by Gail Greenwell
We have waited a long time for this day to arrive, haven’t we? For some of us we’ve waited as long as we’ve known Doug and Kirk as a couple. For some of us, the waiting began long before we even knew them, long before they were even born. For all of us, this day is a dream come true!
It is a dream come true because we have watched their love for one another grow and blossom into something that is clearly holy and life giving. It is a dream come true because we longed for a public declaration of their intention to live together with love and fidelity.
This is a day of dreams fulfilled, because there were times when we doubted … yes, we doubted …. that this day might ever arrive.
We wondered, we whispered to one another, “Will this wonderful couple, our good friends, our own sons, these faithful disciples of Christ, will the day ever arrive when they can stand before us in this sanctuary, in the church home for their entire lives, and publicly declare their intention to hold and to cherish each other for as long as they both shall live?” We had that dream.
We dreamed that this church, which sheltered their sorrow when fathers died before their time, might one day bear witness to the vows they make here today. We dreamed that this church, which nurtured their spiritual awakening from the time they were small boys, might have this opportunity to help them keep their promises fresh and alive. We dreamed that we would have the chance to pray God’s blessing upon them, and to know that entwined with our prayers for them, were prayers for ourselves and the health of our own relationships. We had a dream that this church, which witnessed Doug and Kirk’s dedicated service to all God’s people, to the poor and the outcasts, might one day embrace them in the same way they have embraced others. We had a dream for them.
Yet, on some level this day is a dream come true for those of us who love the church itself. Today we are finally able to say that the church will rise up and live out the true meaning of her creed … as Dr. King might have said. The true meaning of her creed … that all who enter here are God’s beloved. The church’s creed that says that all who are worthy enough to be baptized and marked as Christ’s own forever, are also therefore, worthy of to seek every sacrament of the church.
Our dream could not come true so long as we said “the Episcopal Church Welcomes You”, and there was a small asterisk after “You”.
Or when our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters recited the words of our Baptismal Creed – words such as “strive for justice and peace among all people” and “respect the dignity of every human being” – when we knew, knew in our heart of hearts that ‘all’ didn’t mean all.
Today is a dream – and so I am happy to join with you today, as we become an incarnate sign of God’s redemptive love.
At the core of the Christian faith is a simple and profound assertion: God loves you just as you are. In the Gospel the first and last word is grace. Grace means you don’t have to become or do something before God loves you. That unconditional love is not marginal to our faith, it is central to all we believe. God’s enormous capacity to love is central to the reason we are gathered here today.
Doug, Kirk, my beloved friends, may I just say now, with a certain presumption on my part, I apologize on the church’s behalf that we have come so late to the party. We confess our blindness and hardness of heart.
You have been the better angels of our nature. You have been enormously patient, full of humility and compassion for how long it has taken. You have chosen to clothe yourselves in love, which as the Apostle Paul wrote, “binds all things together in perfect harmony”. Your forbearance for those who could not yet see God in your relationship has been nothing short of miraculous.
Jesus counseled us to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who abuse us. And you took his Beatitudes to heart and in so doing; you became the incarnate face of the “issue”. You have helped hearts and minds to change. You did not merely bear with us, you chose to demonstrate the unconditional love and fidelity God has for us. You lived it, showing us day by day, year by year, that what marks us as a true church is not that we agree on all things. But rather, we are faith community because of the times when we are profoundly at odds, deeply challenged, and then, we choose to forgive and love as God loves us.
Doug and Kirk – thank you for giving us a reason to celebrate all of that today. I believe your relationship, like all covenant relationships, has a Divine purpose. What might that purpose be? Well, on some level it is a mystery! It is as mysterious as how one who loves pastel gingham shirts, and singing Broadway show tunes at the top of his voice, falls in love with a boy who prefers Benedictine spirituality and solitude. Yet, anyone of who knows them, know this love works! It has for 22 years and it will endure.
Like any long and enduring relationship, they are better than the sum of their parts. They have supported and held on to each other through times of want and plenty. Kirk said, “My life with Doug in many ways embodies my life with God – when I am separated from Doug I feel less whole, less connected, less ME! When we are connected, I am one with myself and with God”.
Tenderness, care and deep respect, are the first and last breath for them. Their Divine purpose is this: the same Spirit that strengthens them to be a blessing to one another has allowed them to strengthen and bless the relationships of those who know them. They are blessed to be a blessing! And, as a godly side-benefit, their relationship is blessing and strengthening the church for its mission and ministry.
Doug and Kirk:
That is what any godly, covenant relationship should do – draw all of us who are blessed enough to know you, into a deeper place of love and purpose. We, who are fortunate enough to be here today, owe this couple our gratitude. Thank you for loving us enough to make this day a day of dreams come true.
So I want to end as we began, with the words of the Hymn that brought us into the church, “All Are Welcome”, chosen by this couple not only as a theme for their special day, but as our mission as a church. In the last verse we sang:
Let us build a house where all are named, their songs and visions heard, and loved and treasured, taught and claimed as words within The Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter, prayers of faith and songs of grace, let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:
all are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place. *
I pray that God will help us make it so!
* All Are Welcome, copyright 1994, Marty Haugen, GIA
The Rev. Gail Greenwell is Rector of St. Michael and All Angels and currently one of 5 candidates for Bishop of SW Virginia.
This sermon was preached on January 19, 2013 at St. Michael and All Angels Church in the City of Mission in the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas. This service was the first blessing service in Kansas for a same sex couple since the 77th General Convention approved provisional rites in July 2012. The couple are both life-long members of the parish. The Bishop of Kansas, The Rt. Rev. Dean E. Wolfe also presided.