Saturday, May 12, 2012

A wedding sermon for Cecily Stewart and Nick Hawksworth

Preached by the Very Rev. Michael D. Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday, May 12, 2012

 “Yes?” said Pooh. 
 “When I’m—when--Pooh!” 
“Yes, Christopher Robin?” 
 “I’m not going to do Nothing any more.”
 “Never again?” 
 “Well, not so much. They don’t let you.” 
Pooh waited for him to go on, but he was silent again. 
“Yes, Christopher Robin?” said Pooh helpfully. 
“Pooh, when I’m—you know—when I’m not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?”
 “Just me?” 
“Yes, Pooh.” 
 “Will you be here too?” 
 “Yes, Pooh, I will be, really. I promise I will be, Pooh.” 
“That’s good” said Pooh. 
 “Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.” 
 Pooh thought for a little. “How old shall I be then?”
 Pooh nodded. “I promise,” he said. 
 Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt for Pooh’s paw. 
“Pooh,” said Christopher Robin earnestly, “if I—if I’m not quite---“ he stopped and tried again - “Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won’t you?”
 “Understand what?”
 “Oh, nothing.” He laughed and jumped to his feet. 
“Come on!” 
“Where?” said Pooh.
 “Anywhere,” said Christopher Robin. 
--From The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

I used to wonder why we cry at weddings. After all, weddings are happy times. At first I used to think it was because it was just so beautiful, and sometimes deep beauty makes us cry. I think that's part of it. But I finally realized that we cry at weddings because every new beginning involves and ending. And we grieve endings.

Cecily, you and Nick chose for one of your readings today the incredibly profound text "The House at Pooh Corner" ... and if we are going to fully dive into the deep theological underpinnings of this piece we're going to have to understand that backstory of the part we just heard.

The part Barbi just read comes from the very end of the book. And what's going on is Christopher Robin is going off to school. His days of doing Nothing -- that's "Nothing" with a capital "N" -- His days of doing Nothing with his cuddly toys, Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and all the rest – are coming to an end. And Christopher Robin is begging Pooh not to forget him – but we know that it's really Christopher Robin who is about to forget him. Childish things are being put away. He is off to something new … and no matter how many promises they make to each other they know it will never be the same.

And it’s sad. Even though Christopher Robin growing up and going to school is a wonderful thing … it’s sad because he's leaving a part of his life that has been precious and wonderful behind and it will never be again. 

It’s why we all cried at the end of Toy Story 3 when Andy gets in the car and drives off to college leaving Woody and Buzz behind. It's just the same story told for a different generation.

We live in a world where everything has seasons. Friendships come and go. Favorite toys get outgrown. Careers change.  We live in houses for years and then the moving vans come and someone else calls the space we have consecrated with our lives home.  Everything except this.

A few minutes ago, you told me that you were ready to make some promises to each other.

To live together in the covenant of marriage. To love, comfort, honor and keep, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others be faithful.

And then you said “I will” to seven words … seven words that make all the difference. Seven words that make what you are entering into today different from all the other things that do have seasons. All the other things that do come and go. The seven words you said “I will” to were:

As long as you both shall live.       As long as you both shall live.

When this service started, in words that are easy to miss because the buzz of the excitement of the moment is still filling our ears, our prayer book said this about marriage:

It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church.

The mystery of the union between Christ and his church is love … that’s clear enough. But it’s not just love. It’s love that is always putting the other first. Love that is always giving itself for the other so much that each puts their own well being second to the thriving of the other. For us, it’s a love that only works in mutuality. And the covenant of marriage is that safe place where each of you will be able to risk loving the other more than yourself, because you know that loving of yourself piece is taken care of. You’ll be able to not worry about watching your own back because you know your partner will always have that job.

But it’s not even just that. The mystery of the union between Christ and his church is not just love, not just a love that is self-giving, it is a love that is eternal. It is the love of “Lo, I will be with you always, even until the end of the age.”

It is the love that you will pledge to each other in a few moments when you promise that you will have and hold one another from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until you are parted by death.

It is an extraordinary thing that you are promising. It is a promise of a love that is sustaining and unassailable. And it is too wonderful and too difficult for you to do it alone. And that is why you are not getting married off somewhere by yourselves but here with all of us, your family and friends and faith community who love you.

Because I don't know if you remember, but you're not the only ones making a promise here today. A few minutes ago, I asked all of us here an important question. I asked "Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?" and you absolutely shook this place with a resounding "We Will!" It was fabulous ... and it needed to be. Because Cecily and Nick, you need to know that we are with you in this. You need to know that our support for you doesn't end today it's just beginning.

Because I want to tell you what we have just promised these two. We have just promised that we will be with them through good times and bad. When things are going great in their marriage, we are going to be there to celebrate with them and say "Way to go!" And when things aren't going so good ... and EVERY marriage has times when they aren't going so well. Because we live in a world that tries to tell us that we need to be much more concerned with our own back than watching each other. But when things aren't going so well, ... well, we're going to be there, too. And we're going to remind you of the promises you made here today and even more than that of the love that binds you together.

And there is one more thing that we're going to do. We're going to count on you. All of us. All of us in our marriages and partnerships and friendships. All of us in all our relationships where we hope to live lives of giving ourselves to each other ... we're going to be watching you in hope. In hope that you can show us how it's done. That we can learn from you and have our lives strengthened and our loyalties confirmed.

Our hope for you is that you will be what the Gospel you chose calls us to be. That you will be salt and light. Showing us all how rich life can be. As rich as your love this day.

So, it’s OK to cry today. It’s OK to laugh. Today is a day of endings and beginnings. Like Christopher Robin, your lives will never be the same. But that is good news. The promises you make to each other today are not the promises of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. They are the promises of Christ. The promises of love through good times and bad. The promises of care through cross and resurrection. And above all, the promises of lo, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.

1 comment:

  1. This may just be the single best wedding sermon I've ever read or witnessed. Thanks so much for taking the time to write it down. ;)