One of the many joys of being a Pastor is facilitating the marriage ceremony of two persons who are “in love.” This weekend Tim and I traveled to Galena, Illinois where I presided over many, many weddings when I was pastor of The First United Methodist Church there from 1998 – 2002. This was my first time to do a wedding at The Chestnut Mountain Resort about ten miles west of Galena overlooking the Mississippi River. Of course, it’s not a true mountain, being in Illinois, but the closest large hill to a mountain that Illinoisans have!
It was a day and an evening filled with beauty. My friend Parveen David, whom I met at my second pastoral appointment (after Galena) phoned me one winter day earlier this year and asked if I might be willing to perform the wedding ceremony of her son Victor and his fiance, Jeena. I told her that I would be honored and when I learned that they would have their wedding in Galena I was especially happy.
I was so glad that Tim advised me to wear my robe that was designed and embroidered by Katie Schofield, a friend and wonderful artist. It is as if the robe grows from the grass.
Parveen is originally from India and has the most beautiful reading voice as a liturgist that I know. Her voice matches her generous spirit. She agreed to read the Scripture passage that we chose for the wedding, Romans 12:1 – 13. I have been studying and preaching from Romans 8 – 12 for the past seven weeks of this summer, so I was glad to be able to give the wedding homily from this same letter. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…” “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Parveen and her son, Victor (Parveen said it was the third time in 33 years that she has worn a sari)
Jeena’s parents and family are also from India and made the trip from India for the wedding. Jeena’s father, a very sweet man, choir director, and music composer, sang with his son, both in the wedding ceremony and at the reception. Jeena’s aunt, the woman in the orange color sari, is a beautiful dancer and singer. She did both at the reception.
From my wedding homily: “…Do not be conformed to this world that will tell you to think only of yourself, to deny your responsibility for anyone else, and to avoid tying up your own well-being with the well-being of others. The bringing of your lives together this afternoon, Victor and Jeena, in the presence of God and of these people; the transformation of two minds and spirits into ‘members one of another’, this holy and spiritual union cannot happen without the renewing of your minds in the grace and the mercy and the love of God.”
“There is no other way, this I’ve come to believe, to truly wed two lives than for each of you, and all of us together, to experience the great spiritual worship of giving over everything to God. Our body, mind, and spirit are in need of a complete makeover. The grace needed to form a marriage unity of your two lives, the ability to set aside you own individual plans and success to love another one as yourself comes about through the transformation of the grace of God shown to us by the giving of Christ.”
“For the heart of a marriage union is to experience that you are no longer your own. To experience that your own life is not better or worth more than the other is to realize how much in need you are of the grace of God. God stepped into our lives so that we are able to step into each other’s lives.”
“So, Victor and Jeena, and all of us here, may our love be genuine, out of this world, over the moon! Hold fast to what is good in each other and let go of what is not good. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal of your love. Be joyful in times of hope, be patient with each other in times of suffering. Persevere in prayer. Be generous with your love to those around you, and may your home be a place of hospitality.”
With all of the change and upheaval going on about us, it was good to be outdoors, surrounded by beauty, reminded of God’s covenant of love with us enabling us to make commitments to one another.