Let’s get it out in the open: this is one great reading.
It’s appropriate to observe Year of Paul, day two with a look at one of the three wedding Lectionary suggestions from the letter to the Romans.
This reading is a favorite for prayer and spiritual direction. The whole of Romans 8 finds Paul preaching with enthusiasm on the Spirit of God. By the time we get to verse 31, enthusiasm gives way to a kind of glee. Can you catch it?.
Brothers and sisters:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?
Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us.
Who will condemn?
It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised,
who also is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us.
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
No, in all these things, we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I wonder about Paul’s legal theme. The man was well familiar with legal proceedings, as a pharisaic Jew and as one who had been accused of crime. Several times accused and imprisoned, in fact. Paul’s optimism may have been grounded in experience: with God as one’s defender, what could anyone do to him? How could anyone possibly have the power to harm him? With God on the defense, the opposition had no hope.
Engaged couples sometimes have a similar attitude. With my beloved at my side, so the thinking goes, who can stand against me? Not family, not old flames, not unjust employers, crazy co-workers, high fuel prices, or any of life’s struggles and trials.
Imagine if engaged and married couples were serious about incorporating God into that equation. Then obstacles like poor communication, differences in approaches to sex, poor finances, families of origin, and the usual suspects would really seem trivial in comparison to the grave matters of faith.
Couples don’t chose this reading much. It’s not as overtly romantic as 1 Corinthians 13. Paul doesn’t word-drop “love” as often as John. But Paul knows what side the bread is buttered on. Love triumphs. When we speak of the love of God, we speak of a majestic and glorious thing that transcends even life and death. Who wouldn’t want that working for us?
This reading gives us a serious complement to the selection from Song of Songs. If a couple is looking for an expression of the timelessness of love, and love’s power, and they’re not afraid to share their humble human love with God on their wedding day (and beyond) this is a wise choice.