This past week, I had the distinct privilege of being a part of a Holy moment.
There is a young couple in our church who wanted to get married. I had baptized both of them, when they came to faith and joined the church. Andy proposed to Chris on the labyrinth, in front of the church family, at our All Church Retreat last summer. And so it seemed natural for me and the congregation to be with them as they asked God to bless their relationship as they begin this new life together.
But I couldn’t marry them.
It wasn’t that they refused to do pre-marital counseling. In fact, they were glad to have that assistance as they get started in this relationship.
It wasn’t because I didn’t think they should be together. They seem to be a very good partnership and are committed to calling out each other’s strengths and gifts.
I couldn’t marry them because we are Presbyterians who live in the State of Idaho. Idaho has a constitutional amendment banning same gender marriage. And the Presbyterian Church (USA) is still in the process of determining how we will (if we will?) respond to what is going on in the culture around us.
I do think the same gender marriage issue is interesting, especially in light of the recent change to the Presbyterian’s ordination language (which now makes it possible for all people to seek ordination). The struggle over ordination seemed to take such a long time–30 years (or 2,000 years, some would say). And our culture’s stance on same gender marriage seems to be changing so much faster–much faster than a denomination seems to be able to respond, for sure.
But it wasn’t fast enough for Chris and Andy, or for many other men and women out there facing the reality of this. (Even as I write about this, I recognize I am writing from a place of privilege. My husband and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary this summer. No state, denomination, or other group put up roadblocks to our marriage.)
And so Chris and Andy took on the expense of flying to New York City to be married. With a few friends, but without their church family. And then we gathered Saturday in the sanctuary to bless what the State of New York had done.
It was a Holy moment. There were around 100 people in the sanctuary–family of the grooms, friends, and church folk. We prayed, we read from the 12th chapter of Romans, we sang “Called as Partners in Christ’s Service”, and we invited everyone to come forward and lay hands on Chris and Andy as we prayed a blessing on them and on their life together.
That was it. There was no declaration of marriage, but it was a sacred time.
And I understand that people disagree with me about marriage equality. And I understand that some of them will cite scripture to explain their views. And I am thankful for the conversations when faithful people struggle over important issues in respectful ways.
But I have been goofily happy and filled with peace ever since that Blessing on Saturday.
Because these two young men LOVE Jesus. They LOVE the church. They LOVE each other. And the place they most wanted to be to celebrate their relationship is in a church.
What, exactly, is our problem with this?
They got engaged at all church camp, for goodness sake. They aren’t trying to ruin Western Civilization or my marriage.
They are seeking to live out their baptismal calling to live the entirety of their life in Faith.
Their courage and faithfulness in the midst of all of this is what gives me joy and peace. Because I look at them and am reminded that Jesus’ message of love, inclusion, and discipleship cannot be contained or controlled.
If we are going to baptize people, we ought to expect them to live into their calling.
If we are going to welcome people into the membership of the church, if we bring them into the Family of God, we ought to expect that they will want that family around when they celebrate the good times and need support through the bad times.
Someone I love tried to “throw” a Bible verse at Chris and Andy when I posted a picture of the 3 of us on Facebook. I haven’t gotten that person to reply and tell me exactly what he meant when he put the citation under the picture, so maybe I’m wrong, but it seemed he was trying to use Genesis 2 to point out their error.
Here’s part of the citation he listed:
And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.”
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
But here’s the thing. We can throw Bible verses at each other all day long. But what does that prove? How is that going to help us? And I just don’t live in a world where the Bible should be a weapon that we toss over the bow of the ship of people with whom we disagree.
The random Genesis comment reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Saved. Mary is having a difficult time in her life, and watch how her friends respond when the pastor sends them out to be “warriors on the front line for Jesus”:
Let’s be clear. This is not effective evangelism. And the Bible is not a weapon.
I sent a message to my loved one, telling him that he and I could disagree about this and that we could be in conversation about it, but I asked him not to bring Chris and Andy into our disagreements. Because he doesn’t know them. He doesn’t know their hearts. He is not in relationship with them. He doesn’t know how much the church means to them or how hard they are working to live lives of integrity while society keeps putting barriers in their way.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) will be gathering in Pittsburgh, PA in a few short weeks. And there are a number of proposals headed to a committee that concern same gender weddings and other matters of disagreement and tension. I am looking forward to being a commissioner at this Assembly. But I pray that we won’t use the Bible as a weapon. I hope we won’t just quote verses out of context as if that ends the discussion. I hope we will first build relationships and really seek to listen to each other.
Here’s part of the prayer I said during Chris and Andy’s blessing. Maybe it should be our prayer every day.
Come Holy Spirit, work among us.
Bring us your peace. Bring us courage.
Draw us into the very presence of God that we may worship and offer our joy and thanks here today.
Bless all of our relationships, O God–that we may strengthen each other, that we may comfort each other, that we may reflect your love.
In the name of Christ we pray, Amen.