This is a wedding that’s been a long time coming – it’s just about a year ago, I think, when Wendy and Gary first asked me to celebrate their wedding – they’re obviously not a couple who rush into things – because of course they’ve been preparing for this day, themselves, for about 12 years.
You know, when I get these starry-eyed young couples in my office talking about marriage the first thing I do is get to know them a bit, talk to them about what marriage means and how well they really know each other. Sometimes I feel like I’ve got to slow them down a bit, encourage them to reflect a bit on what it all means.
Well, I realised fairly soon that Gary and Wendy were a bit further along in their relationship than that. Instead of having to encourage them to reflect a bit, I feel privileged to have glimpsed something of the depth of the love and the understanding that the two of you have for one another. Your wedding today, that we are all privileged to be a part of, is maybe not so much a step into a new sort of relationship as a recognition of the love and commitment that has quietly grown and shaped your lives as a couple and as a family over the last 12 years – and the recognition that it’s that love and that commitment that gives your lives meaning, now and for the future.
It was Malcolm Fraser, wasn’t it, who pointed out the blindingly obvious and said that life isn’t always easy. He thought it wasn’t even supposed to be easy though that’s maybe a bit pessimistic. Anyway, that’s why we can’t get by on our own. One way or another, human beings need to be sustained because it’s not easy living with integrity and passion and joy, in a world where things fall apart. We all need the unconditional affirmation of love, and we each of us need to know that for someone out there, what makes all the difference in their lives is that we love them. You know, I hope that every one of you has got that grace in your life, because that’s what life is about.
We read, today, that wonderful, also blindingly obvious, passage from the epistle of John that tells us, ‘God is love’. Do you know, in just about every religion of the world, love is considered a pretty good definition of God. In the words of an Islamic hymn, whenever two people love each other, the lover is God, and the beloved is also God, because that is what God is.
A 13th century Christian theologian, St Bonaventure, used to describe God as being like one of those champagne fountains where you pour the champagne into the top glass and it flows down and fills up the next level, and then they overflow and fill up the ones underneath them, and of course you end up with a delightful sticky mess that some unfortunate has to clean up afterwards – Bonaventure called God the Fountain Fullness and what he was getting at is that God is just so full of it – in a good sort of way – just so extraverted – that God just has to create the universe because it just can’t be contained any longer – and the way Bonaventure saw it is that creation – and you and I – are just like those champagne glasses halfway down the pile that get so filled up by the exuberance of whatever it is that God is pouring into us that we also start overflowing. Of course, Bonaventure said it in Latin, which made it sound a whole lot more respectable.
To put it in less theological language – it means that the more we get in touch with who we are at a deep level, the more we need to express the aha-ness and the sheer goodness of life by giving ourselves whole-heartedly in relationships of love. Another way of putting it, is that it’s only when we do learn to love without reservation, wastefully and wildly, that we start to get a glimpse of who we really are, human creatures built with an unlimited capacity for delight.
So we see here, today, Gary and Wendy filling up each other’s champagne glasses. Re-filling, actually – because what they’re affirming is that they are each other’s favourite tipple, that they have filled and refilled each other for 12 years and mean to continue. And what we also see is that the more they fill each other up, the more champagne they have to go around, because the love they have for each other transforms not just them but a little bit of the world they live in – the more we love, the more we take part, with God, in the act of Creation, because God is love.