Dawn-Marie Ruth Candlish and Jon Joseph Paulus
Colossians 3: 12-17
Wow. Good afternoon everyone! Family and friends . . . . It is so great to be here today, as we are witnesses and participants in this wonderful celebration of Christian marriage. Jon and Dawn Marie, I would simply personally and I know speaking for everyone here today, and with truly a full heart, express my and our deepest thanks for including us, for inviting us to be with you as this new page is turned, a new chapter begun. Here in Pittsburgh, as you know, we live at the source of one of the great rivers of the North American continent, as the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela gives birth to the mighty Ohio. Perhaps that is a fitting image or symbol for us today. Two fabulous young people, gifted, accomplished, intelligent, fun, real maturity, a wonderful shared sense of humor.
Dawn Marie, I knew you and of course your mom and dad and brother when you were a little girl and one of the rug-rats among a great group of kids back in Bloomsburg, and it was so much fun to reconnect when you came to Pittsburgh to study at Duquesne. And Jon, I’ve really enjoyed the chance to get to know you over these past months of our pre-marriage conversations, and to have had the opportunity to meet and get to know your family as well. And not that anybody has asked me this question in so many words, but I just want to let you know that I approve! You guys are great for each other, great with each other. So it has seemed to me as we have had some wide ranging conversations about the issues and challenges and possibilities of married life. The two rivers come together, and you can’t help but think, “this is going to be something special.” In the deep mysteries of his Providence, God is doing a great thing here. He has a great plan for your lives, only just now beginning to unfold. Here in Pittsburgh we go down to the point and fill the sky up with fireworks just about all summer long. And there are fireworks over us today, in great celebration!
You both spent some time and gave careful thought to the selection of the readings from Scripture to be read and shared at this service, and it was a gift for all of us to hear them. I want to pause just a moment over this brief passage from St. Paul’s letter to the new Christians of a small congregation in the town of Colossae, which was located in a part of Asia Minor that would now be a part of Turkey. It’s a congregation that Paul was instrumental in founding and clearly a group of people who were dear to him, much loved. We don’t know too much about the context of this particular letter, but apparently word had come to him that there were some theological disputes that had begun to cause conflict and division in the congregation. Paul addresses the issues at hand, but then in the third chapter of Colossians he goes on to talk about Christian life and conduct in community, to describe what it means to live together as Christian people, even when there are serious differences. As there are always differences, whether in a large community, or even in a community of two.
Paul lifts up what perhaps we could call a recipe, a model, a roadmap, the deeper themes of what we are and what we can be at our very best in Christian relationship. We have a non-profit here in Pittsburgh that assists people as they get ready to join the workforce called, “Dress for Success.” And so that’s what this is about as well. A lot of attention paid to bridal gown and bridesmaids dresses and what the groom and groomsmen wear on the day of the wedding. This about “dressing for success” in all the years to come after this day: Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience; bear with one another; forgive one another. Clothe yourselves with love; let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts; be thankful; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs to God. Doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Thank you especially for selecting this reading for us—truly a gift. A great recipe for all of us to keep close, and meaningful that you have shared it with us today. We might almost say that sharing this reading with your family and friends is the first step, the first example, of the work you are being called to do in your marriage from here on out. We say this is a “sacrament” because in marriage you two become outward signs of God’s grace and love. He is going to be using you to communicate his love to others, and that is the work you are called to do and that we acknowledge and celebrate today.
You know, in the Old Testament Book of Exodus, chapter 3, there is one of my favorite stories, about a moment of life-changing experience, a “vocational” moment, a moment of transformation, about a calling to a new way of life-- in a way kind of like this moment here today. In that story 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. That’s my point.
This is the moment when God tells Moses about his plan for his life, how from the day of his birth he has been shaped and prepared for the mission to lead God’s people out of slavery in Egypt and across the Wilderness and into the Promised Land. God speaks into this world, into our lives, and what was an ordinary place is now made sacred by that holy word. And Jon and Dawn Marie: 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. Not because of what you are saying, but because we believe, and certainly why in our tradition of the Christian family we call marriage a sacrament, that God’s word is being spoken to you now. We can imagine that burning bush, right here, right now. That God’s holy presence is with you, surrounding you, above you, and beneath your feet, with richness and blessing and purpose. The prayers and blessings of this day don’t just happen in this one moment of your 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. He has great plans for you, for each of you, and for you together as husband and wife and family. That’s the great and wonderful thing we celebrate. I don’t know what they are. None of us do. But he is beginning to reveal them to you now, in this moment this afternoon.
And it’s a privilege for us to be here with you.
her brought over from the heritage of Jewish practice o
And now as Jon and Dawn prepare to exchange the vows that will make them husband and wife, let us pause for a moment and bow our heads and in the quiet of our own hearts offer a prayer of love and blessing for them—that they will be surrounded and embraced by love and blessing all the days of their lives.