**uploading some older sermons as I sort through files. This one in particular was a joy to write and I was blessed by the opportunity to share this day with my dear friends.**
Friends, we are gathered here today to celebrate an institution.
Now, that may seem like a boring and cold thing to say… but I assure you, nothing about today will be boring or cold =)
Institutions form societies. They mold us as individuals. They enhance our ability to be fully developed human beings. Institutions carry within them the values we hold most dear… the values that we want to pass on to the generations that follow us.
The institution of the family brought this man and this woman… in fact, all of us men and women… into the world. Each of you who have played the role of a parent or grandparent or a sister or brother to these two, have helped to make Ben and Kayla who they are today.
The religious institutions in their lives formed in them a deep sense of justice and love. Their wrestling with faith enabled them to ask questions about what it means to be faithful, about who their neighbor was, and about what it means to be a child of God.
Without the educational institution – well… Ben and Kayla never would have met. Some of us gathered here today witnessed the beginning of their journey together at Simpson College. They discovered their common values, they laughed and love together, and each step since that first one has brought all of us here.
Today, we witness them enter into the institution of marriage.
On the back of your programs, there is an excerpt from an important court decision in the state of Massachusetts.
Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support.
Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.
It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a “civil right.” Without the right to choose to marry one is excluded from the full range of human experience.
In beautiful and poetic words, the court reminds us that this institution of marriage is a public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family… it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity. These values – these ideals – are what bring us together today.
Any of us who know you – Ben and Kayla – know that your love has been a mighty and blazing flame for many years now. We know that your love needs no ornament or stamp of approval from any religious or governmental body in order to be real. We know of your commitment to one another, of your mutual respect, of your willingness to allow your partner to be who they are and yet love them anyways. We know that your love cannot be bought – that it is genuine and true – honest and holy. In fact, had we not gathered here today… and perhaps some of you thought we never would =) … Kayla and Ben would still be two individuals bound together by commitment and nurtured by love and mutual support.
But we do gather and we do celebrate, because a deeply personal commitment is not all that is important to them. Ben and Kayla believe that making these promises in public benefits the community. They believe that marriage brings stability to society. They believe that the honest, simple, and holy thing we call love is meant to be shared. By stopping at this place in their journey together and gathering before you, they mark the importance of the relationship that they share. They measure how far they have come and leave a reminder to all that follow of what marriage means to them. Here in Iowa, we don’t necessarily gather cairn stones to mark these moments… but we do like to put up billboards along the side of the road.
So, looking back years from now, we might remember that this billboard, from this moment, says: With God as my helper, I choose to live my life with this imperfect, flawed and terribly wonderful soul. I choose to take on the obligations and the joys of a shared existence. I believe that the ability to make this choice and to be faithful to it, is one of the highest and most esteemed values of our society.
The promises Ben and Kayla make today – and their living out of those promises – are themselves a witness of the importance of this institution and the joy they seek by entering it.
They believe that the benefits and obligations of this beautiful institution should be available to all that choose them…
Being married today in Iowa – they not only are publicly celebrating their love and the ideals of mutuality and fidelity and connection… they also celebrate the ideals of equality and justice.
So let us join them in their journey together and mark this moment with celebration…
Let us celebrate that we have the ability to bind ourselves together with the partner we choose.
Let us celebrate that many waters cannot quench the love two people have for one another.
Let us celebrate this beautiful institution of marriage and all of the good that it stands for. Amen and Amen.