This is a wonderful and glorious day – fantastic weather, a beautiful bride, a handsome groom, charming church, loving and supportive friends and family, great hymns (thank you to Alison for the gift of your hymn), a wonderful choral introit, a beautiful new psalm setting (thanks to Sean), great organ music, fabulous decorations… a perfect wedding.
Jody and Shea, the staging couldn’t have been better! Jason, I hope you agree with me!
There is, however, a catch in all of this…and the catch is, what we are doing here today is not a performance, it’s not a staged production, it’s real life – and I know that Shea and Jody know that very well. Coming together to exchange vows of life-long love and trust and fidelity is real life; it’s serious and joyful business.
And all the rest of us are here with you to lend our support and assent, to witness those vows and to join with God in blessing you as you make them. Because real life needs God’s blessing; real life needs the support of community, family and friends; real life needs strong promises.
Nearly three years ago, Jody, you cast your bread upon the waters as you moved back to the East Coast from Michigan, and I know it was rocky at first – not the least hurdle was even getting here for the interview when there was a pile-up on Route 80. But you have said that All Saints’ quickly became your church family, your community. And Shea, your former pastor and employer David is here because of the friendship and support he has given you over the years.
Both of you know the importance of a loving and supportive faith community. And it’s in the context of the community of Christian faith that you have chosen to root your lives, not just have your wedding. Lives that are rooted and grounded in God and in the love that Jesus has for us and wants us to have for each other is what marriage is all about.
Jesus says: This is my commandment: that you love one another, as I have loved you.
Now, in a performance, this is where the music would swell, and the lights would dim, and there would be a beautiful aria, and that might be the end of it – unless of course it was opera, and then someone would die by drinking poison, or jumping off a parapet.
But the kind of love that Jesus is talking about is the kind of love that is not about the love itself, but about the other person, and about the community – the community of family, the community of Church, the community of the world in which we live. The kind of love that Jesus calls us to does involve death; a dying to self, a willingness to put the welfare and interests of the other ahead of your own, a love that doesn’t always say “Me, first!”, a love that knows how to forgive and how to be forgiven.
This can be hard to hear and hard to learn in our world; we are surrounded by messages everyday that tells us being self-involved and self-absorbed is the way to be.
But the love of God, and true, mature human love, knows that we find the path of life by giving of ourselves, by being generous and open-hearted with one another. And the divine love in which commitment finds its deepest and most nourishing roots, is stubborn, persistent – sometimes in the face of pretty strong odds; if this were not true, God would have given up on all of us a long time ago.
But God hasn’t given up on us; God came among us in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus to show us the way to wholeness and goodness and life. And so loving one another persistently, tenaciously, even stubbornly at times, is all part of the real life upon which you, Jody and Shea, are embarking. It is a life blessed by God, a life of love and service, a life of living in community – most especially the community of your own new family.
We are all blessed to be here with you now; you both enrich our lives immensely; know that our prayers are with you as you launch out into this great adventure in life called marriage.
The joy and the love of Christ be with you. Amen.
Victoria Geer McGrath
All Saints’ Church, Millington, NJ
May 4, 2013