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The Deacon's Bench

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That’s the question that is lurking in the back of Cathleen Falsani’s mind. She’s been asked to officiate at the wedding of two friends, and is mulling what to say.

From the Huffington Post:

In the Book of Common Prayer’s traditional marriage vows, which Susan and Todd have chosen to exchange this weekend, I will ask them if they will “love…comfort…honor and keep” each other. “Honor” is something that they will do. It’s not something that they will feel or sense or even bestow. It is active. It is a choice, a practice, and a discipline in the same way that loving, cherishing and keeping are.

As I am a novice marriage celebrant, and therefore appropriately daunted by the sacred task before me, I asked a number of my professional clergy friends what I should say to happy couple during the homily/sermon/message portion of the nuptial event.

The general consensus was clear about one thing: Keep it short. No one goes to a wedding to hear the celebrant preach.

Make it personal and intimate. Honor the couple. Speak to them, not the audience.

The best advice I received came from my pastor friend Tripp in Chicago. “Love [the couple] in your sermon and through your sermon,” he said.

Love. The verb.

When Tripp gave me that charge, it brought to mind something a clergy friend in Mississippi (we call him the Screamin’ Frenchman) told me a few years ago while we were discussing our experiences with divine grace: “Grace took me by the hand and romanced me.”

When I asked Susan what she and Todd would like me to speak about during the ceremony, she answered simply, “Grace.”

While I’m still working on my very brief (promise!) remarks for the wedding, I am certain I will remind Susan and Todd, while waves crash on the shore announcing the Holy Spirit moving across the surface of the waters behind them, that God lovingly took each of them by the hand and led them to the other.

There’s more at the link.

Speaking for myself: I agree with the idea of keeping it brief, and keeping it simple. Many couples choose the famous “love” portion from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. When they do, I like to remind those gathered that Paul wasn’t speaking about romantic love, but communal, Christian love.

And then I turn it around to address the congregation:

I’d ask all of us here, this community, all the family and friends gathered here, to take those words to heart, to make of them a prayer — and then to give them back, as a kind of gift, to this couple.

I’d ask all of us to strive, very simply, to be the very definition of love for this couple.

To be patient with them. To be kind to them. Rejoice with them. Bear with them. Believe with them. Hope with them. Endure with them.

This is what Paul asks of the Corinthians – and, really, it’s what Christ asks of us. If we truly live this way – with this couple and with one another – we will give this bride and groom gifts more valuable than any on their registry. They are gifts that won’t tarnish and won’t wear out. Gifts that this couple is already eager to share with one another. But they are things you can never have too much of.

I’m speaking, of course, of Love. And hope.

Anyway: I wish Cathleen Falsani luck. But I think she’s on the right track — and I hope she posts her homily online.

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