Saturday, October 29, 2005

A wedding sermon for Sue and Mark

So here we are on a Saturday morning in church, which is not the usual Saturday setting for a lot of us. But we have come here anyway to be with Sue and Mark as they wed together in the holy sacrament of matrimony. We have come together from the usual Saturday morning rites and rituals of breakfast and the papers, of gardening and grocery shopping, of football or cricket practice and other esoteric aerobic activities of various kinds; all those good and necessary things. And today we have put on our special clothes and come to this special place to take part in an action, which is simply extraordinary

For in spite of all the predictions on the future of marriage, any marriage; Mark and Sue are here to be wed together in the face of God and this company, and we’re all very happy about that. Today, we’re all watching you and remembering how good and deep and wonderful love can be. Because you’re taking it with the most serious and realistic expectation there is! To tie a knot to live and die together, to deepen your day to day experience of life with one another as sign and sacrament and mystery; in sickness and health, riches and poverty, life and death: All the good and bad of it. You will be living in the very midst of that cauldron that Jesus tells us about in that font of expectations called the Beatitudes, which we just heard in the reading from the Gospels. You will share all this: You will be poor in spirit, meek and mourning, hungry and thirsty, needy and deeply human; and blessed, happy, loved, stewarded, inspired by God in an ongoing mutual ministry that will be your daily bed and bread and from which your ministry to the world, every day in every way, will be founded and formed.

It won’t be easy all the time, and you both know that already! There will be moments when your spouse starts to tell that certain story one more time, when the partner gets a certain look, utters a certain phrase, wakes in a particular mood, falls into a peculiar trait, and you think, “there they go again!” You don’t always have to like it, but you must always do your best to love them then and there!

Love is, as they say, a many splendored thing, but love will break your heart, exceed your expectations, expand your world, slay and resurrect your ideas of what life and commitment and community and God are all about; and that’s just on a slow week! But the deeper truth is that this partnership in expectation and demand will fill your world with the most precious kind of flesh and blood holiness. That is why we say that marriage is a sacrament and that is why we are here.

Here’s a quote I like a lot from an odd and wonderful film called Waking Life. It is talking about cinema or film here, but please substitute the word sacrament when you hear those words.

“Cinema…is about an introduction to reality… what the ontology of film has to do with is also what photography has to do with, except it has this dimension of time to it, and this greater realism to it. So it's about…[these people], at this moment, in this space… So what film is actually capturing is like God incarnate, creating. And this very moment, God is manifesting as this. And what the film would capture if it was filming us right now would be like God as this table, and God as you, and God as me, and God looking the way we look right now, and saying and thinking what we're thinking right now, because we are all God manifest in that sense. So film is actually like a record of God, or the face of God, or the ever changing face of God.”

Right now we are taking time, a moment, to participate in God creating, incarnating, inspiring, in the lives of Sue and Mark, in their love, and in our lives too, as people who love them. And I want to try something to mark this scene, something slightly different, something, I warn you, which may be seen as excessively Californian by some of you. But this is a way to let Mark and Sue take in a quick picture of the rich holiness gathered here at this very moment which - as all the spiritual traditions tell us – should not be looked at directly, is better approached obliquely. So, bear with me.

In a moment I will count to three, there will be a short pause, and then I will count to three again. When I count to three the first time, If your name begins with a letter from A to L, please look intently at the top of the first window to your right, next to the lectern. If your first name begins with a letter from M to Z then focus your gaze on highest point of this window to my right. To make it a little more interesting, if you are left-handed just stare straight up at the wooden cross at the apex of the roof above us. If you are in the altar party you are to simply look down at your shoes with great and deep devotion: if you want to do more you may put your right hand next to your heart. I myself will turn to the right and seem to be fixated by the icon of the second angel on the left-hand corner of the altar in the Lady chapel. Please be looking at your assigned spot by the count of three. On no account should you look forward, or at this couple, except in a very covert and fleeting glance: because some things are too awesome to be stared at directly. Is that clear?

Now, Sue and Mark, please stand. You are being looked at a lot today, and you better get used to that, because your promise to each other in God’s sight is a sign for us as well, a promise and a hope that we can live life more deeply, risk more, care more, belong more, to each other, to the world, to God. And we are here to celebrate that, as well as to pray for you, support you, love you, always, and especially here and now when you are serving as a sacrament before us.

So after I count to three the first time you can turn around and look at all these people, clouds of witnesses, icons of deeply holy persons, in a moment when nobody’s looking back at you and everyone is aware of how much particular, deeply caring and intimately involved love is in this room and in this world.

When I count to three again you can turn once more and be seated again. …

Are we ready?

1, 2, 3.

1, 2, 3.

In the name of Christ. Amen.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Cat In Assisi

A Cat In Assisi
Originally uploaded by Chaplinesque.

A little late for St Francis' Day, but when I saw this I had to take the pic.

Monday morning

It is always starting again!

Last week I returned from a wonderful week-long conference in Sydney and then came down with a bad case of the flu. So now I am back on campus and trying to get balanced for the last few weeks of the semester.

Except for the beginning of the flu, the conference was wonderful. Some good presentations, a lot of useful ideas and networking, provocative conversations, and lots of laughter.

Chaplains are an interesting group. I think that each of us comes to the ministry with certain gifts and scars, and are not too sure which is which. We are usually found on the edge of the institution, and carry a critical attitude about some of the cultural accretions found within our various faith communities. But we are also people who seem to have room in their lives and work to value mystery as the primary thing: to keep an open heart to the amazing fact that people exist, live, breathe, make love, find work, write papers, survive mistakes, start again, simply renew. We are people who seem to have an ongoing and open-eyed appreciation of the mystery of being human, and see that as the main gift from God. We might disagree about how the God who gives the gift might be seen, understood, explained, responded to; but the fact that we are - each and every one of us - some kind of holy mystery that needs to be witnessed, honoured, encouraged, endured; that's the most important thing.

The best chaplains are probably better at making love than making sense; and I think that's all for the good.

It is good to be back at work.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Getting Over A Cold

It is Wednesday afternoon and I am in the grip of a bad - not bad but mediocre - cold. My ears are cold, my nose is dry, my chest feels like there are old cobwebs caught in the hallways of my m\head an dthe windmills of my mind, it is not a pretty sight. And it is getting better, but yesterday I slept all day, and the day before was much the same.

I am probably getting better. I don't sneeze as much, my nose isn't running, the cough is drier, my ears are stilled plugged up, but while inconvenient, that is not a major complaint. I guess I will live, but dammit I hate being half-sick.

The conference was very good. 50 chaplains in one room makes for an interesting mix. I enjoyed myself, got some good ideas from others, and came away with some different ways of making sense on campus. Sydney was wonderful as well. The weather was great and I even got a bit of a sunburn from walking across the Domain after seeing the Margaret Preston exhibit at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and, of course, this cold.

I am putting in a minimal day at RMIT, showing up and that's about it. Let's hope I feel better by tomorrow.