Sunday, July 1, 2012

Holy Matrimony

Christopher Michael Katz and Marie Helen Federowicz
June 30, 2012

Chris and Marie, what a great day indeed!  The date has been circled on the calendar since way last year, and we’ve seen autumn leaves and then winter snows and then springtime, and now here we are rolling on into summer at last.  Certainly a warm welcome—though I thank you for this experiment also with a little air conditioned cooling, which is a first for summer weddings at St. Andrew’s and a very welcome innovation!

And actually I would just say—and I know I’m speaking very much on behalf of all the friends and family gathered here this afternoon, thank you for including us as a part of the day, as it is such a great joy and so much fun and truly a privilege to be here as witnesses and to celebrate with you as you exchange the vows and promises, as you make these solemn pledges and as you assume the great and wonderful responsibility that will make you husband and wife.  Thank you!

Chris, I’ve known your Marie since she was a grasshopper of a girl on roller skates, and I and all of us here at St. Andrew’s have watched with much joy over the years as she has grown in accomplishments and maturity in so many ways, a remarkable and lovely young woman.  And it has been really a great experience for me to meet you and to get to know you both together.  Just right for each other!  I know you meet well intellectually and in terms of your shared interests and career direction.  Your sense of humor together will serve you well.  Romance, of course.  And most of all I think that fact that you are deep down such good friends.  You are a great couple, and it is going to be a blessing for all of us to know you as you grow now into your lives as husband and wife, as your two families are brought together in a new way, and as you will make a home and life as a family together.

The readings you selected for today and the music and the great prayers and promises of the Marriage Service all speak to the deeper foundations that you begin with here this afternoon.  In the reading from St. Matthew Jesus contrasts the man who built his house without a secure foundation with the man who built his on the solid rock.  The storms come, the winds blow, the waters rise in a flood.  And when all that happens, you know which house you want to be in.  It’s a parable about life, about values, commitments, identity, and with a sense of seriousness that is very much an appropriate image for you and for all of us to have before us today.  Do we build our lives, our homes, our marriages, our families, our careers, all of that, to last?  Are we on a sure foundation?  Important questions.  Back in the 1950’s the National Council of Churches began an advertising campaign that continues today, with the catchphrase, “the family that prays together stays together.”  And while we don’t want to oversimplify all the complexities of life, I do want to invite you today and all of us to consider how we build our foundation.

Sometimes we talk about people having a job, or maybe a career, and then we may even talk about a calling, a vocation.  The feeling, the idea, that this work, this activity, this interest, relationship, project, is something about the way God has made us, gifted us.  And marriage is a vocation, and perhaps the highest and most serious that we’ll know.

Within the life of the Christian family we say that this day is for you a day of sacrament and vocation.  A day when God begins to make something new out of you which is and will become an outward and visible sign of his grace and his love.  And to be that, for each other, and for those who will be a part of your lives in the days and years to come, is a very high calling indeed.

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 afternoon.  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.  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.  His life work, his destiny.  And so here, for you.  “Take off your shoes.  For the ground on which you are standing is holy ground.”  May you know and experience that reality this afternoon, in this place, and in all the days you will share together in the years to come.

Friends, as Marie and Chris now come forward to the altar to exchange the vows that will make them husband and wife, I would ask that we would all take a moment to bow our heads and in our thoughts and prayers ask God to bless and keep them always in his love.

Bruce Robison

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