Monday, June 09, 2008

MOST an Amazing Day!

So we're getting ready to head to the airport and back home from our weekend in the New Hampshire, where I had the privilege of preaching at the blessing of the civil union of Mark Andrew and his partner Gene Robinson.

As noted in the Concord Monitor report, the service was a private celebration for family and close friends in the same church (St. Paul's, Concord) where +Gene was elected Bishop of New Hampshire five-years-ago-to-the-June 7th-day.

I did a video interview during the reception describing what a great day it was ... you can view that here ... (and for those planning to send me hair styling advice, that's what my hair looks like outside when it's windy and humid ... get over it! :)
And I've been asked for the text from the sermon, so here it is. And now, off to see some Boston/Salem sights before we wing home ... have a great Monday, everybody!
Most This Amazing Day 2.0
1 John 4: 7-16, Matthew 5: 14-16

Our prayer book appoints certain texts in its lectionary as particularly appropriate for a day like today. Gene and Mark have chosen two of them – texts that focus our attention on the God who is the source of all love and on the light we are called to bear into the world in response to that love. And in what might be considered a preacherly presumption, I want to add a third text from my own “lectionary” of texts particularly appropriate from today: a poem of celebration, which does double duty as a prayer of thanksgiving:

i thank You God for most this amazing day:
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything which is natural
which is infinite
which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any-
lifted from the no of all nothing-
human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
- e e cummings

The Gospel According to e e cummings!

What an extraordinary privilege it is to stand before you today as we share with Mark and Gene most this amazing day – as we celebrate that which is natural which is infinite which is yes! What could be more natural than that two people should find each other, find love in each other and find themselves all dressed up on a Saturday afternoon -- standing in front of God and a church full of friends and family to declare that love in a service of blessing and commitment. Most natural – most familiar – and most amazing.

It is always amazing when two people find the courage to say “yes” to love – “yes” to commitment – “yes” to each other in this profound and public way. Yet on most THIS amazing day we celebrate not only the yeses that Gene and Mark say to each other this afternoon – but all the yeses that have paved the way for them to share their joy in this celebration … and for all the yeses that will follow in the weeks and months and years to come as other couples celebrate “that which is natural that which is infinite that which is yes” in their love for God and for each other.

There may be many yeses ahead of us before we come to the blessed day when blessed days such as today are finally more ordinary than extraordinary – but even while we recognize that there is much work ahead of us, I pray that we be given the grace to ALSO recognize just how much we have to celebrate with Mark and Gene – with the Diocese of New Hampshire – with the Episcopal Church. On most this amazing day I recall in a particularly meaningful way the words of my favorite modern-day prophet: Sister Joan Chittister.

Sister Joan famously said, “We are each called to go through life reclaiming the planet an inch at a time until the Garden of Eden grows green again.” And that is precisely what we are doing in this service of blessing: witnessing the reclaiming of an inch growing very green indeed as Gene and Mark give us the chance to stand with them as they take their place in that arc of history that Martin Luther King assured us “bends toward justice.”

And lest you flinch at the word “justice” – fearing that the preacher is about to “get political” – let me hasten to contextualize what I believe is the motivating essence that bends that arc in the first place. “Justice,” as described by former presiding bishop John Hines, “is the corporate face of God’s love.”

The justice we see realized today in this community gathered – this couple blessed – this bread broken and shared – is nothing less than the corporate face of God’s love. What we are witnessing today is not only the celebration of the love these two beloved men have for each other but the most amazing love that God has for all of us – love that is so much wider, broader and more abundant than we can either ask for or imagine.

For the love of God is broader than the measure of the mind.
And the heart of the eternal is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful, we should take Him at his word,
And our lives would be thanksgiving, for the goodness of the Lord.

“If our love were but more faithful” … Mark & Gene’s love – for God and for each other – HAS been that faithful … they have taken God at God’s word and managed – sometimes against most amazing odds – to live lives that are thanksgiving for the goodness of the Lord. Like the light on the lamp stand described in Matthew’s gospel, In the same way, you have let their light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

It is worth noting that immediately preceding this passage in Matthew are these familiar verses: 10‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely* on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

No one ever said this was going to be easy – this loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself stuff. But I can think of few couples who have been quite as “blessed” as Gene & Mark have been by the opportunities they’ve had to be reviled and persecuted – not to mention having all KINDS of evil uttered falsely against them! And yet, their life together is an example to us today of the covenant love between two people which is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace: of what it is to live into our full humanity as creatures created in the image of the one who’s very essence is love – in the image of the God who created us, redeemed us and sustains us.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God;
everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

The love we celebrate on most this amazing day – the light that Gene & Mark shine into the world from the lamp stand of their lives together -- has nothing whatsoever to do with the gender of this couple committing themselves to God and to each other and everything to do with the love that our Lord and Savior gave to us as his own commandment.

And so Mark and Gene stand before God -- firmly rooted in the tradition they inherit – embodying the historic faith they profess – chosen to go and bear fruit as they proclaim the Good News they have been given to a world aching to hear it … as we lift our voices to tell the “old, old story of Jesus and his love.” (And no, I’m not going to sing again!)

Our context for telling that old, old story is a culture where we are surrounded by those yearning for spiritual community but convinced they know enough about being a Christian not to want to be one. They are those who have heard Pat Robertson on Larry King Live -- and hearing words that that are narrow, judgmental and exclusive hear nothing what is represented as “Christian Values” that they want any part of. Nor should they. Nor should we.

What we have to offer instead is a unique and God-given opportunity to provide a different vision of what the Christian life and faith are all about. We have the chance to witness to our experience of a God who is about justice rather than judgment and whose inclusive love is available to all people -- to a community of faith that asks not “who do you love” but “DO you love?”

Yes, there is some controversy around our actions here in the Diocese of New Hampshire today – but there is also much joy, support and excitement … and an extraordinary opportunity to tell that old, old story. It is, my brothers and sisters, an opportunity for evangelism!Far from undermining the sacrament of marriage, I believe what intend here today builds up ALL relationships Let us take heart that while the church and culture and the communion continue to wrestle through questions about marriage and unions and sacraments and sanctity, the blessing Gene and Mark are claiming today enriches not just their lives but all of ours.

Blessed to be a blessing, they help us experience the transformative love of God – blessing us so that we may be a blessing in return and draw others in to be blessed by being part of this community of faith. It is a grand and glorious circle – and it is the work we should be about – MUST be about as the people of God if this Garden is ever to grow green again.

Finally, on most this amazing day let us rejoice and be glad in the inch reclaimed and let us pray for strength to continue the struggle until the ears of all ears awake and the eyes of all eyes are opened – til everything has breath
gives thanks to God
for all that is natural
all that is infinite
all that is yes. Amen.


uffda51 said...

We read here on the blog that you were flying to New England but it took my 90 year old mother-in-law to clue us in to why you were there. She read about it in the L.A. Times and called us up! Not much escapes her notice. It sounds like everyone involved had a great day.

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting this! And thank you for your visit to Salem on Sunday!

Fran said...

Alleluia and Amen!

Saw the video off of a link at Elizabeth Kaeton's. What a gift for you to be a part of such a moment.

I am reading Gene's book now and loving it. He seems like a spectacular human being.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Preached with passion and intelligence and humor and love - and, as an added bonus, song.

Well done, my sistah! Well done in deed!

Choralgrrl said...

That is deeply lovely. :-)

Found you through Fran; I'm going to be a frequent visitor here, I think!

Grace and peace to you!