Abide in Love

A homily for the marriage of Daniel Schoos and Alistair So, Saturday, August 27, 2011. The Gospel lesson is John 15:9-12.

They say that rain is a lucky thing for a wedding. It’s a lucky thing because in the course of every marriage there are sure to be a few tears along the way. But if it rains on the wedding day, each drop of rain cancels out a possible, future tear. Alistair and Daniel, may this be the case for you.

Our Gospel reading uses a old-fashioned word to talk the relationship between God and Jesus and between Jesus and us, his disciples and friends. “Abide,” he says. “Abide in my love.” He goes on to say what this funny, old-sounding word really means—it means living out the commandments (you remember, especially the ones about loving God above all else, loving neighbor as much as we love ourselves). And then Jesus confuses everything, really, when he says that the way to keep the commandments—the real, true, holy, life-giving, long-lasting, ABIDING way of keeping the commandments of God— is to love one another as Christ has loved us.

Those famous words of St. Paul that are often used at weddings remind us of what Christly love looks like.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts,

always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, The Message)

And so, in a marriage, as with any relationship of love, we are to abide, to (as they said in England during World War II) “Keep calm, and carry on.” Those are words particularly suitable for the East Coast as Hurricane Irene does her damage, but as a friend of mine said the other day—the hurricane inside his head can do a world of damage independent of an earthquake or a hurricane. That’s because we bring ourselves to the relationship.

David Whyte is a poet who has written an interesting book (The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship) that tries to help us bring ourselves into relationships. He suggests that the old idea of “balancing” work and marriage, of “balancing” friendships outside the primary relationship with the marriage, and of “balancing” personal time with couple time—is a lost cause. The idea of achieving balance is a myth. It just sets us up for failure.

Instead, Whyte suggests that we think in terms of a “marriage of marriages.” In other words, our lives are composed of three marriages—the marriage we might have with another person (whether real or hoped for), the marriage we have with our work or vocation, and the final, often neglected marriage—the marriage we have with ourselves. Each one is non-negotiable, Whyte argues. Each one deserves attention. Each one deserves notice and nurture, and so a marriage of marriages means that there is conversation, openness, argument sometimes, and lots of give and take.

Alistair and Daniel, you both already know a lot about this—you have already built a marriage and marriages, but notice the people in this room and those who would like to be in this room. We’re all ready to cheer you on. We’re offering our best wisdom, our best humor, and our deepest prayers for your continued marriage. May it be a marriage of marriages, offering love overflowing for all you encounter.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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