Let Your Light Shine Together
A Wedding Sermon
The Marriage of Elizabeth Coyne and Christopher Honig
From Naperville to Valparaiso and Glen Ellyn to Valparaiso via Bloomington, Chicago to Pretoria, South Africa, and West Point, Nebraska, Ann Arbor, Hyde Park, Chicago.
The two of you have certainly kept the Post Office busy trying to stay current with your forwarding addresses. For the past few years, this has been your story, Liz and Chris — many places and many people and many experiences. All of them have led to this beautiful moment in your story. Here you are in this place, this holy ground, with your family and friends, before the signs and symbols of your faith — a pulpit with a book, a baptismal font, a table, and an assembly of family and friends.
Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say rejoice. That’s part of what we’re here for, to celebrate with maximum joy your love, but more so, to celebrate the promises God has made to you and the promises you will make to each other. That’s a shorthand way of saying that we are here today to celebrate your intention, Liz and Chris, to bind yourselves to one another in covenant promises, to give God thanks for the blessing that God brings to those promises, and to talk about how your marriage becomes a fundamental part of how you live out your baptismal identity in the world.
The lesson you chose from Jeremiah is one of those classic biblical passages about covenant. I’m a little leery about saying anything about “covenant” in the presence of a future lawyer, but I’m going to anyway. We don’t use that word much in popular culture, and when we do it’s in the sense of a legally binding agreement, as in a homeowner’s covenant that you can’t paint your house hot pink, or that if I pay you rent, you will take care of my leaky faucet.
In the biblical sense a covenant is so much more — it’s a binding promise that flows from the strength and grace of relationship. Covenant gets right at the heart of who God is and how God deals with us. In spite of our brokenness, God has bound God’s self to us in love. God has promised to make God’s self known to us. You will all know me, from the least to the greatest — That’s exactly what God has done in Jesus. God has promised to each of you — to all of us — faithfulness and love and forgiveness that will last your whole life and carry you through death to whatever life God has in store.
And because we know God’s faithfulness, we can pledge our faithfulness to one another. In popular culture weddings and marriage are all about love. I don’t want to deny the importance of love. But today is much more about promise and fidelity and community. It takes very little to fall in love and be intimate. It’s a much more weighty matter to make a pledge of faithfulness and to bind our lives to each other. You can do that, Liz and Chris, because you have known the faithfulness of God. You can do that because your lives are lived under the grace and commitment of God’s crucified love. We love because God first loved us. So, freely, you give yourselves to each other. Freely, you promise faithfulness and love. Freely you promise to share your lives with each other in good and bad, sorrow and celebration, when there is much and when there is little. And God promises to be in the covenant and bless you.
The other lesson you have chosen gives us one more important thing to talk about. You are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before men and women that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven. Those words take your love for each other and thrust it out into a world that for the two of you has become small. When I was your age, I was the kid coming out of the small town in Nebraska and I thought it was awesome that I got to fly to Minneapolis once. The world was so big. But for the two of you and many of your friends, the world has become small. You have traveled, you have worked and studied around the world. You have met and worked with people from from across the globe. And you have seen brokenness not only in your own neighborhoods but in places that are so different, but where people are fundamentally the same. You have witnessed first-hand a world in need of healing.
Two of the hymns that we yet will sing both speak of moving from the church into the world, from this sanctuary to Ann Arbor and then back to Chicago, from this sacred music to the cries of suffering and injustice. In fact, the hymn we will sing in just a moment specifically reminds us that since God has entered your story, your story now goes out into the world. You will take God’s love, your gifts, and your talents, and you will hurl them against darkness and evil. Your task from here on is to cast your light over those places where you live and work, to permeate every place you go with what Jesus called “your good works.” See, you don’t get to stay in this sanctuary very long. And neither do you get to stay in the classrooms of the University of Michigan Law School or the Lutheran School of Theology for very much longer. Before long you will go into a world where the music will not be the grand hymns of the sanctuary but will be the screams of families when children are killed on the sidewalks of the city and the the cries of the hungry and the laments of those denied opportunity and the mourning of the prisoner and the weeping of those for whom life is a great burden. For God’s sake and for the sake of the world, talented and gifted people like you have to turn outward. You must insist that your light not be hidden beneath a bushel; you must demand that the light of Christ shining through you shines brilliantly on our social, economic, ecclesiastical and political life. And when that happens, you will be part of realizing Christ’s own vision for the world in which truth and equality and justice and peace and abundance for all are the way of the world.
Today, Liz and Chris, I suspect that you more than anyone here realize how graced and gifted you are, how many gifts God has given you, how your parents have loved and shaped you, how your larger family and circle of close friends have enriched your lives, along with the hundreds of people remembered or forgotten who have brought you to this day. And you know without my telling you that these gifts, both divine and human, are most richly used when they are shared. We have the highest hopes for your future; we don’t know where you will be summoned to live and love and work. But we do know that that wherever God calls you, the deep love that you already share with each other will increase and multiply as you turn that love also to others.
This is your story, a story that neither begins nor ends today. Instead a story that comes to a momentary climax before continuing in the world. In a moment, you will make promises. And then you will come to the table together for a meal that unites you and all of us in Christ. Both your promises and that meal of grace make real in this moment the mission that you received in your baptism. A long time ago, you were commissioned by water and the Spirit to let the light of Christ within you shed its redeeming light over others. Today, in a moment of deep celebration and fuller awareness, you resolve to let your light shine together.