January 3, 2015


Sermon for the Wedding of Leah Conover and Don Hudelson
By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
January 3, 2014
St. Thomas Episcopal Church

Leah, Don -- parents and friends, honored guests:
 Thank you for being here today.
I greet you all in the name of God and of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

I was looking at the lessons for today’s service,
 And I got this wonderful, warm feeling when I got to the Gospel lesson -- the Beatitudes:
 Those beautiful words we just heard, so often misunderstood over the years:
   You’re blessed when you’re poor, you’re blessed when you mourn,
     You’re blessed when you’re meek,
     You’re blessed when you’re hungry and thirsty for good things;
     You’re blessed when you give out mercy, and when you’re pure in heart,
     You’re blessed when you make peace,
       And when you’re persecuted for the right reasons.
It paints a lovely picture -- a hard picture, but a lovely picture -- of a human being
 Who is ready to undergo the worst life has to offer
   In order to participate in giving away the best life has to offer.
It paints a picture of a virtuous person trying to get along in a corrupt, death-dealing world.
It shows us what it looks like to stand fast for something real and important
 Even when the consequences and the cares will weigh heavily in the balance.
It shows us a land far beyond the idea
 That I’m somehow entitled to get my way all the time, or be right all the time.
Yes, Jesus says, life is hard and unfair;
 But in and among it all, as you navigate it the best you can, as virtuously as you can,
   You’re blessed!
Now, it may not feel like blessing all the time, though it might today;
 But perhaps these things are really only understood in the rear-view mirror.
And yet. These blessings do make for a virtuous life.

And that is a fine summarization of marriage.
In marriage, we bend, bend, to the will of the common mind, never losing sight of ourselves.
No one comes into this existence having been promised a perfect life or a perfect marriage.
We are imperfect pilgrims in this imperfect life,
 Walking a path toward each other and God -- toward maturity, toward fulness --
   A path that is often rocky and stumbling.
Along the way, we must inevitably experience each of those virtues that Jesus lists,
 And we must also learn how to practice these virtues as they come to us.
A marriage, at its best, is a kind of virtue-practicing machine.
Your evolving love for one another is the fuel that makes the machine go.

John Westerhoff has written about this passage that
 “The Christian way of life is one in which we are called
   To strive to live totally dependent upon God;
   We are to strive to be sensitive to the world’s sin and sorry for our participation in it;
   We are to strive to never nurse anger;
   We are to strive to have as our life’s goal to live in a right relationship with God;
   We are to strive to be caring, compassionate persons;
   We are to strive to live with motives that are as pure as our acts;
   We are to strive to be forgiving, reconciling people;
     And we are to strive to be willing to pay whatever the cost to do the will of God.”
Therefore, marriage is about that striving.
The married life is about helping each other strive to live the virtuous life of the Beatitudes.
In marriage, see, the one says to the other, How can I help you do this?
Here -- I have brought every last thing I can to help you, and you me --
 Come, let’s sort it through so we can keep what’s useful to us.

Perhaps you’d be willing to hear this lesson read one more time from a different translation?
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside.
Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him.
Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions.
This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.
 With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.
 Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are -- no more, no less.
 That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.
 He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’
 You find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world -- your mind and heart -- put right.
 Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.
 That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.
 The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
Finally, Jesus said, “Not only that -- count yourselves blessed every time people put you down
   Or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me.
 What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.
 You can be glad when that happens -- give a cheer, even! -- for though they don’t like it, I do!
 And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company.
 My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”

That’s the translation that really got me to thinking about marriage.
And still it paints a picture, doesn’t it?
Not so much “The two of us against the world,”
 But “The two of us very much in the world, impacting the world,
   Making the world better, moving it forward,
   Leaning on one another, loving one another,
   Relying upon one another in all kinds of circumstances and times good and bad,
   And striving in Godly living to stir up all kinds of holy and virtuous trouble
     For the good of the Kingdom that Jesus preached.”

Leah and Don, you come today seeking the blessing of the church over your union,
 And so it shall be given without hesitation.
But today is just the launching of the ship.
To keep this boat on the water -- and not taking on water --
 You must know that the two of you, and the one of you, are blessed each and every day.
And that depends on the two of you far more than anyone else.

Would you please consider making me this promise, then?
Would you please take these simple words I am about to give you,
 And write them on your minds and your hearts and your lips:
 I Am Blessed To Have You.
And say these words to each other every day from now on:
 I Am Blessed To Have You.
Repeat them like a mantra or a prayer or a centering word:
 I Am Blessed To Have You.
Find some way to say this each and every day of your life together, no matter the miles between:
 I Am Blessed To Have You.
Until you are parted by death:
 I Am Blessed To Have You.
Even when they are hard words to say:
 I Am Blessed To Have You.

And all of us.
If you are with someone you love, turn to them and say this:
 I Am Blessed To Have You.
And if you know who you would say it to,
 But the person isn’t here,
   Take out your phone and send a text or make a call, now or later:
 I Am Blessed To Have You.
After all, life is short, and we need to be clear as clear as we can with those we love.

And now the perfume of blessing is heavy in the air,
 And it is time at last for Leah and Don to speak more blessings, and commitments.

I say we make it happen. Thanks be to God, let’s make it happen!

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