There are some dates that are more than just a spot on the calendar, dates the very mention of which has weight, gravity, and an aura. Dates that convey a deeper meaning. July 4 brings to mind the struggle for Independence. April 15 - Taxes, and out mutual responsibility toward each other. December 25th - the Incarnation of God in the world.
9 years ago today, “September 11th” joined that list of freighted, weighty dates. It was a day of attack, violence, and the worst kind of disunion between God’s creatures. Still, the very mention of it brings to mind tragedy, disharmony, fear, and even hatred.
These are too-common emotions. Too many days bring up these emotions for too many people. Mother Teresa said: Never has the world had a greater need for love. People are hungry for love. Pray. Pray that you might understand how much Jesus loved us, so that you might love others.
We’ve come here today to pray; to pray for ourselves, that the love of God would be made real in us; to pray for you and your life together; and to pray that love (despite what the world tells us is normal) would transform you, and us, and the world.
There’s no shortage of Scripture passages about Love, and you’ve chosen to highlight some good ones today by having them read publicly.
Ecclesiastes [4:9-12] speaks of benefit: the benefit of two people – help, warmth, strength: things that draw us into companionship in the first place. 1Corinthians [13:1-8] speaks of the expectations of Love. And these are a pretty tall order!
Paul’s familiar words and even more striking in paraphrase: Love sticks to it. It doesn’t have a swelled head. It’s not always ‘me first’. It cares for others more than for itself. It doesn’t keep score. It takes pleasure in the flowering of the truth. It looks for the best in the other.
Paul reminds us what Love is and does because sometimes we need reminding! As well-intentioned as we are and as much as we might pray that the Love of God would be made real in us, the reality is that hman beings are not always patient, kind, caring, modest, and generous. Would that we were! If humans were always patient, kind, caring, modest, and generous, then September 11th would be just another spot on the calendar and your wedding would be the only association we make with this day.
But we aren’t. And it’s not.
Human beings, being what we are, don’t always take things in stride. Sometimes we are inclined to be First. Sometimes we want others to see Our Truth. And sometimes seeking the Best in Others eludes us. So, instead, September 11th is a day with an aura.
In the Gospel lesson you’ve chosen for today, Jesus says we must receive the Kingdom of God as little child. Children have many qualities: tantrums, fits, wining, screaming, throwing things, etc. When we’re Adults, we call this, “difference of opinion” or “divergent vision.” Whatever we call them, we’ve all had our childish moments, when we’re most decidedly not our best selves. We’re not always generous, patient, kind, and al the rest. Even your beloved Pete, and even your beloved Christina won’t always be his/her best self.
But you already know that. Because you’ve been moving toward this day for quite some time. You’ll leave here today having made promises and signed a license, but you’ve been in the process of coming together as a family for years. So you know each other’s habits and shortcomings.
Yet here you stand, ready to take each other as husband and wife. Because you committed, loving, caring people also know that, despite our childish moments, we are also capable of Childlike moments: moments of trust, of short-memory when it comes to being wronged, and of pure love. You take the wise counsel of 1 Corinthians, you know you’ll let each other down sometimes. But you also know that Jesus calls us to Forgive, to Recommit, and calls us to Faithfulness.
So today, you will make promises and sign a license – AND you’ll publicly profess what you have for each other: Love – that is, patience, kindness, hope, Faith, and endurance.
And because you do that in our presence, September 11 will hereafter have for you and for us 2 auras, distinct in their dichotomy of how we respond to life. There will be the 9 year old aura of violence, enmity, and vengeance. And there is a new aura, born today in our lives: the choice for love, for forgiveness, and for re-commitment.
In a few seconds, we’ll go up these stairs to a Holy Moment. And I daresay it’s holy not because of where we are or what we are doing, but because of what this moment celebrates that’s already true: That you’ve chosen to commit to love for each other.
Surrounded by our love and affection for you, and the love of God in which and for which you were made, today you bind yourselves to each other in love and you set love loose in your lives, asking God to transform you, your lives, and the world.
Today, you reclaim this day, saying “Anger and fear won’t have the last word here. They are cast out. Love and New Life are invited in to dwell and to stay.”
Today, the 11th of September; What a day!