This was prepared for Marcus and Karen Pugh's wedding on 12 August 2006. In talking about the service beforehand, I think this is what they wanted the sermon to say.
Life is full of surprises.
Marcus and Karen have each come to this point in their lives by a roundabout route, but I would guess that is probably true for most of us. We may try to make plans, but all too often things don't work out the way we intended.
Dozens of self-help books tell us what common sense already knew: that the secret of success is to make plans, but be flexible. When things go wrong, adjust your plans, learn your lesson, and start again in the light of the new circumstances and the new insights you have gained.
God does much the same. Okay - perhaps He does not learn from His mistakes in the same way that we do, although I have heard it suggested that He learned from the mistakes He made when creating Adam, and got it right the second time with Eve.
So maybe God doesn't make mistakes, but His plans go wrong anyway, because His plans involve us. He wants the very best for each one of us, but when we turn away from the life He wants to give us, we sometimes have to take a more roundabout route than the one He originally had in mind.
People sometimes talk about the will of God as if it is a tightrope: one wrong step and you are off, evermore missing out on the plans He had for your life. The truth is that He delights to build something beautiful out of our broken lives.
It doesn't matter how much you have failed, it doesn't matter how often you have turned away from what is beautiful and strong and right and true. God has not given up or turned His back on you.
Jesus came to a people who believed that God was a stern lawgiver and judge, and He told them that God is really a loving Father, full of forgiveness and grace. What He most wants is for us to receive His love, and live in the good of it. To enjoy the wonderful life He offers us, in all its fullness. To give us a new start.
Marcus and Karen are enjoying a new start today. They are, if you like, His worked example to us. They were willing to respond to the offer of a new life. They are willing today to take the risk of trying again. They are willing to take the risk of loving and being loved.
That is what faith is all about. They do not know what the future will hold. But they do know that, whatever comes, the best outcomes are only possible if we commit ourselves to those we love, and are prepared to work at the relationship and learn the lessons when things go wrong.
Each day we can start afresh, giving and receiving love, giving and receiving forgiveness when it is needed, and growing and learning so that step by step we can become the people that God made us to be.