Jennifer Marie Soltesz and Rikin Harivadan Pandya
I Corinthians 13
Jennifer and Rikin, what I want to say first to you, and I know I’m speaking for all the family and friends gathered here this afternoon, is thank you.
It is for us all, and for me personally, a privilege and a joy to be sharing this moment with you, to be with you as you exchange the vows and promises, the words, and the commitments of the heart, that will make you one, before God and in the face of this company, as husband and wife.
Here now, and then later this afternoon as prayers and blessings from Rikin’s family’s Hindu tradition will be offered as well. It’s a great day! I know you have been thinking about it and planning for it for a year or more now, and I know it has been a long year with both many blessings and also many changes and challenges for you.
You and your families have been very busy these past few weeks--and now here we are. And so, congratulations to you, and with so many blessings upon you as you now step forward into this new chapter of your life.
As you know, the distinctive geographical feature of Pittsburgh is how the great Allegheny River, flowing down from the north from New York and Lake Erie, and the great Monongahela, rolling westward from the mountains of West Virginia, come together down at Point State Park to form the headwaters of the Ohio, as it begins its 1,000 mile course down to Illinois and the confluence with the Mississippi. One of the great rivers of the world. So we are here the place of Three Rivers. And so to me Pittsburgh seems very much like the perfect place for you two to get married.
You bring to this marriage of course your individuality and personality, character and values. Two accomplished and mature and thoughtful people, with your own rich and complicated life stories. And then your families, your cultural and religious and social backgrounds: two great streams, flowing together in the creation of something new. Built on the foundation of love, of shared interests, goals, and so importantly of strong friendship.
In all this, the lesson that you selected, from the New Testament Book of First Corinthians, is a wonderful and very appropriate reading for this day.
It is first of all a love song, about truly the greatest gift that God gives us, and a poetic reminder of both the care God has for us, and of our call to live always with one another in that same spirit of humility and tenderness.
Love is patient and kind, and certainly as we know God’s patience and kindness in our own lives over and over again, so we are called to be patient and kind people ourselves.
And to know that especially in our marriages and in our family life, with our husband or wife, our children, our parents, to reflect God’s love in that way. Patience and kindness. A spirit of deep mutual respect. --A recipe for a successful marriage, and in those moments of our lives, as we would understand through that we are in this world catching a glimpse of the deep love, the passion and the compassion, that is at the heart of God’s life, and that we are all ultimately destined for.
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends . . . .
It is a beautiful poem, a beautiful image, for this beautiful day, and, I would simply offer the thought that the gift of this moment is one that doesn’t ever need to wear out or to be exchanged. It’s the best gift of all, the richest of all blessings, a life-changing gift, and one that will last for a lifetime.
In the midst of this I’m reminded that in the Old Testament Book of Exodus there is one of my favorite Bible stories, about a moment of life-changing experience, a “vocational” moment, a transformational moment-- in a way kind of like a wedding. Young Moses is working for his Father in Law, tending his sheep out in the wilderness, and one day he sees something off in the distance that looks strange to him. He moves closer and finally comes to this great big tree or bush that is on fire, fully engulfed in flames, burning and burning—but no matter how long it burns, it doesn’t burn out.
He watches for a while, amazed at the sight, and then all at once a great, deep voice comes from the flame. (I like to think it was the voice of James Earl Jones.) “Take off your shoes, Moses, for the ground on which you are standing is holy ground.” Holy Ground.
Now, Rikin and Jennifer, we don’t need to take that literally, and you can keep your shoes on. But we would remember that in the vows and promises you make today, in God’s sight and in the presence of these friends and family members, the ground under our feet is consecrated, and made holy. That God’s holy presence is with you, surrounding you, above you, and beneath your feet, with richness and blessing.
All the prayers and blessings of this day don’t just happen here, in this one moment of a wedding, but they go out with you into your marriage and life together, from this day forward, and will be around you and under you and with you all the days of your life. Here in Pittsburgh, and New York City, and wherever your life takes you, holy ground. And it is my and our best prayer for you that in God’s love you will continue to experience his love and his blessing always, and that your life together will be a catalyst, an inspiration, for that sense of God’s goodness to be known by others. That you will be blessed, and that you will be a blessing. As you already are. So many adventures, from this day forward.
Now as Jennifer and Rikin come to the altar to exchange the vows that will make them husband and wife, I would ask all of us to bow our heads for a moment to offer a prayer and all our good thoughts and blessings, for them, for their protection and their encouragement, their joy, in all that God has in store for them in the days and years ahead.