a wedding sermon

Though it may be inappropriate of me to be saying it, much less today, at this event, in front of all these people, I kind of suspect that the two of you are a little backward. Sorry, again that may be inappropriate, but I’m not too good at keeping my mouth shut on these things, nor do I believe that trying to follow the standard patterns and mythical romantic guidelines is exactly what we should be up to anyway.

So I’ll go ahead and say it again, and even with some rejoicing, that the two of you are a little backward. You seem to have love out of order, the reverse of the typical pattern that we’re led to expect. And as a first example, there’s that reading from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, a reading that told us “Love is not breathlessness, It is not excitement, It is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any fool can do.”

That exactly contradicts much of the mushy sentimentalism that is typical in weddings. Mostly these are seen as days about wedded bliss and honeymoons and extravagance that is intended to reflect the overwhelming emotion of two people head-over-heels in love. Wedding speeches (at least of the American variety) tend to center on how great it is that the couple has found happiness in each other. But this reading you chose argues against all of that and turns it on its head. It calls those popular gooshy wedding moments simply foolish. “That’s just being in love,” it says, disparaging the notion that being in love is the most amazing thing a person can experience.

Instead, the reading goes more to the roots, to the heart. It seeks for when all that sentimentalism is burned away, and that being bound together then is when it really matters and what is really important and worthwhile. Love isn’t really about being happy together, but is about being together through the sadness and struggle and worry as well as the happiness, to share the joy as well as sorrow, sickness and health, richer or poorer, in the exact sentiment that the old vows are supposed to guarantee for each other, through the effortless parts of the journey and the challenges, as you will promise to each other in a moment.

But even more than this surprising reversal of the common demeanor of weddings, I’d say the two of you, Trevor and Stephanie, had it backward long before today. I’d say you were in some ways backward about this from the very beginning, back when you met in Nashville in what has begun to feel like many long years ago. Back in those days when you were first meeting each other and getting to know each other, you were each facing trauma and difficulty, of loss and separation, of death and endings. And so somehow, right from the very start of it all, you were there for each other as support and relief, through a really hard time, and I expect responding and helping and not simply as a diversion or distraction or vacation from your problems.

Having established your relationship on such firm footing, on actual dedication and devotion to being a benefit to each other and not only on what makes you happy, it makes only logical sense that you’ve progressed through all of that to arrive precisely here and now. The progress has also involved deliberation and difficult decisions, on being a blended family with Brady and on how schedules might possibly work and living arrangements that will mean changes of an international scale. It’s involved sorting through that with others and inviting us who are gathered around you today also to be part of that adaptation and change and intentionality and commitment that your love means.

A further word on this gathering: I suspect many of you know, but in case you didn’t, Trevor and Stephanie are already married. In order to work on citizenship and paperwork issues and such, it’s already a done deal, a sterile little process in an office. The deed is done. So we could say that this is moot, that I’m not getting to serve as an official witness, that there’s no signing of marriage licenses and nothing today that will be registered with the county clerk at the courthouse.

But it’s not like today doesn’t matter. The legal stuff wasn’t the only point or the main point for Stephanie and Trevor. The civil ceremony made the marriage “legit,” as they say, but they wanted this gathering as a chance to focus on love. This is the chance to practice what life ahead will mean, the practice (in the characterization of our Bible reading, from Romans 12:9-16) of loving each other, of being family, of giving and receiving support, of mutual affection, of loving what is good, of patience and perseverance, of hospitality and harmony, of rejoicing—for certain—but also of compassion that wouldn’t ignore weeping. This whole mix of our complex and beautiful lives: that is what today is about. And without the fullness of it, not only would we be trying to ignore reality, but we’d also be trying to ignore the blessing of God, who is with you to provide for times of happiness, but also to bring you through sorrow, to sustain and surround you, and to triumph in love.

With that, I invite the three of you now to pour sand in a unity ceremony, a visual representation of the grand beauty of lives mixing and coming together as family, and all contained in the clarity of God’s embrace.

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