Julie and Andrew, it is so exceedingly appropriate that we are here in this Cathedral for the events about to take place. I invite all of your guests to look at the image of the labyrinth on the cover of the wedding program. If any of you have ever walked a labyrinth, you know it is a spiritual practice that involves a metaphorical journey from the transience, and often superficiality, of life right to the spiritual center of our being. In other words, it is about a journey from that which is ultimately not so important – but where most of us, including this priest, spend so much of our lives – to that which is most important: the intersection of our grounding as people with the primary energy source of the universe whom we call God and describe as love.
My friends, if you don’t already know it, it was on the labyrinth of this Cathedral that Andrew and Julie made a commitment to each other that they would spend the rest of their lives together. The labyrinth is a symbol of the homecoming they have found in each other.
I remember the first conversation we had about your upcoming marriage. A couple of themes emerged that I’ve not forgotten and that clearly define your life together. You talked about your partnership in terms of the joy that each brings to the other. Julie and Andrew, that joy is the relational glue that will hold your marriage together. And you both acknowledged that joy is not about some false happiness that glosses over or refuses to address problems, but rather an intentional disciplined joy that nurtures and strengthens your life together. It is a grace that will give you the honesty to deal with the painful times in your life together as well as the seasons of joy. As you vow your lives together this day, make a commitment to be the primary joy giver to each other for the rest of your lives. It is nothing short of the greatest gift a person can give to another. In your joy you will find not only your strength, but the presence of the divine.
There is another spiritual reality that defines you as a couple. Love is bigger than the two of you – sorry to burst this bubble on your wedding day! You are called to be agents of God’s immeasurable love in the world, and if you try to hold it just for yourselves, to fence it in, to hide it under a bushel basket as the scripture references, it will not live.
Love is active. Love creates righteousness or justice here on earth. Love is a conversion to humanity – a willingness to participate with others in the healing of our good but broken world. From what I know about each of you, it is this understanding of love that is at the foundation of your souls. And such an understanding of love is refreshingly mature in our culture of self-obsession. Such an understanding of love will move you out beyond yourselves to embrace, first as a couple, and hopefully later as a family, the profound connectedness that each of shares with one another, with creation, and with the joys and cries of the world. If you will allow your love to create in your hearts of unceasing conversion to humanity, then this good but broken world of ours will be a better place for the vows you are about to make.
Marriage is rooted in God’s inclusive purpose for all of humanity. Married, partnered, or single, it seems only in relationship with one another do we find wholeness and blessing – do we find God. Andrew and Julie, to be married means to be an icon of God to one another and to the world. It is in your love for each other that you will come to know more deeply the love of God. And it will be in your willingness to share your love with others that your marriage will blossom forth in the world with God’s welcome and embrace.
Marriage is one of the major metaphors in the Bible to describe God’s love for us, God’s people. God’s love is offered freely to each of us just as we are. Marriage ought to be just like that that. Love each other for who you are, not for what you might wish to be or what to seem to be. Julie and Andrew, love and cherish each other just as you are, created in the image of God.
The God of both the Jewish and Christian scriptures is a God in constant relationship with God’s people. Ultimately this is an affirmation that all that is good, and holy and sacred in life is relational, or about communion, but never self-absorbed.
What you are doing today is giving yourselves to each other totally, completely, and without reservation. And just like God’s relationship with each of us, you come to this commitment having seen each other at your best, and no doubt not at your best. You know that love-in-the-long-term, as one writer suggests, is a bit like mountain climbing. The trail is much longer, more interesting, more difficult, more tiring, and more varied than you ever imagined starting out. tending love’s sacred flame is a commitment of both heart and will that is strengthened over time only by self-sacrifice, habit, and a lot of hard work.
Knowing this it is a tribute to your undoubted faith in each other that in a few minutes, you, Julie Ciamporcero Avetta and Andrew Gordon Martin, will vow your lives together in a union so intimate that it will influence your whole future. And that future with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and failures, its pleasures and pains, its joys and sorrows is hidden from your eyes. Yet you are wise enough, mature enough, and have enough lived experience under your belts to know that these elements are mingled in every life and are surely to be expected in your own. But nonetheless, not knowing what is before you, you take each other this day for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health until death due you part.
By our presence here this afternoon, each of us makes a commitment to Andrew and Julie. A few minutes ago, we robustly said “We Will” when asked if we will do all in our power to uphold, honor and strengthen the vows they are about to make. Marriage is not a solitary enterprise; it takes place in the context of family and community, in the context of God’s inclusive and interdependent plan for all of humanity. That is why Julie and Andrew and their wedding party will move to the center of the choir – right into the midst of you – their family and friends – to say their vows and exchange rings. Julie and Andrew deserve to be able to count on each of us to support them in their life together.
Julie and Andrew, above all else, make your marriage life’s most important priority. Last night at the rehearsal dinner, in words and a quite hysterical video, it was so clear that you not only love each other but that you are each other’s best friend. Don’t ever forget what Andrew’s mother said, “The basic of a long relationship is friendship.” Your wedding Gospel talks about building a strong foundation for your home – make your friendship – even your self-proclaimed shared nerdliness – the strong foundation for your marriage and your home and as you hitchhike together across life’s galaxy.
Be deliberate about making time for just the two of you. It is the only way you will be able to be each other’s primary joy giver. Remember that the hard work of marriage involves the choice to love, even when one doesn’t feel like loving the other. A wise rabbi once said, “Love is not blind – it sees more not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.” Make a commitment to each other today that for the rest of your lives you will deliberately and regularly say to each other “I love you.” The importance of those words will increase with your life together. Guard each other against self-absorption – the addiction of our culture – never forgetting that when you were young on your wedding day in this great Cathedral, in each other you had come home, and in your love you connected with the divine and became an icon of God to one another and our good but love-starved world.