A homily for the wedding of David Furnish and Elton John
So here's the rough draft of my sermon for class on Friday. I'd appreciate any comments or suggestions. Also, if anyone has a copy of the latest Harry Potter, could you transcribe the passage I'm refering to from the last chapter? I know it happens, but I can't find the book to get it exactly right. Well, without further ado,
Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised through the same faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no mean! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:27-31)
Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together, today. In spite of our gathered-togetherness, however, outside this building, and outside our circles of support, marriages exactly like this one are the subject of deep division. Elton, David, you have blessed us with a model of a loving, holy union between two men to hold up to the world as an example. There are those who believe that we, here today, are challenging the foundations that support the institution of marriage. No, I say to this, we are here to strengthen those foundations. I don’t think I need to remind you two that there is a great amount of responsibility placed on the married. I also don’t think I need to remind you that there is an upside, a resource that empowers us as we shoulder this responsibility. Forget not that you two have been blessed with a gift that allows the light of the greatest gift of all to shine down on you.
I’m not standing here to tell you that your marriage will be easy. It’s probably for the better to banish this thought from your minds right now. “Marriage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries,” Wayne Campbell tells us in the film “Wayne’s World.” That’s probably not factually true, but Wayne does hint at the difficulties that any married couple faces. There is a vulnerability that comes with love that leaves us open to the most painful wounds. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury points out that in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Malvolio, the cold and rigid steward to the countess, is opened up and warmed by the idea that he is loved. When he is then ridiculed and humiliated, the joy that is inherent in love is, perversely, testified to by the pain felt when it is misused.
David and Elton, I’m pretty sure that neither of you will ever knowingly use the love of the other as a weapon to hurt him, but there is something I want to say about love and how not to use it. Like the rest of us, you two aren’t perfect. I don’t know you well enough to be able to identifying the annoying little traits that you without doubt each have. Trust me, if you don’t already, you will come to know each other’s quite well. Archbishop Williams says that love in spite of these foibles, and the promise of forgiveness for each other’s errors is gift that you are giving to each other today. When this is forgotten, the pain we can cause is great.
However, when this gift is remembered, when this gift is lived, the power and beauty brought into the world is great. It is greatest weapon we have against darkness. In the Christian tradition, marriage is seen as a holy sacrament. This gift, which you give to each other, mirrors the ultimate gift, the ultimate power, given to us by God. In the latest Harry Potter book, On the darkest day that Harry has ever faced, when the powers of evil seem as strong as they ever have and victory appears impossible, he makes plans to attend the wedding of Ron’s older brother, Bill and Fleur Delacour. The power of hope, the ability to imagine a future different than the one we’re afraid is going to happen, is given to Harry by a public act of love.
Some of you may wonder why we read such an odd passage from St. Paul today. What’s all this talk about circumcision and the lack thereof and a tension between faith and the law? Isn’t this the same book that says that the type of love we are celebrating is a perversion, a punishment for our inherent Godlessness? There are people who take Paul’s other words and claim them as God’s law. They use them as weapons to defeat people like us. In the passage we read, though, as Archbishop Williams, again, points out, Paul argues that the words of even the holiest of men are a weak law in comparison to the law that we receive through faith in a loving God. “Do we overthrow the law by this faith?” Paul asks? “No. We uphold the law.” We strengthen its foundations.
Our presence today at this wedding is our way of bearing witness to this great law, that we love unconditionally and the assurance that each one of us is blessed with the ability to do so and the gift of love from God, despite the demeaning definitions that others may try to force on us. We proclaim that God shows his love for the world through each one of us. The fact that Elton and David have chosen to share their love with us today shows that marriage is, in some form, a public statement. Mark Jordan imagines a day when the Pope and a number of important Vatican officials wake up and are inspired by God to believe that the church’s stand on homosexuality is wrong. They can do little to correct the problem with a mere rewriting of the law, Jordan tells us. In order to think about moral truths, we must abandon legalistic arguments over abstract laws. We must instead focus on actual examples of grace in the actual lives of people. The only way that the Church, and society as a whole can welcome the vast diversity of ways God’s love can be felt, as they are ordained to do, is by publicly celebrating the instances of this love as they are brought into this world. Elton, David, the vows you make today are promises to bear the responsibility of carrying this love into the world, in spite of the difficulties that you will surely face. You have also each received and been given the greatest gift possible, the gift of love. May your days together be blessed as long as you both shall live.