BEACH WEDDING & THE PURVIEW OF GOD
On July 31, 2014, I was privileged to officiate at the wedding of Margaret Parris and Lynn Parris-Boren, on the beach, in San Diego, with the backing of the California legislature and the Supreme Court of the United States. Thanks be to God.
Psalm 33, selections
Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous.
Praise befits the upright.
For the word of the LORD is upright,
and all God’s work is done in faithfulness.
The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of God’s mouth.
The Lord gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle;
she put the deeps [of the ocean] in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of her.
For she spoke, and it came to be;
she commanded, and it stood firm.
The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
she frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the thoughts of her heart to all generations.
The LORD looks down from heaven;
she sees all humankind.
From where she sits enthroned she watches
all the inhabitants of the earth—
she who fashions the hearts of them all,
and observes all their deeds.
Truly the eye of the LORD is on those who fear her,
on those who hope in her steadfast love,
Our soul waits for the LORD;
God is our help and shield.
Our heart is glad in her,
because we trust in her holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.
Tradition has asked us to imagine that David, king of ancient Israel, was the author of all the Psalms, the poem-prayers in the Bible that have been sung through the ages by the people of God. But it’s unlikely that David should get all the credit, for scholarly reasons I won’t go into on a beautiful summer day, and so we have license to imagine who might have held the pen and scribbled these words, the yearnings of the heart laid bare before God.
And so I invite you to imagine that she is someone ordinary, not royalty but regular folk, and because she is a she, she has very little control over her life and what comes next. Perhaps she has been told by her father that she has been traded into marriage in exchange for livestock. Perhaps she has been told by her husband that she has no say in his decision to move the family to another home in a distant place. Perhaps she has been told by her government that as a widow she cannot inherit her husband’s land, that her livelihood will be at the mercy of her sons from now on, if she’s lucky enough to have sons. Perhaps she has been told by her religion that she needs the intervention of a man to bring her petitions to her Creator. Perhaps her whole life has been circumscribed by the limitations set by those in authority over her. Perhaps she is tired of that, and wants to talk directly to God about it.
So she goes to the seashore, maybe the marshy banks of the Sea of Galilee, maybe the sparkling sands of the Mediterranean. She finds a place to sit and be quiet with her spirit, letting God’s own Spirit carry her to a place of remembrance and hope. She remembers that God’s favorite ideas are justice and love, that everything God does is done in justice and in love, as it has ever been and ever shall be. She remembers that the whole wide world is filled with the steadfast love of God; the whole wide world is made of love, because God has made the whole world; God has separated the land from the water, God has bottled the seas and stored up the ocean deeps; God holds it all, and God holds her, in God’s powerful, gentle hands.
And so our poet, with the sound of waves crashing in her ears, comes to the inevitable conclusion: that if God made it all, if God spoke into existence everything that is, then God is in charge, not the human powers that limit her choices and make her feel small. Our seaside poet-prayer says, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; she frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of her heart to all generations.” In other words, it is God alone who can define for us what is true and good and right and beautiful. It is God alone who looks down from heaven, seeing all humankind, fashioning their hearts, observing their deeds. And so it will not be for anyone else to set the terms of justice and love. These are God’s purview, God’s alone. To try and hold back the power of God in these matters – well, you might as well try to hold back the tides of the ocean. Push as hard as you like, for as long as you can. You cannot stop the justice and love of our God.
So says the psalmist, our seashore poet. And so say we all. Margaret and Lynn, plenty of people and plenty of systems have told you what you can and cannot do, who you can and cannot be, whom you can and cannot love. Plenty of times the so-called justice system of our own nation has told you no. Your own kin and your own country have denied the possibility of your relationship. But that denial is as ridiculous as trying to stop the waves rolling onto the sand. If all the citizens of all the states gathered on this coastline and tried to push it back, we could not prevent even one drop of the ocean from making its way to these shores. And in the same way, there is no humanly possible way to stop the love that has grown in your hearts for each other. Because this is God’s world, and God has infused this world with justice and love, God’s favorite ideas. And you are God’s daughters, and God has filled you with God’s own Spirit, the Spirit of justice and love.
And on this day, you will have them both in spades. You will have justice because the tide is turning and no one can stop it now. One state at a time, one court decision at a time, God is bringing the counsel of the nations to nothing and frustrating the plans of the peoples. Thanks be to God! You will have justice!
And you will have love because the Spirit of God has breathed on you both and granted you the best gift in this life: a partner to stand with at the ocean’s edge, remembering God’s steadfast love, hoping in God’s unending justice, believing that God has always meant for you to be the people you are, and the people you are becoming together.
All of us gathered here with you this afternoon are well aware that you’ve been loving each other for a long time, in spite of all the “no’s.” And we don't pretend, even on this day of days, that it’s always in that mushy-gushy romantic way that you have loved each other, though there is plenty of that for this afternoon. Sometimes you love each other in that “grit-your-teeth-and-keep-those-promises-dammit” kind of way. Sometimes you love each other in the “I-hate-you-so-much-right-now” kind of way. Sometimes you love each other in the “don’t-you-know-you’re-breaking-my-heart?” kind of way. Sometimes you love each other in that tender, gentle, “I-forgive-you-and-you-forgive-me” kind of way. Sometimes you love each other in the “after-all-these-years-you’re-still-the-most-amazing-person-I’ve-ever-met” kind of way. These are all necessary flavors of love if what you want is a lifetime commitment. If what you want is to be part of God’s unending justice, and unending love.
And we know that’s what you want. I know because of all the excited emails and texts and phone calls, all the remembrances of your first wedding ceremony, 15 years ago this very hour, all the ways that you have drawn on the promises you made then to get to where you are now. You recited the words of faithful Ruth to her elder Naomi, as she pledged to leave her own home and people and make a new home with Naomi’s people and Naomi’s God. You invited the congregation to join your promises and help you stay married, and they did. You made a home together, and a family, with four-legged children and lots and lots of two-legged beloveds who have enjoyed your hospitality and the openness of your hearts toward all of us. With God’s help you have done all that, and we’re gathered this afternoon to help you say “Yes, please, let’s keep it up, this time with the powers-that-be on our side for a change.” And so we are blessed, our whole little circle here, and many more who are here in spirit, to witness the renewal of your vows and the first day of the rest of your lives spent together.
Lynn and Margaret, before God and in the presence of these friends, you have made your solemn vows to each other. You have confirmed your promises by the giving and receiving of rings. Therefore, by the power vested in me as a minister of the gospel, and, for the first time ever, by the power vested in me by the State of California and by the Supreme Court of the United States of America, I now pronounce you (legally!) married.
You may now enjoy true love’s kiss.
Those whom God has joined together, let no one separate!
I give you Lynn Boren-Parris and Margaret Parris!