I recently officiated my first wedding. It was a beautiful day with a beautiful couple who were so in love you could feel it.
During the ceremony, I spoke briefly about the couple and about God. I reminded them that God loves both of them with passion, grace, and forgiveness a hundredfold.
I charged them to not forget that, so they can love one another like God loves them. I charged them to be more generous than their partner deserves, more gracious than seems necessary, more forgiving than seems fathomable, and more loving in good times and in bad than they ever thought possible.
I think that's what God does with us. God is more generous than we deserve, more gracious than we expect, more forgiving than we understand, and more loving than we can comprehend. Strive to love like Jesus, I told this couple, who were committing their lives to one another by exchanging their vows.
Be generous. Be gracious. Be forgiving. Be loving. I charged this of them, but of course this is a charge for us all.
1 John 4:11 says, "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." I believe Jesus shows us what this love looks like.
It is a love that is self-giving and self-sacrificing. It is a love that risks even death on a cross to show us how to love and live. It is a love that seeks to give us second chances and 77 chances. A love that seeks to give us not only a new way of life but a new life and eternal life.
Three days before that beautiful wedding, I had the privilege of officiating a funeral.
I found wonder and grace in the way my week encompassed the good news of the Gospel through the greatest joys and greatest sorrows of life, endlessly confirming the depth and expansiveness of God's love.
In both services, we gave thanks for a God who gives new life, whose love is everlasting and abundant, and who showers us with grace and forgiveness.
It might seem odd to think about a wedding and funeral as having similarities, but whether at the grave or at the exchange of rings, we all find ourselves in need of more love, grace and forgiveness than we deserve.
I want to remind you who are reading this: God loves you with all your gifts, challenges and failings. I also want to charge you in the same way I charged the newlywed couple: Don't forget how much God loves you and, what's more, don't forget the way that God loves.
When you remember that God's love is everlasting and abundant you'll find that you can be more generous than your neighbor deserves, you can be more gracious than seems necessary, you can be more forgiving than seems fathomable, and you can be more loving in good times and in bad than you ever thought possible.
Stephanie Dion is an associate pastor at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton. LowcountryPres.org