Sunday, August 01, 2010

Tuttle-Tomaschke Wedding Homily

Wedding Homily for Patrick Tomaschke and Kristin Tuttle
Song of Songs 2:10-13, 8:6-7; Ephesians 3:14-19; John 17:20-26
St. Paul’s Free Methodist Church
July 31, 2010

Well, here we are at long last. If you’re like me, you are not at all surprised that we have gathered to celebrate the joining together of Patrick and Kristin. About five years ago when they took their first class together with me, they were oftentimes the last two to leave the classroom. Not because they stayed for each other but because they each demonstrated what teachers love to see in their charges—a desire to learn, a willingness to ask questions, a passion to better understand the world and all that is in it. In a class packed with wonderfully bright students, Kristin and Patrick were perhaps the most intense, the most diligent in seeking out answers to their questions. Oftentimes it would be necessary to continue the conversation outside in the shadow of old Hogue Hall or later in my office. In would walk the girl with the nose stud and road-weary running shoes, followed close behind by the rangy young man with curly chestnut hair. They would pepper me with questions, sometimes working as a tag-team. And I began to notice something: if Patrick thought that I was mishandling a question from Kristin, he would quickly come to her defense—much like a knight might have hundreds of years ago for the sake of a damsel in distress. But Kristin was an “equal opportunity employer” and, not to be outdone by her male sidekick, would do the same if she thought I was somehow short-changing Patrick.

These two seemed to be passionate about many of the same things but I’m not sure they quite recognized at the time how that passion would kindle a mutual interest in one another. I oftentimes thought to myself that if they could only turn half of the intensity they brought to the classroom towards something of a mutual understanding they would set off fireworks enough for all of us! So, over the past few years what began as a smoldering fire has emerged into something of a conflagration today and I, for one, feel privileged to simply be here to watch the fireworks go off. And, though I’ve never been much of a prognosticator, I would predict that the energy and passion for life and for service to Christ that the Tuttle-Tomaschkes will bring to the table holds the potential to enlighten and enliven not just their own lives but that of all those who will surround them—those of us standing her this afternoon, included.

But, as good students of my course on Christian Worship, Patrick and Kristin know that today is not really about them at all. In a culture obsessed with all things nuptial, I was once told by a photographer that weddings are all about the bride. To which I was quick to respond, “No, Christian weddings are all about God.” So before you take these time-honored vows today, my dearest Kristin and Patrick, I want to remind you and all of us of why you are here together in a public space dedicated to the worship of God to say these few words.

You are here both in protest and in affirmation. Now, anyone who knows Kristin should not be surprised about the former. For months she has wrestled with the words of the wedding liturgy to make sure that she can fully own them. In a world filled with sappy lyrics about love, today’s texts and service speak of a commitment to lifetime fidelity in the midst of the hard reality of pain, sacrifice, and, ultimately, death. It is no coincidence that both of our New Testament texts which soar so beautifully into rhapsodic prose are couched in the context of suffering. Throughout chapter three of Ephesians the apostle speaks of the difficulties that have dogged his ministry, while Jesus’ so-called “high-priestly” prayer is spoken on the cusp of his arrest, passion, and death. As Christians, we embrace a worldview that is not primarily about a picture-perfect day and tens of thousands of dollars expended on such niceties as the release of pigeons into the air for the cameras.

We know that life is hard and oftentimes filled with uncertainties. In fact, one of the tasks for those of you who are parents and grandparents here today is to remind Patrick and Kristin that life may not go exactly the way they have planned. Your task is to share openly and honestly about the tough times that you have faced—“in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow,” so that they might have a realistic understanding of both the highs and the lows of marriage. In such a way, we stand together in protest against the miasma of “they lived happily ever after” fairy-tale like lies that the culture would have us believe, when all around us are people who are struggling to keep households together in the wake of the late terrible recession.

But we stand here not only in protest, but in affirmation, as well. We affirm with Paul that though the phrase “wedded bliss” may be somewhat oxymoronic, that a life of committed love brought together under the lordship of Christ remains a mystery—something that transcends our human categories. And, while today’s liturgy is littered with legal language with phrases like, “to have and to hold,” and, “till death us do part,” we affirm that for those of us who claim Christ as both Savior and Lord, today’s ceremony extends beyond a legal contract (complete with witnesses) to incorporate the covenantal understanding embedded in the gospel.

At the heart of this covenantal picture stands Christ himself whose self-giving love is meant to be a model for the Tuttle-Tomaschkes as they work out their salvation together. They are not simply embarking on a legalistic journey but they are covenanting that this relationship will be permanent, exclusive, faithful, and long-suffering—the one to the other. Like the apostle in today’s text from Ephesians, they will come to understand and know the love of Christ best as they wrestle and work out what this means in the context of the crucible of their very lives. The longing echoed in today’s reading from the Song of Songs in which the male first beckons to his lover and she then responds, declaring the fierce power of her love, may be what brings them together, but it is Jesus’ prayer, offered not only for his disciples but for the entire church, which will keep them together.

And, can you imagine the passionate exchanges that will take place around their dinner table? If the past few years are any indication of what the future holds, theirs will be household filled with great passion, fierce struggle with the meaning of the Gospel, and an intensity for service that will make of their house a home in which the stranger will be welcomed and the young child embraced—perhaps even a few of their own! And, in so doing, the blessing that we offer here today will find its meaning, not just in their own lives, but in the life of their family, their church, their community, and in the larger Kingdom of God.

Patrick and Kristin, in closing, I want to remind you of our visit to St. Meinrad’s Monastery a few years ago where we spent some time talking together in the cemetery. If you remember, we spoke of the service that demarcates a Benedictine’s final vows during which he gives himself wholeheartedly to the community and lies prostrate over the patch of earth in which he will be buried while the bells symbolically toll out his death. Well, I want you to think of this place and the words you are about to speak to one another in a similar vein. While it is not true that you, individually, will die today, it is true that you take on a new identity this afternoon as husband and wife. You will no longer be simply Kristin or Patrick, but you will be Patrick and Kristin Tuttle-Tomaschke, together. And, just as the monk rises to a new identity and renewed commitment to the community, you two will now have something of a new identity with a renewed commitment to a lifetime together.

Our prayer is that these vows and this lifetime covenant will not only bring love, hope, and peace to you, but to the broken world to which you will give yourselves, as well. God’s blessings on you as you go forth in service to Him. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.