I have presided at a few ‘rainbow’ weddings, as I like to call them. I even had a special stole made for these occasions – you can see it below. That I do preside at weddings for LGBTIQ+ couples, that our congregation thus welcomes these couples and their guests to our building, with our members operating the sound desk, arranging flowers, and more, evokes this response every time:
if this is church, perhaps I can come back.
What follows is the homily I spoke at a wedding in June. I share it here to extend the invitation to others who may need to hear / read it. This is church, and you are welcome.
Thank you to David and Ross for their permission to share this reflection, containing as it does, something of their story in conversation with the Sacred Story.
Homily for a wedding with 1 Corinthians 13:1–13
To speak without love is to clang like a noisy gong – and your ears are, like mine, surely twitching at a memory of some clanging racket you’ve wished someone would bring to an end, sooner than they did … ?
To have insight, knowledge, understanding, but not love – is to have nothing.
To have even faith enough to move a mountain, and not love – Paul says is to be nothing.
The love in this passage is not romantic, not exclusively the love of spouses for each other: this love, this LOVE is the essence of life itself.
This is the love that John also writes of, in one of his letters; love that shows us God, Divine, Sacred.
1 John 4:7ff – everyone who loves is born of the Divine, John writes; everyone who loves therefore knows the Sacred Source of Life – for God, Divine, Holy One is love.
Now I can only speak as I am, which is one for whom such conviction is the spiritual inheritance I receive, such letters part of the Story that shapes my living.
I make no assumptions of or for you – not even of or for our grooms, though Christian spirituality is at the heart of this wedding ceremony they have chosen.
So I do offer you wisdom from the Christian tradition, our letters, stories, and poetry.
Which say: Love is holy. It is Divine. It is the spark of life, of the Sacred that resides in each of us; the essence of life that we give and receive, that we share with each other.
Our tradition affirms: love is to be treasured.
You will know love as patience, experience it in kindness.
We find it in generosity and in gratitude;
See it in honesty and integrity, hope and courage and endurance.
You will discover love to be fathoms deep, oh, so, high – that it has no end.
Paul isn’t writing an ode to romantic love here; it’s not a poem composed for married couples.
For that, we heard the poem ‘The art of marriage’ by Wilferd Arlen Peterson.
For that, we do have in our tradition the Song of Solomon (2:3-6):
As an apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his intention towards me was love.
Sustain me with raisins,
refresh me with apples;
for I am faint with love.
O that his left hand were under my head,
and that his right hand embraced me!
Paul, though, is writing of love to a community struggling to welcome and celebrate one another as they are, in their marvellous difference and diversity.
He has, just before these words of love, shown them a picture of a healthy community, which is like a human body, one whole, made of many diverse parts.
Is a human body made up entirely of ears? Of course not, what would pulse blood through our veins?
Are we only feet? How ridiculous even to suggest it.
One body. Diverse members. Healthy, functioning members; healthy functioning body.
Communities. Or, teams. Are we all football players? What about the coaches and runners, physios and administrators? What sort of a football team would that be, only made up of players?
And boats. They all come in one size and shape, which suits all functions and purposes, right? No?
For the church in Corinth, it was a jostling for status among the speakers and servers, teachers and translators – who is more important? And Paul writes to remind them – we are each as important as each other, important for our different gifts. The value is in the difference. The love is for each other, as we uniquely are.
This is LOVE. Full stop. It is the honour for another that nurtures their wellbeing, celebrates who they fully are and are becoming; that changes laws so David can marry Ross; buys membership for the Giants so that the beloved game will be played for this community in Canberra; spends the entire month of November transforming the front yard into a Christmas wonderland and delights in thus bringing joy to the community.
It is kindness.
It is generosity.
It is treasuring the dignity of each one.
It is enduring commitment.
And yes, we see that in married couples.
And also, we see it in our nearest relationships and most fleeting encounters – or we hope we will, for when we do, wellbeing and wholeness and healing are nurtured, when we do, we nurture the essence of life.
One of the reasons weddings are so treasured is that we get to celebrate love at a wedding – the love of this couple for each other; our love for them and theirs for us; every love that has ever sparked us into life.
So thank you, Ross and David, for your love, and for your wedding, which invites us once again to remember love, celebrate love, and show love, that Sacred, holy essence that keeps us alive.