Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A Wedding Meditation

I stumbled on this sermon I preached almost three years ago. It is my first only wedding sermon(to date). Three years ago I seem to have begun to reflect on what I have been posting about in what seems to me a far better way than I have in the previous few posts. It is perhaps proof that the best theology begins with the pastoral. The couple's relationship to the church and Christianity was unclear, and most of those in attendance were not Christian, though most had some familiarity with the faith. This explains the frequent references to this or that statement being "according to the Christian faith". It was an attempt to articulate what the Gospel had to say about love to those who either would think it had nothing to do with a wedding or who would not expect Christianity to have much positive to say about romance and the erotic.
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, NRSV)

Set me like a seal on our heart like a seal on your arm for love is strong as Death passion as relentlessas Sheol. The flash of it is a flash of fire, a flame of God himself. Love no flood can quench no torrents drown. Were a man to offer all his family wealth to buy love, contempt is all that he would gain. (Song of Songs 8:6-7, NJB)

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. And they ran out of wine.... The mother of Jesus said to him they have no wine... His mother said to the servants, do whatever he tells you. There were six stone water Jars standing there, then Jesus said to the servants Fill the jars with water. And they filled them to the brim. The he said to them draw some out now and take it the president of the feast. They did this; the president tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. The president of the feast called the bridegroom and said Everyone serves good wine first and the worse wine when the guest are drunk; but you have kept the best wine till now. John 2:1-12, NJB altered)

Above all clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14, NRSV)

My dear Friends let us love each other since love is from God and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever fails to love does not know God for God is love. This is the revelation of Gods love for us, that God sent his only son into the world that we might have life through him. (1 John 4:7-9, NJB)

What I have just read is a pastiche of texts from the Bible. Standing in their contexts they remain unrelated, and yet all in some way relate to our gathering here on this first day of summer. First I read of the creation of human beings, which included our creation as sexual beings. Then I read a passage that concludes a lengthy and steamy love poem called the Song of Songs, That may surprise many of you but the Bible does contain a poem that is on its most basic level a celebration of eroticism and romantic love. Then we find Jesus Christ at a wedding, at the reception(as we will do ina few moments) and he miraculously provides a great deal more wine, at the point when most of the guest are at least a bit tipsy if not drunk, so that the festivities will not be cut short. Then there is this passage about clothing ourselves with love, alove that is woven into the very fabric of existence. We are still in the realm of love but I wish to point out that we are now speaking of a love that includes but transcends romance and eroticism. Finally I read perhaps one of the most surprising passages in the Christian scriptures, the claim that God is love, and that knowledge of God is in truly loving. These last two passages from the New Testament do not admittedly deal exclusively with romantic love, and yet we are here celebrating more than simply the consummation of erotic desire and romantic love but something larger, the love of Patrick and Ritas friends and family.
I have brought these texts together because these are readings that the Christian tradition over its history has deemed to be appropriate texts to be read at a wedding, though admittedly most likely not all at once as I have done. I also bring these texts to this moment to reflect on what we celebrate and affirm this day in the marriage of Patrick and Rita and in all weddings. We celebrate and affirm first of all sexuality, the power of love that is bound up with attraction eroticism and romance. For the Christian the story of Jesus presence at a wedding and his miraculous provision of wine speaks to Gods blessing on this aspect of human life.
Yet we dont simply celebrate romance and eroticism here to day, but of a love that includes sustains and expands the erotic romantic and sexed human reality. Our love for Patrick and Rita we show in supporting them on this day in witnessing their marriage vows. In this love we share in the reality of the God who is love, exemplified ultimately (according to Christian belief) as unconditional and self-giving sacrifice, always seeking the truth and wholeness of the other. This love both transcends and permeates all other love, whether of romance or friendship or family. All love that deserves the name will share in this self-giving unconditional concern for the other as other. Thus Christ said Greater love has no one than this than he lay down his life for a friend. And there are myriads of ways other than dying that in our relationships, in our friendships, in our marriages that we are called to lay down our life for the other.
We honor and celebrate this day in the wedding of Rita and Patrick, love in all its passion, eroticism, romance, compassion and self-giving sacrifice. In hope Patrick and Rita commit this day to love each other their whole life. May we continually be reminded what an amazing powerful joyful difficult and divine thing it is to truly love. Amen