As I have written in the past, my father passed away in 2014. In 2016, my mother met another fellow, Greg (!), who has been with her ever since. He has seen her though multiple surgeries and treatments for bladder cancer. His wife died a few years ago of cancer, so I imagine it must have been very hard for him to see my mom go through these treatments and procedures. Today, December 23, 2020, I will be officiating their marriage. It is an amazing honor to do this. Oh, and mom is 79 years old and Greg is 75! As a part of the ceremony, here is the brief devotional that I gave:
The Wedding of Gregory Jones and Patricia Johnston
December 23, 2020
Greetings, friends, and family both here in the room and online. This day is truly a great day. We are here to witness and confirm the marriage of Greg to Pat. When Mom sat me down with Greg to tell us that they were getting married, I was overjoyed. Karry even squealed a bit. This marriage is indeed a joyous union.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, He has a concise song on the nature of love. Karry has just read through this song, which unwraps the whole theme of love. Paul wrote the letter in the Greek language, and as is widely known, the Greeks had more than one word for love. In this instance, the word is ἀγάπη agape which refers to a self-giving and self-sacrificing love. Because agape love is realizing the other as more important than the self, it takes on the characteristics of patience, kindness, humility, honor, temperance, and forgiveness.
The result of agape love is not just a happy marriage, but the presence of joy. Happiness is fleeting and not permanent. Joy sticks with it even through the hard times. While you are going through a hard time, such as cancer treatments or surgeries, these events are not happy. However, because the two of you were together, you could both experience the joy of agape love through hardship and pain.
As the two of you enter marriage, you carry this agape love with you. In a few moments, you are going to take some vows, and those vows include the words “until we are parted by death.” Both of you know exactly what that means. Greg, you shared agape love with Mary Helen; Mom, you shared agape love with Dad. Even though both were taken from us, your marriages were testimony to agape love and joy. Because you have both loved with agape love in the past, you know what it means to bring that into the present and in a new marriage covenant. Mary Helen and Darwin are essential people to your stories, not just in the past, but here and now in the present.
Two of my favorite word in the Bible are αλλα θεος alla theos – but God. After both of you lost your spouses, you went through and still experience grief and loss. But God had something else in mind. It is rare for those in their 70’s to find love again, but God knew something you didn’t. When the two of you met for the first time, you enjoyed friendship and fellowship, but God had something greater in store for you.
As you go forward in your marriage, celebrate the joy of agape love. Know that in every hard time you encounter going forward, there is a “but God…” waiting for you just around the corner. As you enjoy the love and friendship of marriage, never forget where this love comes from. As Jesus spoke to us through John’s gospel, remain in this love. For this agape love reflects God’s love for us and Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for our sakes. As God loves the two of you with infinite agape love, go then and love each other in the self-sacrificial and self-denying love that can only come from Jesus in His agape love.