It’s been a busy weekend, with limited net access, but with lovely times with Margaret and Juliet and John. The wedding-blessing went beautifully; Margaret wrangled some relatives to be a server and an usher, and Juliet and John could think of no reason that their wedding could not be blessed, and everyone could hear me. There was a threat of rain, which would have dampened both flesh and spirit, but the greater climatic threat turned out to be a persistent gusty wind — especially problematic since the communion vessels were light.
Vigilance and piety prevailed over the brute force of nature, and Juliet and John are married in the sight of God as well as of the State of New Jersey. I’ve added the wedding sermon in the “Extended” part of this entry.
Yesterday we spent the morning at the beach, where I did my best to avoid ruining my library pallor while Margaret toasted herself. I did step out into the light to swim around with my goggles on — it was like snorkeling lite, or like a National Geographic video special for the easily terrified. I swam along with a school of fish that looked about as exotic as haddock. In fact, haddock look positively ferocious compared to these innocuous marine travelers. It was a treat, though, to see through the clear water, to swim around with little fishies, and then scamper back to shore to curl up in the shade with a copy of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble. I grudgingly agree, by the way, that Butler ought to write more gracefully; unless I misunderstand her by a long margin, she could have made her points in much more vivid, clear prose.
An Anglican family who had come to the wedding wanted very much for me to bless their home, so Margaret and Juliet and I wandered over to give them a blessing. Their son was particularly concerned that we bless the space under his bed, so I was liberal with the holy water for his sake.
Today we leave for home; Margaret and I separate in Miami, and I’m scheduled arrive home in Chicago at about eleven o’clock (getting back to Evanston around midnight). I’ll be trading marital companionship and tropical leisure for full-time workand broadband access. Hmmmmm. . . .
Ruth 1:16-17/Phil 4:4-9/Ps 67/John 15:9-12
February 12, 2005
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, Rejoice!
In the Name of God Almighty, the Blessed Trinity on high – Amen.
It’s an odd thing, from a logical and psychological point of view, to command someone to rejoice. How would I obey such a command? With a forced grin and a hollow laugh? Wan cheeriness and parched humor? And it’s all the more strange when St. Paul commands us to rejoice always, always, no matter what the circumstances, and then repeats himself: “Again I say, Rejoice!” Even today, on as joyous an occasion as we’re permitted to share, in the company of John and Juliet and so many beloved friends and family, we may be permitted to think that Paul has gone a little over the top in urging us to rejoice, rejoice, rejoice always.
Paul is not, of course, selling us a cheery positive outlook as the antidote to every misfortune, to the frustrations that sometimes accompany married life, to the griefs that befall all mortals. A positive attitude may offer all sorts of benefits, but it does little by way of theological illumination. Paul wants for the Philippians, and for us, an understanding of who we really are, of how God loves us, and of where we fit into God’s tremendous, sprawling mural of creation. Paul wants us to share the joy of knowing the God who loves us intimately, utterly, fully – so fully that our God enters this troubled world on our terms, knows our pain, endures our limitations, and breaks apart the bounds that evil and mortality impose upon us.
God comes to us in the person of Jesus, a plain man from an obscure province, a wedding guest – who once upon a time gathered together a knot of friends, and taught them what it means to love one another. There’s more to loving one another than going fishing together; Peter and Andrew were already fishermen. More also than the shared ups and downs of a joint checking account; the sons of Zebedee seem to have been running quite a fair business with their father. There’s more to loving one another than the urgent intensity of passion and release; women and men among the disciples had been there, done that, and Jesus called them, calls them, calls us to something greater, something wiser.
We know from Jesus what we’ve learned by living together: that love does not prevent annoyance, frustration, hurt and sorrow. So we gather today on this holy errand because in a fragile world Juliet and John have promised to stand together for life, as we promise to help them, in Jesus’ name: that is, in the name of a hope, a grace, a love greater than vexation and sorrow. They have brought us here today in the name of life, kneeling before God as frail flesh, then standing among us as angels, supported by friends, sheltered by God’s blessing. We know from Jesus that when such love draws us toward the heart of God, then nothing can stop it, nothing can harm it, nothing can break the love that God has forged.
So when this evening, Juliet and John have volunteered to devote their whole selves to the shaky enterprise of reflecting to us the patient, forgiving, hopeful, sweet love with which God loves us – when we hear them say, “I do,” and when we answer their promises with our own pledge “we will” – they bind themselves to one another, and us to them, in a covenant of trust among people who care for one another, among people who turn to God for the grace of true blessing, among saints and sinners and plain folks and doubters and especially, especially among lovers – among lovers whom God has woven into a brilliant tapestry whose beauty banishes sadness, and brings all our woe to a perfect ending, and seals it with God’s glory.
In these promises, in this hope, there always lurks something of St. Paul’s joy to sustain us. Juliet, John, speak carefully and speak true – because although the words you are about to utter will sound like the quiet, simple affirmation, “I do,” once you utter them they will echo from the ocean, from the trees, from the walls of your home, in the hearts of your loved ones, your words will echo back from highest heaven with God’s responding affirmation to you: “Then, rejoice, always! Again I say, rejoice!”