Today’s Gospel: John 3:14-21
One of my favorite parts of ministry is getting to spend time with engaged couples as they prepare for marriage. I generally meet with a couple four times for premarital counseling and to plan their wedding service. After 27 years of ordained ministry, I have spent hundreds of hours with couples during a very happy and hopeful time in their lives.
During our meetings, one of the most important questions I ask any couple contemplating marriage is – “What are the things about this person that really bug you?” As homework, I make them write me a list of at least three things about their beloved that just drives them crazy. I tell them that they can give me more than three things but not less. I warn them not to come back and tell me they could only think of two, because either they are not paying attention, they are in denial, or they are unwilling to be honest.
Let’s face it, we all have a shadow side. As we are reminded in our lesson for today, there is a darkness within each of us and as hard as we try to mask it, to hide it, to subdue it, that darkness will always rear its ugly head. And every couple needs to understand that real love only exists when we can love not only what we like about our spouse, but also those things we would change if we could. Real love is when someone loves you in spite of yourself.
This is what God proclaims to us in the gift of his Son. In Jesus, we find God’s ultimate gift of love given to redeem all of us, in spite of ourselves. It is not a conditional love but an extravagant love that confronts the darkness of the cross and reaches beyond it. As we approach Easter, remember that God loves you just as you are. God loves your shadow side and your innate goodness. This love isn’t based on merit or membership, it is free, unasked for, and undeserved. All you have to do is accept it.
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP p.832)
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