Tuesday, April 14, 2009

the best wedding ever

George Baum
The Wedding of Michael and Lalanya
Colossians 3:14-16
Matthew 5:13-15

As I’m sure you all know, Michael spent much of the past two years working on the campaign to elect Barack Obama. 22 months of volunteering. Maybe because Michael believed in that message of hope. Maybe, just . . . because. Along the way, he met lots of interesting people. Among those people was Joe Biden. I once saw a fantastic photograph of Michael shaking Joe Biden’s hand, and Lalanya is in the background, having just been introduced to the future vice president. The shocked look on Lalanya’s face in that picture tells the story.

When Michael introduced Lalanya to Joe Biden, the Senator’s first words were, “Holy Mackerel! Look at those eyes!” It seems Lalanya never heard anything else he said, because she spent the rest of the night asking people, “Who says Holy Mackerel? I mean, what kind of person says ‘Holy Mackerel’?” She had just met Joe Biden, the future vice president of the United States of America, who paid her quite a compliment, but the distracting thing—the thing that really gets your attention—is, “what kind of person says ‘Holy Mackerel’?”

This afternoon, Michael and Lalanya will look into one another’s eyes and say, “I do.” (Holy Matrimony.) They will stand here, surrounded by all of us, promising to remain faithful to one another, to support one another, to live out their lives as husband and wife. Two people promising to swim against the tide of our culture of separation and divorce, daring to make a go of this thing we call “marriage.” And, if we’re honest, we are all secretly asking ourselves, “Holy Matrimony? What kind of person says ‘Holy Matrimony’?” What kind of people gather together their friends and family and say, “We commit ourselves and our lives to one another?”

Oh, sure, we know the kind of person who races off to Vegas, and gets divorced 48 hours later. And we’re familiar with marriages of convenience, or passion, or youthful indiscretion. And on the other end, we’re familiar with people who choose not to buy into the system of marriage, because it is outdated. Or those who cannot get married, because they happen to fall in love with the “wrong” type of person, or don’t live in Iowa . . . of all places!

But the question is this: who gets everyone together for a big party and actually means it? What kind of person looks into the eyes of their beloved, and says, “Holy Matrimony?” . . . What kind of person does that?

The kind of person who has hope. A promise to remain together until the end has to be rooted in hope. Real hope. Because statistically, it doesn’t make sense. To sit down and reason it out, nobody would ever get married. To do what we are gathered here to do this day requires hope. And the only reason we can have hope is because we trust that this is all going to be all right. Somehow, this is going to work out. We mark this day with a joyous celebration, because—as we heard in the reading from Matthew—a light is shining in the darkness. Because you are living out God’s promise, and you are the light of the world. You are a city built on a hill. Let your light so shine, and let the strings so play, and let the food and drink so flow, that everyone will know that today is different. We mark this day, dedicated to hope for the future.

Now obviously, every day will not be like this. Even here in southern California, a little rain must fall. Michael and Lalanya will change over time. Their relationship will change. These two know that they won’t be eating every meal here at the arboretum in fancy clothes. Hope can only take you so far. There will be hard times, when their spines get all “out of joint.” Times when they will view one another as a pain in the neck. And as Lalanya well knows, adjustment is what will put things back in place. Adjustment is like forgiveness. Putting things back in right relationship. What Lalanya does with her training and her hands, God does with relationships. Restoring to wholeness. We can dare to hope that things will work out because we dare to trust that there is restoration and forgiveness.

We, as people, are built for relationships. And our relationships are built on love. When we make our feeble promises of fidelity and forever, we are promising to try to love like God loves. Forever. Our strongest love for one another is a reflection of God’s unending love for us. A love that knows no limit, respects no boundaries, and stops at nothing to reclaim this world. God loves you—no matter what. God loves you, whether you promise and fail . . . or fail ever to promise at all.

That’s the kind of love we all look for in our partners. Unconditional. Forever. Not merely to be loved, but to be fully and completely known . . . and yet, somehow, still be loved.
God calls all of us into committed relationships, knowing full well that our brokenness may break those bonds. God lights the fire of love in us, again and again, regardless of the result. God is not jaded by failure. God does not listen to common sense. God does not give up on anyone, ever. God has lit, is lighting, and will continue to light the lamp of love in your heart. You are the light of the world.

But that is impossible for us to believe. Common sense and sanity tell us to give up. We’re tired of the pain, and the heartache, and things not working out. Get out the bushel basket and put out the light . . . .

But today, in Lalanya and Michael we see a different message. Today they stand before us, promising to seek a different result. A better world. A brighter light. They are announcing their intention to throw off the bushel basket. They promise to live in love, for better or worse. They promise to stay together, in rich times and poor. Rooted in hope; committed to adjustment.
So, will this time be different? Will this marriage hold as long as they both shall live? We hope so. They hope so! And we all go forward in that hope.

But no matter what happens in 10, 20, or 100 years, it’s really going to be all right.
Because of what God has already done, we can face the future with hope that things are going to be different. As Julian of Norwich says, all things shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. Love is God’s insane plan of hope for our jaded, broken world. And along this journey, God embraces each of us; God embraces every relationship built on love.

And because of that embrace, Michael and Lalanya reach out today to embrace one another in a new way. And that sacred embrace is just the kind of thing that can make a person say, “Holy Mackerel!”