Christopher Garrett Yates
Katharine Melaine Campbell
Tobit 8, I Corinthians 13, Matthew 7
Katie and Garrett, what a wonderful afternoon! The first full day of spring! Blessings and peace to you, and for all your family and friends—with prayer and affection. It is an honor for me personally and for all of us to be here with you.
You are two exceptional young people, and very special to me personally, to this congregation of St. Andrew’s, seminary friends, and again, in wider and wider circles. A great day, as you with joy, smiles, laughter--and with seriousness and with a deep and sincere expression of your Christian faith—consecrate and dedicate your lives in this new way as husband and wife, in the sight of God and in the face of this company.
You are a great couple. A wonderful combination of romance and friendship, shared passions, and a context of kindred spirits, and with enough differences of temperament to keep things, well—let’s say, interesting! With all of that: he looked across the classroom on that first day and saw this stunningly beautiful young woman reading The Confessions of St. Augustine, in Latin, of course, and he said, “that’s the girl for me!” No question about it.
But of course there is more. In Luke chapter 5 Jesus tells his disciples, who have been fishing all night long without catching anything, “Put out into deeper water.” In many ways that’s what he has been saying to his disciples ever since: go deeper. And that’s what we would do with you here this afternoon. Pushing out from the shore. As the Prayer Book says in the Address at the beginning of the Marriage Office, “the covenant of marriage was established by God in creation . . . our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life at Cana of Galilee . . . and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.”
This is deeper water here. What we witness in you and participate in this afternoon is in the pattern of Holy Baptism: death and resurrection, Good Friday and Easter, the entrance rite to a consecrated life not about who you are but about who Christ is. In him and with him, through him and for him. From the Garden to the families of Noah and Abraham and David, to Mary and Joseph, and in the stewardship of the life of the Church, this consecrated life and community is one of God’s instruments, creating and sustaining his promise generation by generation—and all the way to the last chapters of the Revelation to St. John, as the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, comes down from heaven, prepared by God, new creation, “adorned as a bride for her bridegroom.” You have chosen each other, of course, but as we put out into deeper water we know that he first has chosen you, and for his own purposes, to be a part of something much bigger than yourselves, and deeper, for the work of preparation, as we wait for the fulfillment of his kingdom.
Some of you may know that I was not the first choice to preside and preach on this day. My friend and colleague and important friend to both Garrett and Katie, and Garrett’s teacher and mentor, the Rev. Dr. Johannes “Jannie” Swart, who so unexpectedly passed from this life to enter greater life last September, and just as the fall semester was beginning at PTS. I would love to have heard him preach at this service, with all his humor and energy and insight, and I know you both know that in the high galleries of heaven he is here and sharing this day with you.
But as I was reflecting on that and thinking about what Jannie might have said today, along with his expression of friendship and love, I was reminded of a couple of devotional pieces that he had written in October of 2009 when he was at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, which I read this past fall at the time of his death. In one of them, a meditation on Mark 10, Jannie talks about how when we truly hear Jesus say, “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all” . . . then we suddenly realize that possibility and belonging are more important than problems and self-interests . . . . That almost sounds to me like Paul to the Corinthians: love seeks not its own way.
So I just pause there, with those simple and yet profound indicators, and with the readings from Scripture that you have selected for us this afternoon. From Tobit, as Tobias and Sarah so wonderfully begin their marriage on their knees before the Lord, together in prayer. And from St. Paul to the Corinthians, stressed by conflict and division, pulled in many directions by jealousies and self-interest. Love is patient and kind. And as we hear Jesus at the end of the Sermon on the Mount in this wonderful little parable, of the architecture and engineering of our lives. About attending to the good foundation. About making the main thing always the main thing, so that when the storms come, there will be something solid, someone solid, and you will be able to stand firm on the one who is the Rock of Ages. Garrett and Katie shared with me some of their own reflections on this passage, which I think are wonderful. They noted how the image of shifting sands, like our shifting expectations, are ultimately untrustworthy—just as in any marriage and any human relationship our own perceptions are always fallible. Only if Christ is the center and the lens by which we see the other can we be sure that our marriage is solid, and our love real, and only then can we hope to know the other person, and in this journey of forgiveness and sacrifice (I love that phrase, and St. Paul would have loved it too I think!) to have our marriage recognized by Christ. What would it mean for Christ to look at a marriage and say, “I know that marriage. I recognize my fingerprints on it.”
I believe Jannie would have loved that you chose these readings for us to hear today, and he would in them have commended you to the love and care of Christ, so that as you are rooted in faith, as you grow in spiritual maturity, and wisdom, and grace, as you love one another with humility and mercy, subject to one another, loving each other as Christ loved the Church, all the way to the end, then you will be so powerful, to be taken up by him and used by him in wonderful ways that we can only begin to picture this afternoon. To be a blessing, with signs and wonders and miracles. And that is what we all have in our hearts and in our prayers for you today.
It’s going to be amazing to see, Katie and Garrett. I’m looking forward to it—and we all are. He is doing better things in you than we could ever ask for or imagine.
Now as Katie and Garrett and their witnesses come forward to exchange the vows that will make them husband and wife, let us stand and sing a hymn they have chosen to consecrate this moment in the mystery and joy we share in the waters of baptism, #686 – Come thou fount of every blessing.
--Bruce M. Robison