On Saturday I had the privilege of taking part in a service of thanksgiving for Owen and Sally’s 60th Wedding anniversary. They had been married in St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, and every ten years had celebrated and recommitted to their vows in that same place. I was their minister for 4 of those 60 years, and it was humbling to lead the gathering in a prayer of thanksgiving. As I prepared, I was reflecting on our life as participation in the life of God, our love as sharing in the love that God is and expresses, and so this is what I prayed;
Fountain of love
Knower of hearts
Keeper of our steps
Mystery of grace
Father of our Brother and Lord Jesus, Sender of our companion, the Holy Spirit – we give you thanks.
We remember and confess that all good things come from you. Fullness and wholeness are yours alone, faithfulness and freedom are your middle names. Yet you do not withhold these things from us or from our world, but you share yourself abundantly with us, so we confess with the saints through the ages that your love is new every morning and your generosity is without end.
All good things come from you. So as we gather to give thanks for Owen and Sally’s witness of love and constancy, we rejoice for we are seeing, not merely a love that is similar to yours, not simply an echo of your love, but that very same love which exists in the blessed union of Father, Son and Spirit, played out in our presence. Your river of love flows to this beloved pair, and through them to one another and beyond.
Human love doesn’t last. Our kind of affection is too often corrupted by agendas of selfish gain and even manipulation. Our world has taken the path of the prodigal, spurning the Father’s house and striking out on our own. It ends in tears every time, we see them, we feel them and so often we share them.
Here we see a love that has stood up straight and stayed the course. Here we see that love which does not use the other, but prizes and cherishes them, a love which doesn’t not threaten our identities but allows them to thrive and shine as God intended. There is only one love in all creation that moves like this – it is your love, O Lord.
And so we thank you that we have witnessed this love in our time and our place. Not only in the stillness of your sanctuary, but in the sacred ordinariness of a man loving a woman, a woman loving a man. There, in the messiness and beauty of everyday, you have made yourself at home and revealed your steadfast love on Henry Road, of all places. We have seen your servants Owen and Sally share in your love for each other, for your people and for your world. They have not done this on their own, this is a three stranded cord, wound together, covenanted together 60 years ago, and still strong and supple to this day.
We give you thanks that you have shown us that your love is in this world.
We give you thanks for Owen and Sally’s life together, the constancy they have shown one another through joy and sorrow.
We give you thanks, for your goodness and mercy has followed them all their days, and we rejoice knowing your beauty and truth will keep them company and guard them forever more.
In the name of the Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.