by Marjory Bankson
For the wedding of Kate Cudlipp and Carole Grunberg
June 11, 2010
You surely know that in our self-centered culture, marriage is a kind of madness! An irrational act! An astonishing commitment! And after 28 years together, your decision to marry now is both a joyous occasion for your spiritual community to gather in celebration and support, and acknowledgment of the recent change in DC laws which had effectively prevented your marriage from taking place before.
Today, we are here to celebrate both!
I’d like you to turn and look at this gathered community. In addition to the fire and water elements that you bring to your marriage, we can be the other elements you need for wholeness: to be some of the air that will sustain your love and the earth that feeds your faithfulness. We have come to witness your covenant and to pledge our support for your marriage in the days and years ahead.
In the scripture which you chose for this day, Paul writes to the little church at Corinth: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love is not happy with evil, but is happy with truth. Love never gives up.”
It seems important to remember that Paul was writing to a community and not to a single couple. He’s presenting a fullsome picture of love that we can grow into and not a litmus test for true love. You already know that love grows even when you are not patient and kind, or when you feel selfish or irritable. Love is not about perfection. Love grows with practice.
After nearly 50 years of marriage, Peter and I have come to understand that marriage is not primarily for comfort or convenience. It’s not even for happiness, though that’s often a by-product. Instead we’ve discovered that, at the core, marriage is for spiritual growth, for stretching and growing to embrace our differences, not eliminate them.
In one sense, you’ve been living that journey for many years now. Your long trek on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela is a metaphor you’ve engaged with your feet, your bodies, and your hearts. You’ve done the inner work necessary to deal with the disappointments and disasters along the way. You’ve already tested the love that led you on this journey together and found it flexible and strong.
Now, as you two shift, ever so slightly, from a conscious, capable partnership into this mysterious state of marriage, I am reminded of the old Anglican pledge which promised faithfulness “in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part.” It’s a recognition that love grows in hard times too.
There is something about choosing marriage at this stage of life which can shape you in surprising ways. As we age, circumstances change. Capabilities shift — and love finds a way through the wilderness. Paul was right — in a healthy relational community, love outlasts everything else, even faith and hope. All three are needed, but love is the final word.
Without the faith that your marriage belongs to some larger purpose, it would be easy to “keep score” about the times when you give up your “right” to be right. But if you believe that your marriage has a larger purpose, then there will be room for genuine forgiveness. Faith expands the point of marriage beyond yourselves -to make room for change, forgiveness, and healing- for newness, creativity and beginning again.
Without hope that you can be yourself AND be joined together, marriage could be seen as a constraint and a burden. We all know that love begins with tenderness, but we often forget that love also demands a certain toughness, a willingness to face our fears and grow beyond our expectations. Hope is a choice, a spiritual practice that will sometimes flow naturally, without effort, and in other times, it takes real courage. Hopefulness is a choice you will have to make again and again.
Finally, love endures because you do not have to generate it by yourselves. You are surrounded by a community of caring adults who will listen, challenge, pray and work with you when you lose sight of the vision that you have today. We are your cheering section and your companions on the journey. The source of love is beyond us. It is the living water of life itself. Marriage and community tap into that mysterious wellspring of love that flows from the heart of God.
In the end, marriage is a seedbed for the soul, a special calling that we confirm in and through you today. May God bless each of you and both of you as you create this sacred covenant together. Amen.