Re-working a wedding homily
I had the privilege of being the officiant at a wedding last month. It was not just any wedding, but a wedding that included a young man I have known since he was a baby. He was the first baby I baptized in the new church I was fortunate to lead for many years. The wedding that weekend included family and friends of the bride and groom. I experienced the joy of connecting with people I have known for a long time and love deeply. But I also had the opportunity to meet and share my life with people I was meeting for the first time.
The wedding was attended by a wide variety of people. They were from different backgrounds and age groups. There were people who identified with the Christian faith, along with people who identified with other faith traditions or no particular religious experience. After many conversations during the rehearsal dinner, I realized very quickly that the wedding homily I prepared did not fit the context and was not going to work. I basically worked on a homily like other wedding homilies, but with specific stories related to the groom and bride.
I spent most of the morning of the wedding day working on a new homily. What I discovered after the ceremony was that the words of the fresh, contextual homily touched a wide variety of people that late afternoon. So, I asked myself two questions: What was so special? What was the connection?
I shared words about the mystery of love and the ways in which our lives are connected to the people and Creation around us. I went on to share my belief that there is a force amid the mystery of love and within the connections that bring life and goodness to our lives. I shared that this force is God. I also shared that I have not always had the best relationship with God. There have been times in which I have cried out to God, “How long!” And there have been times when God’s presence seemed faint and aloof.
I shared from my own experience about how Jesus helps me understand and experience God’s love. Even though the church has done a lot to damage this image of God, Jesus is the one who leads us all along paths of healing, continually leading us into the basic needs of life. These human needs include the following: knowing that we are loved, experiencing that our lives matter and understanding deeply that we belong. It is that simple: We are loved, we matter and we belong. As I shared with the couple that afternoon that their life together would engage paths of healing that will enable the people they encounter to know they are loved, that their lives matter and that they belong, I reminded those gathered that this is the call of the church. We bear witness, and we live and serve in ways that open people to the love of God for them, that they do matter and that they belong.
I believe that as we are on this path, the lord will continue to add to our number daily those who are being saved (Acts 2:47). Later that night, I had a young man text me these words, “Where can I find a church like that?” Where would you send him? Why?
Ray G Jones III
Theology, Formation & Evangelism