Saturday, June 27, 2015

Seven Years

Seven Years
A Wedding Homily delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
for Joseph Ayers and Ariele Wildt
June 27, 2015
at Wild T Bison Farm, Haynesville, Virginia
Genesis 1:31 - 2:3

Let us pray:
Almighty God,
Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives
            For your eyes show the way
            Your mind knows the truth
            Your being is the life.
And in your loving name we pray. . . Amen

31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. [1]

So much can happen in six years, so much so that the Hebrews marked out seven as a holy number, a special number, a number that to them and their culture meant in itself completeness. The six years of work would be marked by the completeness of the seven. They looked around them and they saw in their world a real significance to the work of six, and the rest they'd take on seven, captured most perfectly and completely in the days of the week, the days of creation, and the natural cycles that revolve around these patterns of six, and so they'd rest on the seventh day, they held it as a perpetual observance, to remember and to reflect, a needed break and testament that would sustain them in the faith as the next week would come.
 So today, where we gather together to celebrate the joining together of two young people, who can see looking back on the last 6 years of their lives, graduating from college, finding work, making friends, finding each other, and in somehow finding each other, they have found love, and so today, we celebrate, and we take a day of rest, here in this amazing location, where we are surrounded by the glorious partnership of God's creation, paired indelibly with man's diligent and faithful, hard work, here we take a breath, and say thank you, and testify to the power of love in the creation, redemption, and sustenance of the world. It's hard to miss the wonders, surrounded by the beauty and the power of creation, on a day such as this that we have devoted to love. But like the Sabbath Rest, the seven represents, a wedding is not an end, but a beginning, for the unfolding of creation is ongoing and everlasting, and the power of love keeps working forever.
I decided that I wanted to talk about the work of 6 and the rest of 7, today as a metaphor and symbol because first of all, today marks my own 6th wedding anniversary. On this day, six years ago, June 27, 2009 I married my wife, and my life was forever changed, and it was truly special that on this day 6 years later, as I begin my 7th year of marriage, I get the chance and the honor to preside over the joining together of Ariele and Joseph. And I also think it was a cool providential coincidence, that when I first met Ariele I had just finished up 6 years of life beyond high school. I was in my third of teaching, was 25 years old, and was tasked with trying to teach Ariele and her classmates something, all I knew, about writing, thinking, living, and being a student. I can tell you that I had learned much in those first 6 years out of high school, but it wasn't enough to really feel wise enough to teach anything, but I decided to just wing it and never let them know my doubts. It seemed to work, and, in fact, a year or so ago, Ariele sent me an amazing note thanking me for being tough, taking no excuses, and leaving lasting marks on her as she entered her own classroom to teach, so in someways winging it must be where it's at.
So today, 6 years into my marriage, and beginning my 7th, again I am in a place to give some wisdom, provide something tangible to say about what marriage is all about, and I feel just about as prepared to do so as I felt prepared to teach back then. So I'll just wing it again, and see how it all turns out. I will say that marriage is difficult, I've learned that, as rewarding as it is, as amazing as it is to be committed to someone, supported by someone, while supporting them, as amazing as it is to see your wife's and your own character traits, find this weird, magical, perfect match in your children, as amazing it is to know that someone is fully committed to being with you for the rest of your life, there are days and moments when our doubts, insecurities, and the other flaws that make us human come pouring out and they rush to the surface, and they cause turmoil, and they cause pain, and they're petty, and silly, but all so hurtful, because as huge as eternity is, often moments loom so much larger, and we panic while the clock is ticking slowly, and hold on to our grudges, and lose our faith, and perspective, and it's hard.
Love is sacrifice and sacrifice is hard because you are giving up yourself. Love is faith and faith hard because you are giving up your control. Love is hope, and hope is hard because you get caught in these moments of doubt. Love is patient and patience is hard because those moments of doubt envelop us often seemingly entirely. So why go through with it? The easy answer is that you are each incomplete without it.
One of the other things I've learned in my 6 years of marriage, and this is what sustains me entirely, is that love is ordained by God. When God made each of you, he made you for the other, and the winding paths of the world, that have led you both to this moment, are filled with countless unexplainable events, serendipitous and providential, that only a fool would explain as coincidence. It is much too perfect, much too precious, and much too otherwise  unlikely to have ever come to be by accident. No it works like creation, and it develops and it is out of our control, and it is good. . . days like this attest, and live as a witness to love's abiding presence. So as you go forward, remember this day in the moments where those doubts and worries envelope you, and do what you can to take time, repetitive, cyclical, and intentional time to remember the love we and everyone here gathered witness to on this day, and treasure it, these little things can and will sustain us and shine its light into those darkest moments of doubt. God knows our needs so well, that for those Hebrews, this Sabbath reminder of creation was so important, that it was made a commandment by God, a time to rest, remember and reflect. God again knows exactly what we need.

[1]The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Ge 1:31-2:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.