June 30th, 2013

Psalms 91:11 – For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

Notes from a Pastor: I attended a wedding this afternoon, gathered under bright golden sunshine on summer’s still shiny green grass. It was outdoors on the headlands, the blue waves crashing softly on the jagged rocks below, sending fountains of foamy white spray into the soft warm-cool summer air of the Northern California coast. The violinist and flautist were trying to both look dignified and also grab their music as the breeze tried to snatch it off their music stands and dance it over the cliff into the sea. It had an angel theme because the bride’s name was Angel. The colorful dresses and stiffly handsome tuxedos of the groomsmen dotted the grass with bright cheerful rainbows of color as they escorted people to their white wooden folding chairs in a half circle around the bridal arch, careful to keep the aisle wide enough for the full skirts of the bride and the eager spontaneous twirls of the flower girls, who were especially fluffy as they not only had full sparkling white dresses but golden halos and glittering angel wings. They accidently knocked over the four year old ring bearer in their enthusiasm, and his halo and his glasses fell off and his angel wings twisted into an impossible tangle. The laughter of the gathering people was sweet. There is something so joyful and optimistic about a wedding….

I—and very many other people in this country—have been thinking about weddings this week, as the Supreme Court decision has allowed Californians to resume same-sex marriages and has changed the rules for couples across the federal system. We argue and pray and fuss and snarl and hope and beg God to save us from the horrors of wrong deciders—just as we have about all big social changes, like integrating schools and giving blacks—and even women!—the vote and whether we should provide health care or allow a more humane policy toward illegal immigrants whose families have been here for a very long time. Social change is painful and the rules of polite and respectful social discourse seem to have fallen into disrepair and misuse and so we suffer through the inevitable processes of social change in a shrinking and increasingly interdependent global society where our diversity slams us up against others in ways we just can’t ignore. Meanwhile, today I went to a wedding and so I am pondering marriage.

I was taught a song in Sunday school as a toddler—many people probably know it—that goes “Praise him praise him all ye little children: God is Love, God is Love.” It has lots of verses with that same theme. Jesus also told us that. He said all the ten commandments could be summed up in one: “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you!” And, believing he meant that, I have plaques and posters all over my house and churches that say, “Love is a verb”, believing with all my heart, mind, soul and strength that what Jesus meant by that is that love is not necessarily a warm fuzzy feeling but is necessarily a choice of behavior. Love requires of us lovingkindness, compassion and non-judgmental inclusion of others.

What does that have to do with marriage and whether it is only for a man and a woman or is for any couple who commits to those hard promises, legal and spiritual. I think about the things I say to couples during a wedding that I am presiding over. Many of the words are ancient but some of what I say is personal, a minister grabbing a teachable moment among the marrying couple, friends and family that may provide some help and guidance along the way. No two weddings are the same, but I would offer the same kinds of words to any couple ready to make such life-long commitment: a journey to learn—sometimes easily and sometimes with great effort–to cross that bridge between two separate ways of being, alone and together, that is both the greatest and most sacred joy of marriage and also its biggest challenge.

Life’s adventures are meant to be shared. Life’s path is perilous and we each need to reach for an outstretched hand to help us over the rocky places, and outstretched arms to walk into for the comfort and the safe place that we find only there, within the arms and heart of our beloved.

Blessed are those who have found in each other’s hearts and in each other’s arms their own safe place. Today we celebrate your marriage, the place where the seeds of dreams long ago planted and rooted in the patterns of your lives put on the wings of the morning and the promise of eternity. Today is your wedding day!

You come to this celebration, as all people must, from past places often far apart, to join hands and hearts as you face the unknown region of the future as best friends and partners, lovers and family, in all that may come. We gather close around you, two people deeply cared for by family and friends, to support the promises you make to each other, and with our love and our help and our friendship, we are here to witness your sacred covenant and to bless you both as your life continues to take you in ever deepening circles to the heart of love as husband and wife.

It is one of God’s best gifts that we were created to walk through the perils and pleasures of Life’s journey together. May you both find true comfort, safety and peace of mind in one another’s arms. May you grow in compassion and wisdom, laughter and love as you face life together. May your families and friends enrich your lives and help you through the rough places–and, of course, there are always rough places! And may you be truly happy in each other’s company, most of the time!

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