Thoughts on a Blessing

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.

At All Church Camp after Andy proposed

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.

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20 thoughts on “Thoughts on a Blessing

  1. How fortunate they are to have found each other, to have found you, and to have found God. If these things are anything to go by (which I think they are), they will have a long and happy life.

  2. Phyllis Trible, in a lecture I attended at Union Theological Seminary 4 years ago, was asked what Genesis 1 and 2 have to say about same sex marriage. She thought a moment, and then said, in her most teaching-professor manner, “For this text to say something about same-sex marriage, there would have to be what in the text? There would have to be who?” And we murmured, as a class, “Another man or another woman.” “That’s right,” she said. “Without another man or another woman, this text simply does not speak to that issue.”

    But I know you knew that. Blessings, to you and to Chris and Andy.

  3. Thank you Marci, wonderful words of encourgement for those of us struggling to understand how to bless these relationships an fit them into our conservative church. May God bless you as you represent our church at assemble.

  4. Loved your article. Thanks for sharing, both your words and the Word of the Lord. As a fellow Presbyterian pastor, I pray for what is to come, even as I acknowledge that God is over it all. I too have reflected on that Genesis 2 passage as people I love have “thrown” it at me for supporting same-sex marriage. I rather suspect that people have the whole thing backward. Marriage was not “instituted” by God when God created man and woman. Rather, I believe the creation story in Genesis 2 is there to explain why we marry at all. But as another reader pointed out, explaining why heterosexuals marry, does not imply that homosexual couples can not.

    I believe God blesses love in whatever form it comes. After all, God is Love and love is of God. How could you not bless the love of Chris & Andy?

  5. I have a feeling our church is going to be growing, because for all those same sex couples living in a ridiculously conservative state, simply have not had the joy and fellowship that worship brings. Many have forgotten childhood experiences at church, some for the better, some not, yet when they come to our church, they find what they’ve been missing most of their lives. A knowledge that God loves them, works through them, wants them to schmooze with us and participate in the goodness that only wonderful churches can bring. And Marci is the person to bring this to anyone and everyone. I’ve prayed fervently for my atheist children, to simply come and enjoy fellowship, and not worry about change. Only God changes. Maybe in time, just maybe….

  6. Marci, thank you for sticking your neck out for loving people. In my lifetime I have seen marriage move from being a permission to have sex to a permission to have serial polygamy. In my mind we in the Church as a whole have done a pretty poor job in teaching that marriage is about relationship. But then we have done a poor job of teaching that faith is about relationship, not beliefs.

    Also in my lifetime I have also seen gay folk move from having to meet in back rooms and bars to being able to meet at church. I have moved from claiming a call to celibacy simply because I knew no gay people who were not hunted and exposed and deprived of a way to support themselves and denied myself the sexual relationship in order to serve God.

    May the freedom you have found by confirming God’s love in Chris and Andy continue to liberate those who find in their relationship with the Church and God. May we be moved by those who are willing to speak of their liberation into Christ’s love and may no one be forced to deny healthy relationship simply because they are afraid of being killed or hurt. Just yesterday people in a neighborhood very near mine were the victims of gay-bashing. But until we in the Church confirm goodness when we see it, the rest of the world will not see that God is doing something very important.

    If our churches do not step up to the plate and sign to the world that goodness is to be celebrated where God has purposed it, we might as well close our doors now. The hypocracy will kill the church in the not too distant future.

    Send my your loved one’s email. ;>)

  7. I could sit and write an elegant reply about how inspiring this entry was, but my writing anything but artistic.
    Many people are too busy trying to prove they are right, which puts another person below them as being wrong. But here, it was relieving to read how we should just work together, especially in God.

    I’m just some random from Southern California, but I would like to thank you for the support you’ve given to my favourite cousin ever – Andy – and my new family member Chris. I’m just sad that I couldn’t be there for them in this moment.

  8. But you could have married them, Marcie. You could have. You made a choice not to do so. We all make such choices. But do not tell us that you did not have a choice. I do respect your struggle with this issue and the beautifully-written post.

    • Paul, I live in a state where such marriage is prohibited by law. And I also took ordination vows to the church I serve. And I answer to the Session and the congregation I serve.

      If I were a lone ranger, I could have done whatever I wanted. I could have declared them King of the World, but it wouldn’t have made it so.

      The best I can do, while maintaining the relationships that are important to me, is hold up our broken system to the light and seek change.

      • Yes indeed! I too serve as pastor in a church that prohibits same sex marriage (the United Methodist Church) (though I live in a state that allows it, CT). I have nevertheless covenanted with others in my denomination that I will make marriage available to all. There comes a time when we are called to biblical obedience and ecclesial disobedience. And you would not be a lone ranger and you would not be declaring them kings of the world. You would be providing them with equal access to an important rite of the church, affirming that their union is recognized in the eyes of God. You would be providing pastoral care on an equal basis. I know that I am in a different place than you are, geographically and in a place where the politics of the issue are different. I appreciate your struggle with the issue and respect it.

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