August 17, 2013

Cosby at the Orpheum -- A Wedding Sermon

Orpheum Theater -- courtesy

Sermon for the Wedding of Christina LaDisa and Julius Fleschner
By the Rev. Torey lightcap
August 17, 2013

To Christina and Julius, to their families and friends and colleagues,
  And to all honored guests come to this place to celebrate their wedding today,
    I bid you each a warm welcome.
Welcome, in the name of God, and of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
Welcome, on behalf of St. Thomas Episcopal Church,
  And on my own behalf, acting as the priest at St. Thomas and as an agent of the church.
Today the Orpheum becomes, for but a moment, a church –
  And you are not the audience. You are the congregation.

This beautiful building was begun in 1927 by Arthur Sanford, the major builder involved.
Over the course of its first life,
  People like Fred Astaire and Tallulah Bankhead and Katherine Hepburn
  Graced the stage and tripped the light fantastic and sang their hearts out.
It seems right, when you sit in it right now.
It sounds sensible, when you look around.
A grand building should have a grand history.

But in between 1927 and now, during the 1970s and 80s,
  The Orpheum became a movie-house strictly speaking.
They put in fluorescent lights and cut into the mezzanine balcony
  In order to install a projection booth,
    And before long it was a two-screen theater.
They put up false ceilings and removed all the fine-touch adornments
  And got rid of the wings of the balcony.
In 1992, the Orpheum was closed.
Seven years later, in 1999, its rehabilitation began in earnest. It was a lot of work.
People who appreciated this building
  And who understood the importance of having such things in the community
  Got together and put a lot of shoulders to the wheel,
  And in 2001, it reopened.
A few local choirs performed.
Then Bill Cosby came out here and performed on September the 15th,
  And – well, you want me to say that he just killed it that night, don’t you?

I wondered myself. I didn’t want to presume.
So I called Bruce Miller at the Journal.
I’m told Cosby didn’t kill that night. He wasn’t the smashing success I wanted him to be.
Because like everything, the situation was complicated.
It was four days after 9/11,
  And Cosby was still dealing with the death of his son from four years prior.
So it was, instead, a profoundly awkward evening.

Cosby stood here, where some of us are right now,
  And he talked about this son of his, Ennis,
    Who had been senselessly, tragically killed,
  And he talked about the rest of his family and how important it all was to him.
In other words, he was going through something; we all were, if you remember.
He was a little disjointed, and so was the rest of everything.
But you know, someone has to be the one to kick it off –
  Even if being kicked off, after a long time down, is a slow and uneven start.
It requires a moment of nerve and resolve to live within certain tensions.

So the Orpheum was officially revived.
Restored. Resurected and resuscitated.
And the road opened up wide,
  And you may know what a grand thing it is to have had it in our lives
    For the last twelve years.
The immeasurable good it’s done.
The numbers of people who are wheeled through here,
  And shown the love lavished upon this place,
  Which is really a testimony to our concern and commitment for each other.

And in thinking that through,
  I can only conclude that the Orpheum is not unlike a marriage:
    Totally gorgeous and opulent on Day One with all kinds of ideas for itself,
  And productive for most of its seasons,
    Doing a lot of good for the life of the world;
  But also receiving its shares of hard times,
    Being taken for granted by those around it,
    Getting cut back and remodeled and scaled down,
    Having its expectations changed for it without its being consulted;
  And then having new life breathed into it
    By hard work and concentration and a dependence upon grace
      And the deep knowledge that we’re not always gonna get it right –
    That sometimes the world is just out of joint and so are we,
      But that ultimately we see that the world is better When We Are Together:
      That we still have so much to give; that there’s so much life left to be lived –
    So much service still to be rendered,
      So many prayers left unsaid,
        So many experiences yet to be had.

I know Julius and Christina know this, in part,
  Because they were thoughtful enough to ask Sister Mary Jane
  To come and read the Beatitudes as part of their readings:
  Jesus saying, Blessed are those who mourn or are pure in heart or who make peace;
    For they’ll be comforted; they’ll inherit the Kingdom; they’ll see God, receive mercy.
It is understood – though I should say out loud –
  That everything in this life is humbled sooner or later:
    Nations and buildings and people, and even marriages, in their own way and time.
Everything is put out of joint for a season, sometimes more than a season,
  And sometimes far beyond what we might think is fair or reasonable.

What made the difference in the case of the Orpheum, this grand lady,
  Was a basic commitment to the cause.
People ultimately would not let the ship go down;
  They saw life in her, and wanted her to continue serving Sioux City.
Really: Looking around now, How could you not?

That’s why it’s such a beautiful thing
  That we have gathered this congregation into this humble church today.
It is a symbol of a commitment to an ideal –
  To help keep our life together, our civic life, intact –
    No Matter What.

I know Julius and Christina well enough to understand their commitment to each other.
It began several years ago and has been heavily invested in every day.
They are committed, in their hearts, to live their lives fully and only for each other.
What we do today is simply, officially, to name and consecrate that commitment.
Something special and not a little mysterious happens today, by the grace of God,
  And their commitment to life together deepens in the strongest possible bond.
They know that such commitment comes at a price;
  But they also know that it’s worth it;
    Because really: How could you not?

There’s an old Jewish blessing prayer appropriate to a moment like this –
  Words good to be heard in a moment of a lifetime commitment:
  A blessing of a newly married couple, and also a blessing of the name of God.
Usually it’s said by a rabbi, which I’m not,
  But also sometimes it’s sung by everyone in the congregation
    As a cup of wine is consumed;
      Ah, but you don’t have the words in front of you, do you?
      And you don’t yet have a cup.

Well, tell ya what:
  Just raise an imaginary cup – go on, raise it! –
  And confirm as true these words in your hearts and minds along with me:

  Blessed are You, LORD, our God, sovereign of the universe,
    Who creates the fruit of the vine.

  Blessed are You, LORD, our God, sovereign of the universe,
    Who created everything for His Glory.

  Blessed are You, LORD, our God, sovereign of the universe, who creates man.

  Blessed are You, LORD, our God, sovereign of the universe,
    Who creates man in your image,
    Fashioning perpetuated life. Blessed are You, LORD, creator of man.

  May the barren one exult and be glad as her children are joyfully gathered to her.
    Blessed are You, LORD, who gladden Zion with her Children.
  Grant perfect joy to these loving companions,
    As you did your creations in the Garden of Eden.
    Blessed are You, LORD, who grants the joy of groom and bride.

  Blessed are You, LORD, our God, sovereign of the universe,
    Who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth, song, delight and rejoicing,
      Love and harmony and peace and companionship.
  Soon, LORD our God, may there ever be heard in the cities of Judah
    And in the streets of Jerusalem
    Voices of joy and gladness, voices of groom and bride,
    The jubilant voices of those joined in marriage under the bridal canopy,
    The voices of young people feasting and singing.
  Blessed are You, LORD, who causes the groom to rejoice with his bride.
  … Amen.

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