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Jeff and Eric’s wedding sermon; 9/18/04

Jeff and Eric's wedding, 09/18/04

Jeff and Eric contemplate love, their future together, and the color of water, surrounded by friends and family in Minneapolis on Sept. 18, 2004.

Jeff and I recently celebrated the 8th anniversary of our commitment ceremony — let’s just say it: our 8th wedding anniversary — on Sept. 18. Sandwiched this year as it was between the unions of four dear friends, Mark Galante and Erik Sisco (Sept. 15), and Brian Dillard and Charlie Smith (Sept. 23, also my birthday), the anniversary was made even more special. September is getting to be quite a month!
It seems appropriate to revisit the sermon Jeff’s dear high school friend Mark Havel wrote for the occasion, on that bright and cloudless September afternoon, in Deming Heights Park, on the tallest hill in Minneapolis, the City of Lakes.

Sept. 18, 2004, is with me every day, and this sermon still makes me cry.

When Jeff and I began planning things for today—most of which happened over the telephone and by e-mail—he joked that somehow water was becoming a recurring theme for the occasion. The “flowing water of life” we just heard about in the poem by Rumi, and the “Wood Song” and “Water is Wide,” which we’ll hear in a moment, carry the theme pretty clearly. Jeff seemed to think it an appropriate motif to latch onto somehow, being in the land of 10,000 lakes and all. (Now I’m wondering if it had something to do with the shower at The Saloon …) I’m not going there, but I did decide to run with it, anyway.

And, the first thing that popped into my mind was the title of a book by James McBride called The Color of Water. It’s a book about a biracial boy growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, in New York and Delaware. He was raised by his eccentric, white, Jewish mother who converted to Christianity when she married his African-American, Christian father. Because of the time in and circumstances under which they lived, you can imagine that race and religion were very much a part of his coming of age and self-understanding.

And as he came of age, as he struggled with his identity, as he wondered about how and where he fit into the world around him, the boy asked his mother one day about what God’s spirit looked like. For me and for all the theology I’ve studied, his mother’s answer was as strange and as simple as it was profound. She said simply, “God’s spirit doesn’t have a color. God is the color of water.”

The color of water!

Like I said, the answer is strange, simple and profound. It’s a good answer for who or what God might look like, if you ask me. And in my business, we talk about God as love—nothing more and nothing less—indescribable, abundant, undeserved love—which is a great way to explain what you intend to share and commit to today.

Love, something like water—that quenches thirst, that washes clean, that grows and gives life.

Love, something like water—that cools tempers and warms hearts; that calms fears and stirs passions; that can carry you away if you’ll let it.

Love like water—that can be rough but that settles in time; that can’t be contained but that can be shared; that can be worthy of caution and taken slowly, or that can tempt you to take a daring first plunge, like you’re doing here this afternoon.

Love and water: Necessary. Mysterious. Still. Refreshing. Gentle. Deep.

You know as well as I do, that the world does crazy and selfish things with God and with love. There are those who try, with definitions and rules and religions, to build walls and to create barriers. There are those who see with limited vision and small minds and who paint pictures of God and love that only they can fit into their pre-conceived notions or bear to look at or take out in public. There are those who, with all kinds of power and might, work really hard to make God small and love limited.

Which is why your decision for commitment to each other is holy, in my opinion. It’s a sacred thing to choose another. And I respect the boldness with which you’ve let this love come to you—without boundaries, beyond conventional definition, through patience, with courage and some measure of faith.

Jeff, I remember sometime after you came out to your mother that you were pleasantly surprised by her reaction to the news of how you would love. I hope you don’t mind me remembering out loud, but I remember her response, too, was simple and profound. When she heard your news, she said that until that revelation, knowing you and raising you and watching you grow was like reading a book but never being able to get to the last chapter. Simple and profound, right?

We know that this is by no means the final chapter of anything for you. But it is the beginning of the chance for both of you to love differently. And I hope it continues to find you—this love, something like water—in ways that you feel it today: washing over you to sustain you; moving back and forth between you, drawing you together; and filling you up to overflowing so that you can’t help but see it in and offer it to each other and to the world where you live.

Amen

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