Lara Elizabeth Novelly and Michael Joseph Lueck
Song of Solomon 2: 10-13, 8: 6-7
Lara and Mike, 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 day 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 in Christ and bless your relationship as husband and wife. It’s a great day!
I know you and your families have been very busy these past few weeks, with all the arrangements of the day, and not to mention work and school and final exams! I would just say, congratulations to you, and with so many good thoughts of friendship and blessings upon you as you move forward together into this new chapter of your life. You are two great young people, and we thank you for this day, for the good things that will come in your life. And Mike, also, just to say that we would thank you as well for your commitment to serving our country as you complete your education.
We’ve had the chance to get to know each other during this time, and as so much has been going on in your lives, and with your family. I want to say this afternoon what I’ve said to you privately, and that is simply how much a gift it has been for me to get to know you, in this time that has been for you both and for your families full of much joy but also of many challenges. A time of energy and new beginning, but also of tenderness and vulnerability. What I’ve seen in you has really been a gift, and actually an inspiration. You are young people, but you have shown me deep maturity, responsibility, and thoughtfulness and wisdom and grace and generosity, and courage, in your lives. Sometimes in a wedding we talk about these characteristics as things that are going to grow over the years, and I know they will for you. But these are also present now for you in a very rich way, and will be a foundation already for years to come.
The lesson that you selected, from the Old Testament Book of the Song of Solomon, is a wonderful and very appropriate reading for this day.
It is 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 his hope for us, each one of us, as we grow to be the people he has created us to be at our best. The song of the Lover and the Beloved. And I am reminded of the beautiful lines of the New Testament book of First John in the fourth chapter. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God . . . . God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” My prayer for you is that the love that you so clearly have for each other will continue to grow, with the gifts of personal affection and of faith, for you personally and in wider and wider circles, all the days of your life.
And of course also this reading of the Prayer of St. Francis, which is to me just about the most perfect expression of what we might call a Christian lifestyle. To pray not to be loved so much as to have the strength and grace to love others. Something we all certainly will fall short of much of the time, but a vision of what it might be to live in a Christ-like way.
And I think with a very appropriate application to a marriage. For you as you relate to one another now as husband and wife, and for you as a couple as you make the decisions about how you will live together, about work and family, your friends and neighbors. The whole world seems to want to tell us sometimes that I should want everything to be about me, about what makes me happy.
But the message, to say simply, that the deepest happiness, the Christian hope that will lead us successfully through this life and to eternal life, is about what we give rather than what we get. About giving ourselves away. As we say in those offertory words every Sunday morning, to “walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself for us.”
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, Mike and Lara, 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 your 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. 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 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.
Now as Lara and Michael come forward to exchange the vows of their marriage, I would ask all of us to bow our heads for a moment to offer a prayer for them, for their protection and their blessing, their joy, in all that God has for them in the days and years ahead.