Rebecca Ann Filipek and Anthony David Marinov
Tony and Becky, what a wonderful day, a beautiful evening. Your wedding day and always now your wedding anniversary in years ahead, the 30th of December, and on the calendar of the song of this season the Sixth Day of Christmas. And “on the Sixth Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree.” And gifts and blessings in abundance, in this season of Christmas and as we are all ready this weekend to turn the page on the calendar and to celebrate the fresh beginning of a New Year, your first New Year together as husband and wife—and not just the beginning of a New Year but of this new chapter of your lives. I would say for myself and I know for all of us here this evening that it is a privilege and an honor and a gift and a blessing to share this evening with you, to be present as you exchange your vows and mark the formal beginning of this new adventure. Thank you for including us, and thank you most of all for all that you are together, and all that you share with us.
Of course I’ve known you, Becky, for many years, you and your family, and it has been really very enjoyable for me to spend this time over these last months with you both in preparation for this celebration and for your marriage. And Tony, it really has been great to get to know you during this time as well, and to begin to get a sense of you both together as a couple. A hint of who you will be together as husband and wife and family in the years to come. You are two thoughtful people. Both of you mature, sensitive, insightful. With a warm sense of humor. And I very much have appreciated the tenderness that you share with one another, and the sense of your friendship. Those are all such important parts of the foundation of the life you will be building now in a new way. And I know they are gifts that you will share with each other, and also with your families and friends in all the years ahead. I know when we first began to meet I thought, “this is a guy that seems just right for Becky, and she seems just right for him.”
Underneath and surrounding all of this of course the Christian family, the Church, has two words to describe what this is all about this evening as we celebrate your marriage: sacrament and vocation. In our Prayer Book service we have just heard the words, “the Covenant of Marriage was established by God in creation.” And that is a reminder for us that as we share this evening with you we are invited to see not only two people in love who are agreeing to share their lives together, but that we might see you as well sacramentally as outward and visible signs of something deeper. Echoing the reading you selected from the First Letter of St. John. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.” This is a moment when you in your marriage and we with you come closer to God and are drawn deeper into a knowledge and understanding and experience of who he is, and what the real meaning of life and of all creation really is.
And we’ve said as well that God has established marriage with a purpose in mind. A purpose for all the human family, but also with a specific purpose for both of you. In the Old Testament Book of Exodus there is one of my favorite stories, about a moment of life-changing experience, a “vocational” 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
We don’t actually have to take off our shoes here this evening. But I want to say that we might do so at least in our imaginations for a moment. Because the great reality here is that just as Moses at the Burning Bush came into the presence of God and discovered what the call on his life was that God had in mind for him, so here, for you. It was the beginning of a new chapter for Moses. A chapter in which he would play a key role in fulfilling the great plan that God had for his people. And so here, for you. “Take off your shoes. For the ground on which you are standing is holy ground.” God calls you into this relationship of marriage this evening, Becky and Tony, because he has work for you to do. We only see hints of what that will be in these beginning moments, but we do know that he has a great plan for your life together from this day forward. May you know and experience that reality this evening, in this place, on this holy ground--and in all the days you will share together in the years to come.
Now as Tony and Becky come forward to exchange the vows that will make them husband and wife, I would invite all of us to bow our heads in a moment of silent prayer for them, that God will care for them, bless them, and protect them as they enter this new chapter of their lives together.
The Rev. Dr. Bruce M. Robison