A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
by The Rev. Phillip Dana Wilson
Sermon preached on the occasion of the Sacramental Marriage of two people in the middle of the 10:30 Sunday Eucharist at the Church of the Redeemer, Morristown, NJJames Weldon Johnson tells a modern version of the Creation Story in the following way: "And, God stepped out on space. And, God looked around and God said: 'I'm lonely. I'll make me a world.'" What is so powerful about this telling of the story is the picture of God it offers, a God who gets lonely, a God who needs relationships to be God. In the very same way we, created in the image of God, need relationships to be human.
Readings: Romans 12: 9-18; Excerpt Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh; John 15: 9-12, 17.
Jesus in the Gospels says that his commandment is that we love one another.
And, in case we miss the points he repeats himself: "I am giving you these commandments so that you may love one another." In loving one another we become human. In loving one another we become whole.
Psychologists say the same thing when they talk about our hierarchy of needs.
First, our physical needs of air to breath, water to drink and food to eat must be met in order to live, to be human. Next, there are safety and security needs: shelter, a job, income. Then come the emotional needs of loving and belonging: friendship, intimacy and family. These make up the foundation upon which we become alive and can celebrate the unique gifts we have to offer. And, as St. Irenaeus said, "The glory of God is men and women, fully alive."
To diminish and to refuse to accept the God-given need of any two people to be in a loving, caring and intimate relationship is to inflict an intolerable hurt upon them. It is to undermine the wholeness they need to express the giftedness of who they are. It is to keep them in bondage.
We see examples of this in the history of this country. One way masters keep slaves in bondage is to disallow the legality or holiness of their relationships and families. Married relationships have no value in slavery. Couples can be separated at the master's whim and sold down the river to different plantations. One way bondage is maintained is by denying the freedom of marriage.
We live in a world that is afraid of diversity, afraid of any deviation to the macho image of being a man. We live in a world that wants to dictate who may and who may not love each other and then, shame anyone who challenges this. We live in a world as described by Sergeant Leonard Matlovich: "They gave me a metal for killing a man and a discharge for loving one."
In such a world, today, we come to this place to name and worship a God who is defined by relationship, a God who from Pharaoh's Egypt to this very day continually breaks down barriers that hold people in bondage. In such a world we hold up a God who is revealed in men and women, women and women and men and men fully alive.
One function of every community of faith is to name and hold up the holy. When any two people move out of their positions of security and independence to touch and be touched by the other in the deepest sense, this is holy. When any two people take the incredible risk of making a life long covenant, where both exquisite joy and excruciating pain are to be found, this is holy. When any two people stand up in the face of opposition, refusing to hide, isolate or acquiesce, and there claim their inherent worth as children of God, this is holy. We come to this place to name the holy.
Now as much as we are about proclaiming the Dream of God this morning, when all barriers are removed that keep people from fully living into who they are and who they can be, we are also about celebrating and supporting two specific people who are publicly committing themselves to do the hard work of building and maintaining a relationship. This is always about dealing with everyday stuff of life: such as who snores the louder, who insists on holding the TV remote and who needs more TLC.
Relationship is created out of the everyday stuff of life. It is about negotiating differences in the way we spend money and make decisions, about our tolerance for messiness and how we face conflict. It is about how we navigate through the minefields of hurts and rigidities, fears and fantasies we have each collected throughout our lives.
It is about our capacity to share emotions: rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. It is about learning how to be close and at the same time giving each other plenty of space.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh talks about this in the Contemporary Lesson. "A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules. Partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate, but swift and free, like a country dance of Mozart. To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern and freeze the moment, to check the endless beauty of the unfolding. There is no place for possessive touch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand." 
Marriage is one of life's little miracles in which two people do the work to create such a relationship and then to nourish it. The essential ingredient to making such a miracle a reality is the degree to which each person can tolerate pain and stay in that hard place where growth for a couple happens.
Annie Dillard in her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek paints the word picture of a country store in the middle of the winter with a "neatly stacked quarter-cord of fireplace logs manufactured of rolled pressed paper in front of it. On the wrapper of each log was printed in huge letters the beguiling slogan: 'The ROMANCE without the HEARTTACHE.'" The point: there is no such thing. It is self-delusion. There is no commitment without a cost. What we celebrate today is the willingness of these two people to accept the cost.
So this Sunday morning at the Church of the Redeemer we come to this place to do more than honor Paul and Dan. We come here to name and praise the God who is made real in relationship. This is a God that looked around and said: "I'm lonely. I'll make me a world." We come here to name and praise a God that sets people free from bondage and tears down barriers that says to the captive that their families and marriages do not count. We come here to honor the words of Jesus of Nazareth who said that his commandment is that we love one another. We come to this place to hold up the Dream of God that one day nothing will stand in the way of any two people fully loving, respecting and committing themselves to each other. We come to this place simply to be present and to support two people who want nothing more than to allow one of life's little miracles to happen in their lives because that is what they need to be fully human. That is what they need to fully alive.
Lest we ever forget: The glory of God is human beings fully alive. Amen
A Reading from Romans:
Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute (you), bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.
A reading from Gift of the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules. Partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but swift and free, like a country dance of Mozart. To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern and freeze the moment, to check the endlessly changing beauty of its unfolding. There is no place here for the possessive touch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand. Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to back -- it does not matter which. Because they know they are partners moving in the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus our Christ according to John:
9As God has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept God's commandments and abide in God's love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
_________________________  Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation.  A Gift of the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
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