On Sunday, October 23, 2016, family and friends and friends who have become family gathered for the 10 AM service at All Saints Episcopal Church, Rehoboth Beach, DE to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of my ordination in The Episcopal Church and the 40th Anniversary of the covenant made between my Beloved Ms. Conroy and I.
Bishop Gene Robinson, retired of DioNH, was celebrant and preacher.
The lessons included part of the the story about Judith, from the Apocrypha. It was the passage I chose for my ordination - Judith 10:1-10 , brilliantly read by my dear friend, David - wherein Judith breaks her time of mourning for the death of her husband, Manasseh, who was killed by the King. After a time of prayer she gets up, gets dressed, puts on her makeup and jewels and does what needs to be done. That is, she prepares herself to seduce King Holofernes so that she may decapitate him, avenging the death of her husband.
As Bishop Gene Robinson jokingly said, ""I don't know this to be fact but I suspect Judith was a badass lipstick lesbian."
At the very least, she was a "nasty woman" of antiquity.
The Gospel was Matthew's Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12, Bishop Gene preached brilliantly on the passage, drawing a distinction between optimism and hope. Optimism is a human condition. Hope, is a spiritual one. Hope is central to being a Christian.
Hope is why people like Barbara and I come back to the church. Not because we trust in the Church but because we trust in God.
I do wish we had thought to record his sermon. It was, as usual, simply brilliant.
After the Prayers of the People, Barbara and I and Bill and Anita, the two people who witnessed our legal marriage that day at breakfast at the Long Neck Diner, came forward.
Before God and our family and friends, Gene wrapped our hands in his stole and blessed our covenant.
He used these words, adapted from the Wedding Prayer in the film, "Braveheart". (Yes, that violent film had at least this tender moment. I've been saving it for such a moment as this.)
Braveheart Wedding Prayer‘These are the hands of your best friend, once young and strong and vibrant with love, which held yours on the day you promise to love each other all the days of your life.
These are the hands that will continue to work alongside of yours, as together you build your future, as you laugh and cry, as you share your innermost secrets and dreams.
These are that hands which will still passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness.
These are the hands that will continue, countless times, to wipe the tears from your eyes: tears of sorrow and tears of joy.
These are the hands which will still comfort you in illness, and hold you when fear or grief engulfs your heart.
These are the hands that will continue to give you support and encourage you to chase down your dreams. Together as a team, everything you wish for can be realized.
And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.And the blessing of God who created you, the God who loves you and the God who will guide and inspire you, bless you this day and forever more.Amen.
I don't think there can be any doubt that that attitude first arose out of pain. You know. The religious version of, "You can't fire me, I quit." For a long time it was, "We don't need your damn blessing. We're fine. Just fine."
And, we were. And, are.
It's not that way any longer. We aren't angry or hurt any more. It really flows from a deep place of knowing and the confidence that comes from recognizing, over that years, that God has been and is, now, with us, every step of the way we have been and every step we will take in the future.
Whether the church recognized and blessed that or not became immaterial.
We really do have all that we need. We have been blessed to be a blessing - to thank God for God's presence in our lives when we've been vulnerable, when we've been merciful and when we've sought peace, when we've grieved and when we have suffered injustice.
Our lives are filled with gratitude for God's abiding presence.
We did this because our family needed to see the church affirm the covenant we made 40 years ago, and so affirm the covenants made between people of whatever gender.
We did this to help continue the movement in the church to remember that we are in the world, but of the world. As the Body of Christ, we are not about being agents of the state but agents of God.
We did this because the church needs to be clear about the business of the church: covenants and blessings, mission and ministry, not government laws and legal contracts.
We did this because the church, young people and old, needed to see the man who became the first self-affirming gay man, a man who had to wear a bullet proof vest to his own consecration, a man who was the only bishop ever to be dis-invited to a Lambeth Conference, a man who knows about what it means to be badass in order to get the job done and who clearly knows the difference between optimism and hope, bless and affirm the covenant we made 40 years ago.
If anyone knows about God's presence in our lives - especially when we are most vulnerable - it's Gene Robinson.
So, it was a meet and right, good and proper thing to do, to ask Gene to bless our covenant in the church we've been attending since 1988.
After 40 years, it was time to be gracious and generous and allow the Grace that has blessed us for four decades to fill the church and bless God's people with hope.
We who have been blessed to be a blessing, know how the Gospel story ends.
Our prayer is that the blessing we received will continue to bless the church - and us - to be bold and "badass" and take the risk to do whatever it is that must be done to choose hope and love.