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377 S. Harrison Street, 12D
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Married February 2, 1974
Don't repeat the mistake on page 847 of The Prayer Book . Here is what God really requires from the chosen people:
A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
A Homily for the Celebration of a Marriage
I Samuel 18:1-4; 20:16-17
You’re passionately engaged in a fervent conversation. Leaning forward and throwing yourself into the debate, you make what to your own mind is a brilliant and insightful contribution to your side of the argument. Confident in your own brilliance, you lean back against the sofa cushion with a sublimely Mona Lisa-like bent on your trying-not-to-look-too-smug lips. Your partner leans gently into your shoulder and in a quiet aside meant only for your ears says, “booger alert; left nostril.”
It took you weeks to find just the right tie to go with the shirt. You rushed to pick up the jacket and slacks from the cleaners. In your mind’s eye you’ve envisioned yourself in this outfit you’ve so carefully selected and now wear into the room where your beloved stands waiting, car keys in hand. He looks you quickly up and down and greets you with those fateful words, “Are you wearing that ?”
In a recent interview on National Public Radio, the esteemed scholar of religion, Karen Armstrong, offered that “Religion is about helping us … to find meaning in life and helping us to live in relation to … transcendence …. Religious people,” she avers, “want to live generous lives. They want to live beyond selfishness, beyond ego. All the world religions,” says Armstrong, “say that the way to find what we call God or Brahman, Nirvana, or Tao is to get beyond the prism of egotism, of selfishness which holds us in a little deadlock and limits our vision. That if we can get beyond that, especially in the practice of compassion, when we dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, we live much more richly and intensely.”our world and put another there, we live much more richly and intensely.” (From a Terry Gross interview on the program, Fresh Air, dated September 21, 2009. A transcript of the interview is available online)
“To get beyond the prism of egotism,” a step in the right direction is intimate commitment to another person. Learning to live with another is a deeply religious undertaking, a profound spiritual discipline. As Andrew Warner, himself a gay man referencing his own experience in partnership, wrote in an article appearing in last week’s issue of The Christian Century, “marriage … has a cruciform shape, like other ascetical practices, and is a transformative experience for the two individuals. In marriage, God intends not only to alleviate human loneliness but to effect human salvation.” Warner goes on to say that
Like ascetical disciplines such as fasting or celibacy or poverty, marriage involves saying no to something in order to say yes to a higher good. Marriage is based on renunciation and reception: one says no to many possible partners in order to say yes to one. One renounces some behaviors in order to be drawn closer to God in covenant relationship.
In our reading from the first book of Samuel, we’re drawn to the romantic image of Jonathan and David, two supposedly robust men intensely devoted to one another. But we may be so distracted by the mental images of Jonathan’s stripping, that we fail to see or understand the import of this sacrificial disrobing. Jonathan strips himself of his robe, his armor, his sword, his bow and his belt—leaving him naked, for sure, but more to the point, leaving him defenseless as he hands over to David every implement of self- preservation.
And in that marvelous passage from Matthew’s gospel wherein Jesus refutes his birth family and redefines all human kinship, Jesus strikes a blow at collective ego—the pride and protection we derive from identification with a particular family, tribe, nation or state. By changing the definition of family, Jesus alters the whole landscape of human relationship, tearing down the walls of identity by which we exert collective selfishness.
We’ve gathered here not to contract the legal union of two persons; Victor and Jay and the State of Iowa did that earlier and elsewhere. Nor are we here to make any statement, political or otherwise, regarding that union. We’ve gathered here to do what the church is here to do. As Robert Farrar Capon remarked, “... most people are convinced that the church is in the world to foster religious viewpoints, moral precepts, and family values. But those things are not what the church is here for; they're precisely the five-hundred-pound gorilla that's kept us from getting down to the solid ground of grace, which is the principal piece of real estate we're supposed to be selling. The church is in the world to upset that beast, not encourage it. Grace isn't just a counterpoise to law and order; it's an outrage against them because, like Jesus himself, the church is here not to urge good works on society but to proclaim free forgiveness to the world's riffraff even before they've stopped their nonsense.” (See Robert Farrar Capon, The Fingerprints of God: Tracking the Divine Suspect through a History of Images, Eerdmans Publishing Co. (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000), pp. 79-80.)
We’re here to celebrate grace, to declare God’s joy and ours in the grace that comes of the commitment Victor and Jay have made, the grace that comes of any and every relationship that keeps us humble and makes us holy, that urges us beyond ourselves and propels us into deeper union with God and God’s world. In such self- giving, self-surrendering love we bless God, and God blesses us. God bless you, Victor. God bless you, Jay. God bless you both, now and always. AMEN.
Celebrating the union of Victor and Jay
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