A Wedding Sermon for my niece Carrie and her husband Rob


December 29, 2007

It is striking that God (or whatever we who have gathered here this day call the mysterious power behind the universe) designed us human beings in such a way that we find ourselves inexorably attracted romantically not to people that simply mirror ourselves, but rather to our opposite, which, in itself speaks of our need to be completed from beyond ourselves; our need to be drawn out of ourselves towards a greater wholeness.

The particular couple that stands before us expresses well this attraction of opposites. I’ll let you figure out who fills each end of the polarities I now describe:
*One is fair skinned, with blond, straight hair; the other is darker, with jet black, wavy hair.
*One is a WASP, the other full blooded Italian.
*One is petite, the other is, well, not petite.
*One is a bit of an introvert; the other as extroverted as they come.
*One is laid back, inclined to go with the flow; the other most comfortable when every detail has been thoroughly considered.

You complement one another, balance one another; and as such God will grow you through one another. Of course, this quality of being opposites to one another — the very thing that attracted you to one another in the first place, will be not infrequently the source of bewilderment to one another — the cause of a painful friction — but know that over time this pain will simply polish your love.

But we who have gathered here this day to witness the vows you are about to make are confident you will persevere, that over time your love will not wilt upon the vine, but rather grow; that your marriage will be a blessing, not a curse. And part of why we have such confidence is that we know that even as you are in one sense such stark opposites to one another, that there is also in your relationship a deep harmony of your core commitments in life: You share strong devotion to family and to friends, to creativity, and to bringing laughter and beauty into this world. You are traveling in life down the same road.

It can be a terrible thing to discover oneself drawn to one’s opposite, only to have that other traveling in an altogether different direction. But it is not so for you. You have found each other’s soul mates.

It is no small thing to find a soul mate with whom to journey through life. You can describe this as “good luck“, but from the eyes of faith we have another word with which to describe this: “Grace.” (Carrie’s middle name!)
You have been given a gift from invisible, benevolent hands that want only good for you — the very hands of God — the same God who formed you so lovingly in Claire and Kathy’s wombs, giving you the extraordinary gifts that are so magnificently in evidence this weekend.

A question occurs: Why you and not others? Why not the lonely Joes and Janes of this world who have not, as of yet found their soul mates, and may never in this world? Why? I have no idea.

The truest thing to say is that you have been blessed, which is quite different from saying you have been rewarded. And, as the apostle Paul reminds us in the reading we heard, the only truly appropriate response to grace is simple awe and gratitude.

Over the course of this weekend you have recognized the debt you owe to your wonderful families and friends who have so lovingly supported you in countless ways to help you reach this moment, and it was right for you to do so. But these very same families and friends were blessed themselves by extraordinary grace as well, and they were simply passing on what they had received.

I think I speak for your parents and everybody else here today when I say that the best response to the grace you have been given is not to try and pay it back, but rather, in the words of that wonderful movie by the same name, “Pay It Forward.”

Pay it forward.

God loves you and has blessed you in more ways than you can ever name. But God is not an ego maniac; God desires not that you attempt to pay the debt back, but rather than you pay it forward.

God loves this troubled but beautiful world in which we been given life. God made you breathtakingly talented, and together as a couple, you are even more so as a result of the wonderful synchronicity of your gifts.

The world that God loves so needs you. There are many, many people in this world living lives in great depravation: deprived of love, of beauty, and other basic necessities we so easily take for granted. You were drawn together by grace so that together you could be a great blessing unto this world.

How exactly you will live out your calling to pay it forward, God only knows for sure. You have, at this point, only the slightest of clues. But it will be beautiful and wonderful, and with much laughter, though surely some tears.

And through it all, those unseen, loving hands will be there always, helping you along the way.

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