Bethany Anne Wenger and Travis Michael Moore
Bethany and Travis, what a wonderful day, a beautiful and warm afternoon. I know perhaps you thought by coming north you might miss some of that Nashville heat and humidity, but here we are, and I do pray that we would all know this a blessing of early summer for your wedding day. A new season of the year spreading out before us, and here today we celebrate truly this new season, his new chapter of your lives. I would say for myself and I know for all of us here this afternoon that it is a privilege and an honor and a gift and a blessing to share this day 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.
My good friend Jerry Smith, the Rector of St. Bartholomew’s Church in Nashville, has shared with me how much he enjoyed getting to know you during your meetings with him for marriage preparation—and he has assured me of something I already knew from my visits with you—that you are two exceptional young people, and well-prepared for the new life you are beginning today. A hint in this first moment 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 Jerry and I both 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.
Underneath and surrounding all of this of course the Christian family, the Church, has two words to describe what this is all about today 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 afternoon with you we are invited to see not only two people in love who are agreeing to share their lives together, and then signing a legal contract outlining mutual responsibilities--but that we might see you as well sacramentally as outward and visible signs of something deeper. “He made them in his own image. Male and female he created them.” Echoing perhaps the familiar words of 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 Third Chapter of 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 today. 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 day, Bethany and Travis, 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 today, in this place, on this holy ground--and in all the days you will share together in the years to come.
Now as Travis and Bethany come forward to exchange the vows that will make them husband and wife, to receive Holy Communion together, and to have pronounced over them the Nuptial Blessing, 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 today and always.
The Rev. Dr. Bruce M. Robison