Benediction Online

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Celebration of a Same-Sex Blessing

What a joy it is to have Brian and Dennis, and their family and friends, celebrating their wedding with us with us this morning. As we are doing this during our regular Sunday service, our readings are the ones for the day, not those for a wedding. So you can imagine that I was a little nervous when I first looked at them – would they be at all relevant? Fortunately for me we heard this morning about Jesus sending seventy disciples out on mission trips – two by two.

Which, according to the song, is also how the animals went into the ark. That, of course, was for the purpose of procreation, and as the opponents of gay marriage like to point out, gay people cannot reproduce. Their argument suggests that the main purpose of marriage is reproduction, and for many years that is how the church saw it. But then the marriage rite was revised to emphasize first the importance of mutual joy, help and comfort and only then, procreation… And in today’s gospel reading it is very clear that the reason the disciples are sent out two by two is to help and comfort or strengthen one another.

Like the seventy disciples, it is the mission and ministry of all of us, as followers of Jesus to demonstrate and declare the reign of God. Some of us are called to do that within the covenant of marriage. Because it is there, in the daily mundane and intimate life of two people living together, that the mystery of the reign of God can be expressed in a unique and life-giving way. Living intimately together in equal partnership is not easy. It requires the development of unconditional love and mutual surrender. It requires a great sense of humor. And it can be highly creative and a great blessing to the world.

In fact, a holy marriage celebrated between two humans and God can become an expression of the life of the Trinity, that amazing always-in-motion sphere of mutual love, adoration, submission, praise and joy which is boundless creativity and hope. When a couple live consciously together, celebrating their joys, mourning their losses, turning every day toward God and toward each other, then they become not only one flesh, but a vibrant demonstration of the life of God.

I know that Fr. Brian is uncomfortable with the idea of submission, proclaiming that in his humble opinion, no human should ever submit to another. But when I called him on Wednesday with a question about the rings for today’s wedding, he said “Oh we can take them off if you like”. I said it was their decision, and so he asked me to hold. I could hear Dennis speaking in the background. Then Brian came back to the phone, “Dennis thinks, he said, “well we both think, it would be better to keep them on.” That my friends is an example of mutual submission, where a decision is made with equal respect for each other’s perspective.

Returning to the gospel reading; the first thing that the disciples were told to say when they entered a home was “Peace to this house” to see whether anyone there would share in their peace. This is the proclamation of the reign of God, “peace to this house,” and today as we are blessing Dennis and Brian, we are blessing them with God’s peace, that they may take it as a gift - not to be prized and placed in a cabinet - but as a gift to be shared. God’s peace is not a make-nice peace where feelings and experiences are withheld because it’s easier to say nothing and to “keep the peace”. God’s peace does not come easily because it requires justice and equality – unless there is true mutuality there is not true peace in the relationship. Those who share God’s peace do so knowing and believing that we are all equal in the eyes of God. God’s peace is based in forgiveness and humility. God’s peace is the true peace which the world craves.

It is this active peace, the living out of the fruits of the Spirit, which is our demonstration of the reign of God. This is the purpose of every holy relationship, not just the covenant of marriage. We are not all called to be married. In fact 43% of Americans over the age of 18 are not married. The apostle Paul thought that it was better for Christians NOT to marry because then they could better devote their time and energy to demonstrating and proclaiming the reign of God. There is a long and sacred tradition of those whom God calls to celibacy. But most of those 43% unmarried Americans probably do not have a call to celibacy!

At different times in our lives God calls us to live in different ways. We are blessed in this church by many couples who have lived together in covenanted relationship for more than fifty years. They are a model for us of lifelong fidelity and love. We have others who have been married but are now widowed or divorced and yet others who have not yet married. God is calling all of us to live our lives in covenant with God; God is calling all of us to develop holy relationships, not just with friends and lovers but also with others in faith community.

Holy relationships are ones where God comes first - where every irritation and conflict becomes an opportunity for forgiveness, and an opportunity for growth, an opportunity to explore a new facet of the reign of God. Holy relationships are a demonstration of the reign of God. Observers of the early church said, “see how these Christians love one another” – God’s love was evident in the way they lived and shared what they had. Today Christians are better known for back-stabbing and pettiness, for infighting and excluding.

It is up to us to turn that around. It is up to us to demonstrate the unconditional and all-inclusive love of God in our own lives. It is up to us to tell other people that God loves all of us, gay and straight, black and white, Republican and Democrat, and it is up to us to prove that that is true by the way we show hospitality. Hospitality to each other and hospitality to those who are different; to those we don’t understand; to those we don’t even like.

Brian and Dennis have a wonderful gift of hospitality and they have been called to share that gift and their many other gifts together in a way that amplifies them. For together, Dennis and Brian are more than they are apart. Together they can demonstrate God’s reign in a way that could not do separately. God has called them together for mutual joy, help and comfort in God’s service. We are here to witness their covenant and to bless them as they continue on their life’s journey.

So without further ado, let us do just that…


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