Something About Love
a Wedding Homily Delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
For Patrick and Samantha Kennedy
September 15, 2017
Herrington on the Bay, North Beach, Maryland
Ruth 1: 16-17
video version of this recorded Sunday after the Wedding
video version of this recorded Sunday after the Wedding
I chose the famous pledge by Ruth in the first chapter from the book the bears her name because she, in a way, does in that pledge what you are doing today. You are making a pledge to each other, to live your lives together, in more than just spatial togetherness, but with a spiritual connection, that transcends each of you individually. And like Ruth, who was doing the absolute opposite of what logic and worldly wisdom dictated she should do, you are entering into something somewhat counter cultural in our age, for you are entering into the commitment of a lifetime. You are pledging your entire lives to living with each other, partnering with each other, working together, fighting the battles of life together, come what may, whether the winds will blow, and they will, and whether the rains will fail, for they surely will as well, and even if the very foundations of the earth may shake, you two will be bound together by the pledges you make today. That is quite a big deal, and though marriages are quite common, the reality of such a pledge being fulfilled is rare. Life happens, things change, but you today look out into that unknown of the future and clasp hands, and choose to hold to each other, always.
I recently preached a sermon series at my church that sought to define love, to get at exactly what love is. . . and we found it to be difficult to do so both honestly and completely because when you get down to it love is of God, and being of God is infinite in its nature, like God is, making it impossible to define, without confining too much, without putting it in a small and safe heart shaped box, but real love is bigger than that, it is bigger than today, its bigger than your relationship thus far, for it includes also everything you will face. And if we look out across this beautiful group of witnesses assembled today, it includes everything they have faced and experienced, and it includes everything that the great cloud of witnesses who have come before have experienced. . . it must include it all, for love is the very foundation that this world is built upon. It is the stuff that binds it all together. It is the stuff that it is made of. Pretty big deal huh!
But even in its infinite nature, it can also be recognized in its manifestations, and we can know it through them. So there are aspects to love, and it is these I wish to point you to, today, at least three of them.
1. Love never walks away.
2. Love is about the other
3. Love leaves behind it a trail of life
Today you embark on a promise of the first of those aspects. You are joining hands and looking into each others tear filled, light radiating eyes, and saying to the other, I will not walk away. . . the world be damned, come what may, I pledge this day, and each day to come that I will be with you. . . my love will be steadfast, a mirror image of the steadfastness of God. As God is Love, and He has not abandoned us, so I pledge that I will be there with you in all you do from this day and each in turn, sunrise and sunset, until my last.
And in doing so, you embark on the second of those aspects. Love is about the other. Just as Christ died on the cross, just as God gave his only begotten son, you will give of yourself to the other. True love, the stuff of life, the stuff of the world, requires as such. The emptying of yourself for the other. . . mind, body, strength, and soul, your love for your neighbor begins with the person lying next to you, and if given fully will mirror and honor the love you have for God, completing the great commandment, to love God, fully, and to love your neighbor as yourself, though in truth you are never really done. . .
Because the third aspect is also true. Love leaves behind it a trail of life. God made the world that way, that the person giving fully of love, never runs out, the more you give, the greater the well you have to draw from, the cup runs over, the well it never runs dry, but instead is amassed with living waters that spread and in doing create life and energy. . . We can have faith because Jesus Christ has shown us the way, that no cross and no tomb could ever hold the amazing life giving power of love.
And so you can love each other freely, for that is what we do as human beings, and what life ordained by God is all about. . . Remember that, remember, when times are hard, when the challenges of life come, that it is not mere circumstance that has brought you together, but a divine purpose, that every event and aspect of your life has led you to this very moment, and will lead you. You have been shaped by your upbringing, by your training, by your experiences, by the very order of your lives to make not only the commitment you make today, but each day of that commitment as they unfold slowly one by one going forward.
It is easy when blessed as you two were, and as I was, to look at our parents and see ease and perfection in marriage, and to seek to emulate and replicate that perfection, but what we don’t see is that there is no such thing. . . I can tell you after 8 years of marriage myself that we are far from perfect, and that we fail, and fail often. . . but we keep coming back, we wake up to each other and the commitment that we made, and never question truly that God has brought us together, not for perfection, but for the unique and flawed and messy and bumpy and expectation challenging and hotly discussed disagreement filled creation ordained by God that marriage is, and that is a blessing to us both, beyond what we could ever imagine creating our own.
So Patrick, Samantha today, we do not pray for perfection for you two, but instead for a long, humble, marriage, full of times where you fall short of your expectations you have made for yourself and each other, but where you say I will not walk away, and give of yourself completely to the other, and so build behind you a trail of life, that will never run dry, for this is Love as God has made it, the very love that has brought you to this moment, and will carry you through to its fulfillment, as God himself wills. . . for the Glory of God, and in His holy name, do we pray. . . amen.
The Unity Candle
Your marriage, which begins today has a much longer story than either of you may know. The light that has been shining in the world since its beginning finds itself here with you, and you are a part of that history. Each of you were raised in the light, into families, with mothers and fathers who have passed on the light of life to you, just as it was passed to them, generation to generation, back to the beginning of time. The light spreads, it divides through the centuries, as the branches of the human family tree grow and sprout and bear fruit and multiply, but never does the light dim. Today in joining your two families we use the symbol of fire, with its light and heat, to show how in your love, and by your marriage, we are joining together not only two people, but two families, uniting their lights into one, so that a new branch may form, such as it has been ordained by God, and such as he commands, bidding us to be fruitful and multiply. May he bless the union between your two families, now and forever. . . Amen.
by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson