Saturday, 13 April 2013

A talk on the occasion of Adam and Charlotte Day-Lewin's wedding


Song of Songs 8:6-7

“Set me as a seal upon your heart,
    as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death,
    jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
    the very flame of the Lord.
Many waters cannot quench love,
    neither can floods drown it.
If a man offered for love
    all the wealth of his house,
    he would be utterly despised.

Many congratulations
It is a real joy and a privilege to celebrate your wedding and your love for each other.

You’ve chosen two remarkable passages.

When I read ‘The two of us’ to Alison, she said: ‘Why didn’t we have that at our wedding’ ?

And I’m delighted that you’ve chosen some verses from the Song of Songs.

I love this book. It is about a wedding, but it is a love poem, in which lover and beloved speak of each other and of their love. They speak of their absolute delight in the other, and of their desire for the other: a desire for union, that two might be one – in every way. And as someone said, ‘In all of human literature there are few passages on the power of human love compared with [the last two verses that we had read (SS 8:6-7)]’.

They speak of

1. the desire of love.

The desire of love is for the desire for total union with the other.

Earlier in this service, you said: ‘I take you ... to love and to cherish’. And then you said, ‘All that I am, I give to you; all that I have, I share with you’

You have taken the other to be yours; and you have given yourself to the other to be theirs.

Charlotte, the bad news is that from today you have ceased to belong to yourself. You belong now also to Adam.
Adam, the bad news is that from today you have ceased to belong to yourself. You belong now also to Charlotte.

You are not just two people saying that you love each other and that you agree to share your life together.
Christian marriage is much more than that: today you’ve been knitted together, sown together, bound together. Today you have been stitched up!

In the old days, a slave would be branded with the seal of their owner. The seal showed that they belonged to the other.

But look at what the lover says to the beloved.
She does not say, ‘Set your seal on me’: in other words, ‘possess me’.
She does not say, ‘Let me put my seal on you’: in other words, ‘let me possess you’.
She says, ‘Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm’. She is saying, ‘the seal that I place on your heart and on your arm – to show that you belong to me – is nothing less than myself’: She is saying ‘Choose to be my possession, but only because I have chosen to be completely part of you’

His life and her life are completely entwined.
It’s like the rings. The ring is the other person. They become part of you. ‘Set me as a seal on your hand’.

So you really are now in the business of living for each other.
When of you is shamed, the other is shamed
When one of you weeps, the other weeps
When one of you rejoices, the other rejoices
When one of you is honoured, the other is honoured

You’re like two opera singers who are singing a duet. If it is going to work, you can’t compete with the other. You are now not in the business of proving that your voice is bigger than their voice, that your tune is more beautiful than their tune. It’s about something that is bigger than both of you – and at times you have to step back, and maybe even be silent, so that the other can be heard. But the beauty of the sound that you make, when you sing in harmony, far outweighs the beauty of the sound that either of you could achieve on your own.

Or to use some well known words from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, “Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being "in love" which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”

The desire of love is the desire for total union with the other.

2. the power of love

‘Love is as strong as death’.

Because we are talking about a union of body, mind and soul – for this union to be broken is death. I’m not talking necessarily about physical death (although there are the real life Romeos and Juliets), but death in every other way.

If the two of you have been made one, you can survive on your own, but how can you really live on your own?

That is why this union is ‘till death us do part’.

And the passage speaks of jealousy being ‘as fierce as the grave’.

Jealousy is incredibly destructive if it jealousy of the other person.

But in love there is a right place for jealousy when it is jealousy for the other person. Because the two of you are one, it is right to be jealous for their honour, happiness, fulfilment and their well-being.

The mystery of love is that when you are jealous for their joy – and when you hate with a burning passion everything that takes away that joy from them - you will find your joy.


3. the invincibility of love

‘Many waters cannot quench love ..’

God’s love for us cannot be quenched.

But the reality is that our human love can be quenched.

Guard your love:
·         time together: quality time only comes with quantity time.
·         talk together: share – hopes, dreams, disappointments, hurts, joys – especially when you are hurting.
·         listen to the other: (sad illustration – not sad because it is sad – but sad because I am using it as an illustration!) Brenda and Tom in the Archers. Tom has been so obsessed with his crises that he has not been able to listen to Brenda when she is hurting.  
·         do familiar things together – do new things together – serve together;
·         don’t take each other for granted: thank you, you look good.
·         continue the romance

Give and give and give
Forgive

Our prayer is that in 40/50 years time your love will not have been quenched, but you will be deeper in love with each other

4. the pricelessness of love

Love is like life.
It cannot be bought. It is priceless.
It can only be received as a gift.

You are the gift that you are giving to each other today.

Adam, you did nothing to deserve life. Yet you have life.
You did nothing to deserve Charlotte – yet she is giving herself to you.
Charlotte, you did nothing to deserve life. Yet you have life.
You did nothing to deserve Adam – yet he is giving himself to you

And the life that you have, and the love that you have for each other, is a gift of love from God.

Christians have always understood the Song of Solomon both as a love poem between lover and the beloved – but at a deeper level they have understood is as a love poem between human beings and God.

God is the beloved desired by the lover.

And so we ask that he would set us in his very heart.

For his love is not as strong as death, but stronger than death. He died for you; he conquered death for you.  
His jealous passion for our well-being and joy is unshakeable – and it does burn like a fire. God’s anger is nothing less than the burning of pain in his heart when we try to seek well-being in things that can never bring us ultimate happiness.
His love for us is unquenchable.

Adam and Charlotte, as you go through life together,
As you go on expeditions together
As you do your sums together
And you scare your dragons together

I pray that your love for each other will deepen day by day
And I pray that you come to know the astonishing and overwhelming love that God has for you. 

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