple – simply to allow the one before me to become what he or she is divinely free to be. To be aware of my tendency to label or stereotype, to assume that I already know, to reduce my beloved to some self-serving attribute – whether positive/flattering or negative/critical.

Simply to allow the one before me to become what he or she is divinely free to be. Simply to remain open to what, to who, love will make possible. In love, and so in marriage, “our relation to this world is just like Christ’s”. In this, I am truly free (free of fear and free to give and forgive), ever changed and blessed.

Darren and Virginia, you are the ministers today. Your vows will bear witness to the event of love, to love’s happening. Your hearts and words will comprise an icon of love for all of us who discern a divine heart and Word: “Whatever the future holds,” Jesus says, “I will love you and stand by you ... This is my solemn vow.” Amen.

Rev. Andrew Collis