I usually cringe when an engaged couple asks my advice on planning a wedding. Discussions of turquoise dresses, unity candles, and thousand dollar floral arrangements send me fleeing the church. The expectations of parents, the search for the longest church aisle, and the guest musicians often make me feel like my presence is another accessory, another “check” on the list of wedding preparations from the latest bridal magazine.
Kim and Charlie gave me a new perspective about wedding preparations. Kim explained to me that she spent a year after college graduation working among the poor. Charlie also shared his desire to live out his faith in a more challenging way. They wanted their wedding to express their deep conversion into God who changed everything about their lives. The engaged couple desired to profess their vows in our small urban chapel which welcomes people who struggle for the essentials of life. This decision drew a line in the sand about how they wanted people to view not only their wedding but their marriage. She stepped out of her family’s expectations that their ceremony be held in their home parish.
Preparing for their marriage became an act of God’s faithfulness. God so often becomes a cultural accessory at a wedding. God’s action is invited as a stamp of approval, or an inconvenient guest, hidden among the fake flowers and candelabras. Kim and Charlie’s plans stepped out of the cultural norm and into an authentic expression of faith and service.
The couple also wanted to make sure that the people present at the wedding did not feel like observers or well-dressed adornments. They asked people to bring to the ceremony white socks, bags of new underwear and clean blankets for people who come daily to our hospitality center. Their friends and family received the message that this wedding was a call to action, and that action of service comes from the covenant of God’s faithfulness.
The Eucharist remained the centerpiece of the couple’s commitment.
The crystal clarity of hospitality, the simple music, the contemplative pace, all revealed to the congregation that God is the one who brought them together, and God’s initiative would lead them beyond the church doors and into a life of fidelity and purpose.
This wedding unmasked a deeper understanding of God. It was not a ceremony that talked about God, but explored God’s real activity in Three Persons. We moved beyond the quirky images of how people often think about the Trinity, as shamrock or triangle, into a deep, profound action in people’s lives. No one left our simple worship space unaffected by deep grace or an ache for justice. The frivolous, cultural wedding accessories were replaced with breathtaking awareness of love and compassion for the poor and suffering.
Now is the time in your parish community to unveil people’s relationship with the fidelity of God. The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity summarizes the liturgical journey from Lent through the gift of Pentecost. It reminds us that the marriage of heaven and earth in Christ is truly our path to change, commitment and reliance on the Three Persons of God.
The liturgical Gospels after the Solemnity of the Trinity now open for us the profound call to base our lives in the continuing action of God’s faithfulness. The marriage covenant of the Trinity in our earthly ways shows us the path to building our commitments on rock. We first must have the courage to listen to the echoes of God in the course of real life. Kim and Charlie revealed to me that the storms of wind and rain are nothing compared to the shelter of truth and honesty.
We often think our faith comes from our own decisions. God’s initiative calls us beyond ourselves. The courage to follow Christ beyond our selfishness is also God’s gift. This marriage bond of God and His people continues to show me that love is real even in the midst of my doubt and insecurity. My fragile earthy ways can become a new identity in God’s love for me.
There are few people who have the courage to risk everything to hear God’s call. To be a laborer in the harvest means we let go of the stifling images we have of God, ourselves and people in need. God is in relationship with us. We in turn keep the heavenly marriage vows alive by entering into profound relationship with the marginalized, the anxious and the doubtful right here on earth. God calls us each by name, beyond the labels of our sickness, past our notions of sin and our own self-reliance.
God’s initiative in our lives is not a pious accessory but takes place deep within our human fear. This marriage promise from God gives light to our human ways. When fear keeps our hearts concealed and in the dark, authentic faith counts us more valuable than the sparrows.
Kim and Charlie’s vows expressed their desire to build their marriage on rock. They replied to the question of Jesus, “Who do you say I am?” They showed the rest of us that God’s call does not come in one occasion. The call of God satisfies us in all stages of life, in all sorrows, in good times and in bad.
I received the vows of Charlie and Kim in the midst of people they loved. My heart was glad as I heard their words of commitment to follow God forever. Words which I now understand bind their earthly desires to heaven’s promises. These words were more than fancy frills from a ritual book but the deep passionate response of a couple who understood their love flows from God.
I believe we must dig deeper into our human experience to sift out the love of God from our fear. Kim and Charlie’s lifetime commitment teaches me that the Trinity is still surprising us, continuing to teach us that love from heaven changes everything on earth. Blest be God, forever.