“Stay Close to the Water”: Words at a Nephew’s Wedding

Byron and McKenna

July 2014

A homily (by the proud uncle-priest) given at the marriage of Richard Byron Beddingfield and McKenna Griffin on Saturday, March 7, 2015.

McKenna and Byron, when I think of the two of you, I think of a number of things.  I think of Dr. Who. I think of NC State. I think of books. But more than anything else, when I think of you, I think of water. You met around water. You’ve gotten to know each other best on the water. You were engaged on the water. And perhaps before too long you’ll be doing other important things on or near the water. (#makelittlesailors)

And so, on your wedding day—this day of which I’m enormously privileged to be a part—I want to encourage you to stay close to the water.

Keep playing in the water. Keep going to those places that nurture you, that keep you playful, and that give you energy. We all know that from time to time when we play in the water and splash, sometimes water gets in someone’s eyes. There are tears and there is anger. And there are unintended consequences. When that happens, say you’re sorry, forgive each other and wait for the sun to come out. Wait for the current to change. Wait for the wind to shift.

Keep learning from the water. I have parishioners who sail together in a regatta on Wednesday nights in the summer. Barbara was a sailor who often seemed not to be paying attention, while Joe, the captain of the team, was always looking ahead and thinking ahead. Once, in a race, the wind died completely and all the boats were stopped. Joe threw in the anchor, like the others, so that the current wouldn’t carry them backwards at least. After a while he noticed the breeze pick up and began to take up the anchor, but Barbara said, “No, not yet.” Joe got more impatient, seeing other sailboats begin to benefit from the wind and pass them. But still, Barbara said, “Not yet, Joe.” Finally, after Joe was just about ready to concede the race, knowing that they had no chance, Barbara said, “Now. Let’s try it.” They pulled up the anchor, caught the wind, and between the current and the wind (and maybe a little bit of miracle), the other boats began to falter. Joe and Barbara’s boat coasted by everyone else and they won the race that night. Barbara had learned from the water through the years and was open to learning more.

You two know much better than I that the water teaches you about life and about yourself. And so, continue to learn patience and generosity and trust. Learn daring and adventure and faith.

The mention of faith moves me into the third way I hope you’ll stay close to the water. Keep playing in the water. Keep learning from the water. But also, keep tracing and looking for the water’s source.

There’s a great story in the Bible about Jesus going to a well. A woman is at the well, drawing water, and Jesus asks her for a drink. In this simple story, several amazing things happen—all because of the water. In the water, Jesus sees a more accurate reflection of the woman—though she is a foreigner, though his culture said that men and women didn’t talk to each other in the streets, Jesus saw the woman reflected as a child of God, and so he engaged her as such. Also, I think Jesus looked into that water and saw a more accurate reflection of himself. Until then, he had understood his mission as being only to the Jewish people. But through this experience with water, Jesus began to understand that he’d only just begun to imagine what God had in store for him. The vision was much bigger, much larger, much more inclusive than he (or the religious leaders of his day) had any idea. In the conversation over water at the well, the woman and Jesus are almost flirting with each other, teasing each other. He tells her about the source of the water, God our Creator, from whom comes Living Water, the sort of stuff that keeps us going, no matter what.

Remember that the God of Love gives us water—for fun, for learning, but even more, as a symbol of everlasting life, of the love of God that quenches every thirst and buoys us up from any depth. Byron and McKenna, stay close to the water. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 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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