Saturday, May 31, 2008

Digrado-Michelle Wedding

Marriage of John Digrado and Lindsey Michelle
Song of Solomon 2:10-13; 8:6-7; Colossians 3:12-17
Saturday, May 31, 2008 – St. Alban’s, Westwood

When John and Lindsey first came to me to discuss getting married, I did what I always do with a couple. We just sat and talked and got to know each other a little. Developing relationship is incredibly important to the whole process of pre-marital counseling. Based on the initial conversation with a couple, I get an idea, an image, of who each person is individually, and who they are as a couple. I get an idea of what their marriage may be like and of what they may have to face and work on as they embark on this most sacred of unions.

I have to admit – after John and Lindsey left my office following that initial meeting, I had this overwhelming feeling that I was not going to be participating in a wedding as much as I was going to be facilitating a merger. Now, all of you who know and love John and Lindsey know that John graduated several years ago with his MBA from USC, and has put his education to good use working on the business end of the movie industry. And similarly, Lindsey just graduated a couple of weeks ago with her MBA. Put two MBAs together and you can’t help but talk merger, right?

But it wasn’t so much that both the bride and the groom have MBAs that made me think of the merger analogy. It was more the way Lindsey and John interacted – with each other and with me – that brought the analogy to mind. And throughout the premarital counseling, this analogy was continually reinforced. In the course of pre-marital counseling and preparation for marriage and the wedding ceremony, the priest and the couple discuss virtually every topic under the sun. We look at issues, perspectives, and perceptions surrounding such varied topics as finances; child-rearing; communications; conflict resolution; use of leisure time; division of labor within the household; family history; time spent individually, as a couple, and with family and friends; and much more. Throughout all of our conversations and discussions, Lindsey and John approached each topic systematically, carefully analyzing every aspect of their individual responses, determining how these individual responses fit together, and then examining the ramifications of the resulting collective responses. I half expected one of them to pull out a spreadsheet to analyze and track the results of the work they were doing on examining and shaping the course of their relationship. For all I know, when the left my office, they went home, sat down at the computer, and did just that.

It may not sound very romantic to some, but as a man with a planning and engineering background, the process was beautiful to watch. And don’t think it was a cold, calculated process. Beneath the analytical, there was obviously a deep, abiding love and passion that was truly driving the relationship. Unlike many business mergers which are motivated by pure profit or other economic or commercial considerations, this merger was motivated by a heartfelt commitment that cannot be analyzed or measured.

And while John and Lindsey are the principle partners in this merger, it is obvious to me that there is also a silent partner who is at work behind the scenes, in the form of God and the Church. This is a silent partner that forms a foundation on which this merger, this marriage, is supported. It is, therefore, appropriate that we turn to Holy Scripture for insight as John and Lindsey embark on their marriage. Today’s Scripture readings speak of the important qualities required for marriage, particularly for Christian marriage.

The Old Testament reading from the Song of Solomon speaks of the romantic aspects, of the passion and the desire that is embodied in a loving relationship between man and woman – of the passion, desire and love that bring a man and a woman together, that have brought John and Lindsey together in the bonds of marriage. Such passion and desire are necessary for love to blossom and grow, and are necessary for marriage to occur. And passion and desire are necessary for a marriage to last. (Give her the latest project management software for Valentine’s Day, and she’s your’s for life. That, and the chocolate.) Those marriages that do last are filled with romance, with passion and desire that enrichen the relationship, and make it always fresh and always new. But the romantic alone does not a marriage make – at least not a marriage that will last.

Today’s New Testament reading from Colossians speaks of the other part that is needed for a long-lasting marriage. This passage is part of a longer section in which Paul exhorts the Christian community at Colossae to holiness of life, specifically in terms of what it means to be a community of believers and how to live into that life – a life in union with Christ that is not static but which is seen in terms of growth leading to perfection or spiritual maturity. These words outline the virtues that promote harmony and unity in relationship. While written to a community 2,000 years ago, this passage provides words of wisdom as to how to live into a life in the bonds of holy matrimony. These words provide insight into what a man and a woman need to do in order to live together as one.

First off, Paul exhorts them to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” These are all important virtues to be exercised in any relationship, but particularly so in one as close as that of husband and wife. In compassion and kindness, one partner has sympathy for the situation and circumstances faced by the other. In addition, each partner takes as their focus the consideration of the needs and interests of the other. In humility, one partner considers his or her spouse as better than himself or herself. In meekness, one partner is willing to cede his or her rights to those of the other, rather than being concerned with personal gain – again, the needs and interests of the other partner are made top priority. And in patience, one partner is willing and able to make allowances, not excuses, but allowances, for any shortcomings of the other, and is thereby able to tolerate the ways in which those shortcomings may be manifest.

Paul goes on to exhort them to “bear with one another,” further lifting up the virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. In addition, he is pointing out the realistic nature of relationship – that it is inevitable that there will be complaints and conflicts. And when one partner is not able to live up to these virtues and falls short, or is the subject of a complaint or the instigator of a conflict – and this will happen from time to time – Paul urges that they “forgive each other.” And the example to be followed is that of our Lord – “just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

“Above all,” Paul then writes, “clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” It is your love for one another that has brought you to this point in time. It is your love for one another that will bind you together in the many times of joy that you will share. And it is your love for one another that will give you the strength and the courage you need to work through any challenges you may face. It is that love that will guide you and enable the perfect harmony that you are called to. That will not always mean perfect agreement. But it will mean a sense of wholeness. Through your love for one another, with that love as your guiding principle, you will be able to establish a harmony in your relationship that will make you whole as a couple.

And finally, Paul provides the means by which you may accomplish that sense of wholeness that you seek in your partnership. It is something that you have already found through your shared faith in God and in Christ. Paul admonishes, “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . [to] let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Your love for one another is what binds you together, but it is the example of God’s perfect love made manifest through the gift of his son, Jesus Christ, that makes your love possible, that strengthens your love, and helps you to become whole. You have already experienced that in the journey that brought you together and in the journey that has brought you to this glorious day. Every day, give thanks to God for the gift of love and for the gift of each other. In your joy together, remember that God has made this possible and rejoice in what has been provided to you. And when you experience challenges, pray to God for strength and guidance, and that through those experiences, your love may be strengthened.

John and Lindsey, keep these words always in your hearts and your minds, for they will provide you with what you need as you embark on this journey called marriage. They will serve you well in both times of joy and in times of challenge. If you let them, and with God’s help, they will not only guide your relationship, but they will also be the means by which your relationship continues to be strengthened and brought to wholeness. Or in terms you will more likely understand, this enterprise will be extremely profitable, resulting in extraordinary dividends.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 comment:

Lindsey said...

Hi Michael,

I came across this today. We've bought a house and are settling into married life nicely. At my sister-in-law's wedding last week, we still had guests comment on how lovely our service was. Thank you again for being part of our day. This sermon is something we will keep in our hearts always.


Lindsey and John Digrado