Standing outdoors in this beautiful location to celebrate your marriage naturally brings me to the first story of creation in the Bible (Genesis 1). God created Adam and Eve to love one another. Their home was truly an outdoor Paradise.
And when we imagine a Paradise, it is perfect, isn’t it? True, God intended creation to be good. Just read the number of times each act of creation is punctuated by: “It is good…. It is good” ….. It is good!”
It is true, God gives what we need in marriage, too. God gave Adam and Eve each other and the Garden of Paradise, where so many good things surrounded them. There was a bounty of fruit and trees all around them. They could have their fill!
But not of all the fruit! There was that one tree at the centre of the Garden whose fruit they were forbidden to eat. Well, we know how the story goes from there. “Adam and Eve were the first people to not read the Apple terms and conditions.” — those of you have these iPhones might appreciate the metaphor about first-world issues of responsible reading of all the fine print before clicking on ‘update’. Who has time for that?!
I think sometimes when we celebrate marriage we might forget that damn tree right at the centre of our Garden of Paradise which is supposed to be perfect, right? We may therefore be disappointed because we get caught up in the idealism and feelings of love at the expense of the reality and sometimes pain of human interaction. They say that marriage is made in heaven, but so is thunder and lightning!
I say this to you today not to discourage you both. Quite the opposite. Getting married is an act of great courage, especially these days. We need more people to do courageous things. And when we can accept the truth of our limitations as individuals and couples, we can navigate the adventure of married life with enduring commitment, forgiveness and mutual understanding much better.
And God certainly understands the challenge for us, I believe. Having that forbidden tree — whatever limitation, personal issue or suffering it may represent for you — having that forbidden tree in Paradise was, after all, God’s idea of ‘perfection’. Even before Adam and Eve sinned, God’s creation included imperfection, if you will. Or as Saint Paul, the author of that familiar passage of love we heard today described elsewhere in his letter to the Corinthians “the thorn in his flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:6-9) — something imperfect, incomplete and unsatisfied with which he had to live.
Don’t forget to read the fine print in life and love! Because it isn’t always peaches and cream. At the same time, as we stand in this beautiful outdoor setting today, I want to remind you both that God does give you all that you need — and more! In the gift of each other and this assembly of loved ones gathered with you today, in the gift of being able to work as you do in the great outdoors caring for the environment, in the gift of health, in the gift of the material blessings of your life — may you be, day by day, encouraged in your gratitude for all the good things you are and have.
The Lord spoke to Saint Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9)