Marriage: A Homily For Everyone
This was the homily given at Stephen & Anna's wedding, June 25, 2016. The officiant, Joe Chappel, gave this homily on the weekend of the New York City gay pride parade. It is really worth reading and blew us all away.
Thank you Joe. What a blessing!
Once again, it is the last weekend in June in NYC, which can mean only one thing. Tomorrow, more than a million of our brothers and sisters will march down 5th avenue into Greenwich Village to celebrate their right to be and their right to love whomever they choose. Last year that parade was probably one of the happiest ever, as they finally won the long fight for the right to legally marry. It was the celebration of the end of years of struggle and hardship and on behalf of many who never lived to see the day but on whose shoulders the victorious stand. This year, however, will probably be one of the most somber ever, as we mourn 49 people who were murdered simply because of who they were and who they chose to love. Or perhaps it won't be somber at all. The fact is that the parade happens every year, without fail, in the happiest of times and the saddest of times, no matter what, because what our LGBTQ brothers and sisters know from many years of experience is that the celebration itself IS the protest, IS the political act, IS the most daring and defiant thing to do. To march anyway IS the victory. There is wisdom in that.
In 1967, the famous Supreme Court case of Loving v Virginia saw an interracial couple win their challenge to an immoral law and in so doing, win the right to marry. We take it for granted that people of different races can marry today, but there was a time (not so long ago when this was not only taboo, it was illegal. A state-sanctioned prohibition based on race. But not today. Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter gathered the courage to challenge a world that would see them separated to recognize and honor their union. By openly and formally declaring their love, they claimed the victory. There is wisdom in that.
There will be no interracial marriage here today. Nor will there be a same sex marriage here today. But I would argue there are no such things as interracial marriage or same sex marriage. There is only marriage, and there will DEFINITELY be a marriage here today. In the context of a world that wants us to limit love, dismiss love, reject love, belittle love, ignore love, suppress love, outlaw love...in a world that encourages negativity and uses fear and mistrust for political expediency...in a world that seems fueled by divisiveness, hostility, and antagonization... in the context of that world, whenever two young people choose love, share love, and present that love for consecration before their family and friends and especially before God, heaven rejoices and indeed we should too. Just like Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter did in 1967, let us continue to challenge this world to recognize and honor love. Just like we always do on the last weekend in June, we should openly celebrate this beautiful and happy thing called love, in defiance of what the world wants us to do. But not just in defiance of and in spite of the world, but as witness to the world that love wins. Love always wins. As we consecrate one marriage, we reaffirm all marriages. As the creator of Broadway's Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda reminded us recently, "Love is love is love is love is love is love..."
Of course there is no passive participation in today's ceremony. We all have a job to do. Those were not just empty platitudes in the opening prayer. We family and friends who witness this moment must endeavor to "fulfill our duty to honor, embrace, lift up, protect, and nurture the love that we bless this day."
Often, my Granny used to say "hallelujah anyhow." I never fully understood the significance of those words as a boy but I have internalized this simple but powerful wisdom as a man. Sometimes it is most important to celebrate and rejoice, because the world wants to break our spirits. And after the month we've had, I say this is the time to choose love, to choose life, and to rejoice in our choices. Yes, the world will give you a million reasons why today isn't that big of a deal, or is some relic from a time gone by, but hallelujah anyhow. We anoint this union based on a truth founded on something far surer and firmer than trends, or fads, or what is en vogue. Hallelujah anyhow! That truth is that love wins and as the wisdom that flows from an ancient Gregorian chant reminds us, wherever love and charity are found, God is always there. Surely, brothers and sisters, God is in this place today. Hallelujah anyhow!
So, let's have a marriage. And let us celebrate. Passionately and in defiance of a love-starved world. In the knowledge that what we do is not only joyful, but holy and sanctified. People were constantly telling Jesus whom he should and could not love. And he constantly ignored them. No one understood how radical and political love could be more than Jesus Christ himself.
Anna and Stephen, I didn't quote 1 Corinthians today. As church musicians, I figured you've heard that passage more than most and don't need me to recite it for you yet again, as beautiful a passage as it may be. I will also not lecture you or offer advice for a happy marriage, as I am not married and therefore am no expert in happy marriages. What I will do is remind you that when a scribe asked Jesus what the greatest of the commandments were, hoping to catch Him in a paradox, Jesus said "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Time and time again, in this example and many others, when asked to clarify any perceived discrepancies between His words and the law, Jesus consistently cited love as the preeminent guiding principle above all others. And so, I know that if you allow love to lead you, not only through good times, but especially through difficult times, God will be present in your choices and God will be walking alongside you in all that you do in your life together. Choose love, my dear friends. Not the shallow, happily ever after, never challenged Hollywood version of love, but deep, thoughtful, ethical, selfless, time-tested, true love. Choose love.
Come, brothers and sisters, let us claim victory this morning and celebrate love this afternoon in the best example of our Savior: let me remind you that His very first miracle was turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana, so we know He liked a good wedding!