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Words for a Wedding, Christian and Buddhist
Submitted by Gordon Peerman D.Min on June 28, 2016 - 8:30am
A month or so ago my wife Kathy and I were out walking the White Trail in Percy Warner Park here in Nashville, and we saw a young woman sprinting up the hill toward us. It was Tish, and she was out for an early morning run. She and Bryan had done a triathlon the day before, and I guess the Tiger in Tish’s tank was still ready to run the next day.
There was a brightness in Tish’s eyes that morning which gave us such pleasure to behold. It was a brightness full of the blessings of this life: health, and beauty, and goodness. It was the brightness of a young woman who has found, in the poet David Whyte’s words, “the one hand she knows belongs” in hers (“The Truelove”). It was the brightness of a woman who through her own experience knows that not all days are bright, who has found someone that can, as the poet says, “see beauty even when it is not pretty every day.”
When Tish and Bryan and I met to talk about their life together, Tish said about Bryan, “He balances me ... with happiness. He’s even-keeled. He’s incredibly compassionate.” Tish knows she has found in Bryan someone who can run with her, literally, (and not many guys can) and bike and swim and, as Oriah Mountain Dreamer puts it, “shout to the silver of the moon on the edge of the lake” in God’s presence. She knows she has found someone with real resilience who “can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.” (“The Invitation”)
David Whyte says, “There is a faith in loving fiercely the one who is rightfully yours, especially if you have waited years and especially if part of you never believed you could deserve this loved and beckoning hand held out to you this way.” Poets are good at giving voice to longing, and when we see the longing we all have for openness and warmth being met, the heart lifts up in joy. Sursum corda the old Latin liturgy proclaims: Lift up your hearts. And so our hearts lift up together with you this evening.
Yet if we are to be more than merely sentimental, we would do well to note that weddings are psychologically quite complicated, partly because there are so many different experiences of marriage here among us. Whether you are married, or no longer married, or longing to be married, or choosing not to be, or wishing you weren’t, or saying, “Never again,” being at a wedding works on us in so many different ways.
What is true for you who witness these vows in being here this evening? Can you be present to your own truth, witness it benevolently, welcome and bless it, and let yourself have your own experience of this wedding’s blessing? For God’s Spirit is here wedding all of us this evening. The world is a wedding of what Thich Nhat Hanh calls “inter-being,” whether we are awake to it or not.
Weddings are also complicated because of the reality of failure in relationships. This is not news to the two of you. You will know disappointment and grief and failure in relationship - it’s just the way things are. In Christian terms, this is the reality of the cross. It’s not so much whether we’ll have crosses but how we handle our disillusionments with ourselves and with one another that makes marriage a school of spiritual growth.
Hold your failures with benevolence. Hold your grievances with one another softly. And discover the mercy that is underneath failure and grievance. This mercy is most precious. It is the wedding gift God gives you daily. “Mercy, within mercy, within mercy,” the Trappist monk Thomas Merton said.
It is this capacity for mercy and presence to truth that Tish and Bryan have to offer one another in the life they will share. There is enormous pressure in marriage or any human grouping to avoid the truth, or to accommodate and disavow what is true, or to be unreceptive to the truth of one another.
You have been learning with each other to use what Buddhists call “Wise Speech,” saying what is true and useful and kind and safe. This capacity for wise speech, along with your love-making and your shared enthusiasms and your service to others, will be the bedrock of your relationship and a blessing to the world.
So be present and acknowledge to yourselves what is true for you. Then allow, and open, and enter into what is true for each other. In the disclosure of your truth you will discover what is good and beautiful, within you ... and between you. So ... come make your pledges in truth to one other.