October 22, 2017

The Wedding of Norm and Freda
‘UNCONDITIONAL LOVE’

BIBLE READINGS
Genesis 2:18-24
1 Corinthians 13

1 John 4:7-16

REFLECTION

Last year’s statistics paint quite an interesting picture of modern Australian society. In these statistics, we can see that, despite its shortcomings and imperfections, family is still the founding block of our society here in Australia. Even though the population of singles has risen 17% last year, only around 2 million of us are living in single households. The vast majority of us still live in family settings with two or more people...

The most common make-up of Australian families today is two-person family (an adult couple living together as a family). There are more than 5 and a half million people who live in this kind of family, rising 14% last year. The next one is four-person family (an adult couple living with their two children). There are more than 5 million people who live in this kind of setting. Surprisingly, the fastest growing family type in Australia is not single or two or three or even four-person families, but eight-person-plus families, rising 64% last year.[1]

Indeed, despite the strength of individualism and independence in Western society like ours, we still long to be in interdependence relationship(s) with the other(s). We are not created to live in isolation, but to be together.

According to the book of Genesis, a woman was created out of a man’s rib. This means that they were originally one, not two; united, not separated. They both are of the same flesh and bones, which explains the longing that they have for each other.

Marriage, therefore, is an acknowledgement of our nature as social creatures. According to the book Genesis, the institution of marriage was created to honour this nature. It was created so that both man and woman have the opportunity to satisfy the longing that they have for each other.

But what is it that truly binds the union between a man and a woman? Is it the institution of marriage itself or is it something more fundamental; something more foundational than marriage?

The book of Genesis never mentions it, but the thing that makes the union between a man and woman possible is love. Love is the ‘glue’ that keeps the man and the woman together. You may even think of love as the ‘glue’ that heals Adam’s wound by reattaching its broken rib to where it belongs. Marriage is the way we acknowledge and honor the love that already exists between a man and a woman.

So love is the foundation of marriage. But what kind of love?

Let me try answering this question by telling you a story about a remarkable woman named Turia Pitt.

When she was still in her mid 20s in 2011, she ran in an ultra-marathon in the outback of the Kimberly. But during the marathon, something unimaginable happened: she was trapped in a bushfire. She survived the terrifying event, but she suffered burn to 64 percent of her body.

Two third of her face was horribly scared, her fingers had to be amputated, and she had to learn how to walk again. The doctors did not expect her to survive, but after 100 surgeries, she did not only live; she became NSW Premier’s Woman of the Year.

But the amazing thing about Turia’s story is not only about her courage and determination to live; it is also a story about love, true love. Despite the horrific injury that will forever scar the body of this former model, her partner, Michael Hoskin, never abandons her.

Turia and Michael met in school and they were in a relationship with each other when the tragedy happened. But Michael never left Turia when she was treated in the hospital. He even bought a diamond engagement ring for her while she was in the intensive care. He loves her ad and sees the same woman beneath the scars. He once said that he fell in love with the whole person: her personality and beauty; and, for him, both were still there.[2]

This is the kind of love that keeps the union between a man and woman in marriage intact. This is the kind of love that the authors of the books and letters in the New Testament often talked about in their writings.

The most common Greek word for love that is used by the authors of the writings in the New Testament, including our two readings today: the first letter to the Corinthians and the first letter of John, is agape. Now, there are many words for love in Greek. There is phileo, which is a general kind of love; like a love between friends. There is eros, which is a sexual kind of love; a passionate love between two lovers. There is stergo, which is the kind of love between a subordinate and his superior. And there is agape, by far the most common word for love in the New Testament writings.

Agape is the kind of love that God shows to us; the love that is unconditional. God loves us regardless of who we are or what we have done. God loves us no matter what. Agape is love regardless of and not love because of. Agape is the kind of love that Turia Pitt and Michael Hoskin have for each other.

Friends, the foundation of a strong marriage is agape: a love that says, “I love you no matter what.” The marriage vow that both Norm and Freda said to each other is the honoring of that love. The vow is sacred not by itself, but because it reflects the unconditional love that is already present between Norm and Freda.

Indeed, everything changes: the weather changes; economic or political situation changes; people change. But love, if it is true and genuine, remains because true and genuine love is unconditional.

Norm and Freda, may you be aware of this love in your day-to-day life together as husband and wife. May you discover it anew, again and again and again. May you nurture it so that it grows stronger and stronger, even though your bodies and minds will get weaker. May both of you be the embodiment of that love. And may the love of God to you and to the world be reflected in your love to each other for as long as you both live.

Amen.
Toby Keva

[1] ABS, Census 2016 in Bernard Salt, Families in Flux but Not Fading, an article in The Weekend Australian, September 30-October 1 2017, p. 17.

[2] From two articles: Meet the Remarkable Man who will Marry Turia Pitt, on www.womansday.com.au (July 23, 2015 - 3:37 PM) and Burns Survivor Turia Pitt Engaged to Partner, Michael Hoskin, on www.smh.com.au (July 22, 2015).