Last week, I received emails out of the blue from a high school friend (with whom I don’t think I’d communicated since we left for our colleges) and a former student. (Hi, Rob! Hi, Vito!) Now I’m trying to track down a couple of former students, whose wedding sermon had mysteriously vanished from my digital archives. This afternoon, as I was straightening up the study for a visit from Nate, I found the missing wedding sermon, and want to pass it along to my friends. I’ll post it here in the extended portion of the post, sans names, while I try to pull together the shards of a sermon for St. Luke’s this Sunday.
So this Web thing — it’s really great for sociality. I worry that people who don’t get thoroughly involved with the Web will become isolated, cut off from the people around them.
Trinity Church, Princeton
Ecclesiastes 4:7-12/Mark 12:28-34
June 5, 1999
+ In the Name of God Almighty, the Blessed Trinity on high – Amen.
You are not far from the kingdom of God, Betty and Joe. In about fifteen minutes – or perhaps twenty or twenty-five, depending on how long the preacher talks – you’ll take on one of the most uncanny commitments a human can make. You have already pledged before the all-witnessing God that from now on your lives will intertwine so intimately and completely that the church understands you to be one shared life; in a moment we will solemnize and bless that promise, and you will put yourselves in a way that will lead you ever closer to understanding how close you have come to the kingdom of God – and some days, how far away you remain.
You’re getting closer to God’s way, because God did not create us for solitude. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil,” and “if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone?” Now, rewards are good, and warmth is good; yet it isn’t reward or warmth in itself that brings us nearer God’s walk. The way of life that Jesus commends to us derives its strength and hope, its vitality and freedom from the sinews of trusting hope that hold us together, spouses together, family together, friends together, drawinng us ever closer to the perfect love and trust that we find in the presence of God.
That love that trust are not automatic; we know that. Unimaginable contingencies lie ahead of us. Ours is not a marriage of fuzzy pink pillows and cloying verse. It’s a marriage sealed with tears of wound and regret, with the sweat of late stifling nights and struggling through misunderstanding and adversity, with blood shed in calamity, perhaps in childbirth. Yours will be a rare love if it does not bring with it irritation and disappointment as well as ecstasy and joy. The joy arrives when you discover that we can sustain one another through such unwelcome possibilities without giving up; the ecstasy comes from finding ourselves that much closer to God’s way, to God’s walk.
Love does fluctuate, but love does not yield; life fluctuates around love. Though chance can touch and wound us, chance cannot touch love. By magic, or by the Force, or by God’s Holy Spirit, the power of love is real; it happens.
This marriage, of which we all are part, to which we all have committed ourselves, will sometimes suffer damage from life’s contingencies. Chance will strike you unawares, and we’ll need to work together for the sake of your shared, united life. We can support you through weaving your lives into one holy robe, and it’s magic, and it’s fearful and dangerous, and it is as great a blessing as any soul can receive.
Joe, Betty, you both love faith, the giddying certainty that there will always remain a truth that we can’t parse, on which we must nevertheless rely. Tonight, enter a covenant that teaches souls some of what it means to walk with a God whom we know by faith. Give to one another that trust from which you will dare to live as bodies and souls set free to love the world richly, deeply, truly. Love one another, for the God of heaven and earth calls for our love to each other and to all our neighbors. And when, in just a few more minutes, I invite you to make holy vows to one another, answer wisely – for you are indeed not far from the kingdom of God.