Thursday, January 10, 2008

marriage is for losers (a short sermon)

On December 28, 2007 our good friends Ari and Monaca were married. I was honored to be asked to officiate their wedding near Chicago. Here is the text of the short sermon I gave. I hope you enjoy it.


Marriage is For Losers
a short sermon by Troy Cady

Some people think that marriage is for losers. I happen to be one of those people.

When two people with innate differences lock wills with one another, the best way to work through it is if each person acts like a loser.

“How will we spend Christmas this year, honey?”

She answers, but sees that he is not content with her answer. So, she asks him, “What’s wrong? How would you like to spend Christmas this year?”

He tells her, and it’s different than her preference, and (as so often happens in real life) there is no feasible third option. Either it’s going to be one way or the other. (Oh, we’d like there to be a third option, but in this case, there isn’t).

So, which is it? Option one or two? One person is going to have it their way and the other is not.

This is where the apostle Paul’s words come in handy: “Love…does not insist on its own way.” (I Cor. 13)

Notice what happens when neither person insists on their own way, when each is happy to, in a sense, “lose the fight”? She says to him, with gladness, “That’s okay, let’s do what you suggest.” And he says to her, willingly, unselfishly, “No, let’s do what you suggest.” And, honestly, each is happy to give up his or her own preference.

The result? The kind of partnership in marriage that makes the average person gag.

Marriage is for losers.

“Puh-leeze,” you might say, “what you’re talking about isn’t possible!”

Here’s my reply: When God gives you the commission to love someone unselfishly, he also supplies the hope and the means to fulfill that calling.

For starters, it can give one hope to know that God doesn’t ask you to do something he hasn’t done already. In fact, God’s very nature and work models the concept of “losing”. Put another way: God is a loser.

Now, before lightning strikes me down, let me explain.

The Bible says, “God is love.” This means we can learn a lot about love (and loving) as we learn about God (and vice versa).

For example, St. Augustine teaches that the statement “God is love” tells us God is Three-in-One since love, by its nature, necessitates a trinity. First, there is the one who loves; second, there is the object loved and third, there is love itself (that is, the action of loving, love as a verb). You don’t get “love” without someone to love and you don’t get love without the action of loving. So, Augustine says, to say that God is love is to describe God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved and the Holy Spirit is Love Itself that proceeds between the Father and Son.

Here we also see that love, by its nature, moves towards another for the sake of the other. This tells us that God moves. In other words, God is not static; he is ecstatic. The word ecstatic literally means “out of oneself”. In God we see ecstatic movement. One modern philosopher says that it’s like God the Father actually leaps out of himself into the Son and the Son leaps to the Father, while the Holy Spirit proceeds from their self-emptying love. God is eternally leaping; his very nature is to empty himself for the sake of another, moving towards another.

We also see this when God sent his Son, leaping to reach the world in love. It could be said that history's greatest events are nothing more than manifestations of cosmic leaping. The apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians that Jesus, because he was God, “made himself nothing.” In other words, Jesus emptied himself. God leapt to us, gave us all he had to give, in the person of Jesus Christ and Jesus lost everything for us, even his very life.

It’s in God’s nature to love; it’s in God’s nature to give. But you cannot give without losing what you have. That’s why I say, “If God is love, God is also a loser.”

Now, let’s talk about you, Ari and Monaca. You are called in your marriage to become like God and do what God does. Earlier we read these words: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” (Ephesians 5:1)

God loves. God gives. God loses. We are called to do likewise. This is why Jesus says, “Whoever would gain his life must lose it.”

This may sound unreasonable and impossible, but God is not asking us to do something he has not done, and God never asks you to do something that’s impossible to accomplish. Ari and Monaca, if you are going to have a marriage that reflects the very goodness of God, you’ve got to be losers.

Imagine a lifetime giving of yourself to one another like Jesus gave of himself to you. When you exhibit two wills in opposition, imagine resisting the compulsion to insist on your own way. Imagine giving up your own desires for the sake of another, sacrificing yourself for one another. Imagine forgiving one another when you mess up. Imagine celebrating one another’s successes. Imagine cheering each other on when strength is fading. Imagine seeking to understand before demanding to be understood. Imagine listening before speaking. Imagine embracing, not pushing. Imagine giving, imagine losing and, because of that, imagine gaining.

Think of a life that is vibrant and full, a life of ecstasy, not the counterfeit kind which is more like hysteria, but godlike ecstasy that looks more like hope and peace, ecstasy that bubbles just under the surface, causing others to wonder what you’ve got hidden there, where deep calls to deep and a river of living water flows free towards the vast ocean of God’s love and joy, forever lost in the ocean of God’s love and joy, forever losing, forever running, forever emptying, but never running out, forever, forever, forever, till not even death parts you.

Let’s pray: “God of grace, source of all love, we pray for Ari and Monaca that they may live together in love and faithfulness to the end of their lives. Enrich their friendship, that each may be for the other a companion in joy and a comforter in sorrow. Help Ari and Monaca to be patient, gentle and forgiving, that their marriage may reflect Christ’s love for all people. Enable them to make their home a place of welcome and friendship, that their life together may be a significant source of strength to others. Grant to them the ability to be clear signs of your love in the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

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