The Wedding Homily

Lisa Crandlemire and I received the blessing of Holy Matrimony on July 11, 2015 at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Boise, Idaho. That’s right, we got hitched. The service followed the liturgy found in the Book of Common Prayer according to the use of The Episcopal Church.

There were two readings, one from the Book of Colossians and another—a bonus reading—from Khalil Gibran (The Prophet). The Holy Gospel was from Matthew and The Great Thanksgiving (Communion) included Eucharistic Prayer B.

I think that’s more than enough proof that we had a church wedding.

The homily was delivered by a very holy man, John Stuart Thornton, former Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Idaho and now retired in name only. Bishop Thornton has been very active in the life of St. Michael’s Cathedral, preaching, administering pastoral care, creating new ministries such as “Poetry as Theology” and “The One Buck Seminary.” He and his wife Jan have hosted movie nights, Sunday morning brunch, and a variety of other social events around the Cathedral. Mind you, he’s done all of this in his eighties and in his spare time. Most days he’s not even in Boise, but tending to his beloved Taucross Farm in Scio, Oregon, where he and Jan reside permanently.

The Thorntons had planned to be in Oregon for the entire summer, away from the Cathedral and tending to the farm, fingers in the soil and all that. Earlier this spring, I asked John if he would consider delivering the homily for our wedding. Selfishly, I needed him to do that for me and, thankfully, Lisa understood those reasons. John immediately agreed to do so and, after clearing it with our celebrant, The Very Rev. Rich Demarest, he began to prepare his remarks.

John knows me quite well. We’ve worked on a number of projects together. He read the entire manuscript of my memoir, Southern Fried Fiction, before it went to press. He agreed to be the first of my friends to meet Lisa after I fell in love with her. He took to her instantly and confirmed that I had made the right decision. I confessed that as a financially poor man, I might be an unworthy suitor.

“Lisa’s father is a very rich man and may not approve of me,” I confided.

John thought for a moment and reminded me that in the years since arriving at St. Michael’s, I had become a wealthy person, a true believer. Then he proffered this thought, “What makes you so sure that Lisa’s father deserves you?”

Wow! He’s right, I realized. John had emboldened me right into the proverbial driver’s seat.

Indeed, John’s homily captured a lot that has wrapped this holy man and me together for most of the years I’ve lived in Boise, Idaho. Let me share a few excerpts with you:

“Stuart, I remember your excitement, your giddiness and glee, when you told me that you had found the woman you had looked for all your life. It was with the intermediacy of the Internet. Old Luddite that I am, I asked myself, Can any good come out of that Nazareth? Was this marriage made in heaven or was it made in cyberspace? But, when you took me to meet her, over breakfast at Café de Paris, I took one look at Lisa and said, Wow! This darned thing works! I knew right away that, not only had you found the woman you had been looking for all your life, you had found yourself in her. A few bites later, I knew that she had found herself in you too. I can’t remember what we had for breakfast, but everything had the taste of all that’s right and all that’s good, with all the sweetness of them.”

This ‘darned thing’ was Match.com, and it took two separate tries to get Lisa’s attention. The day of our first date, she had lunch with me and then drinks at Happy Hour with another fellow. Two dates, one outfit.

“I said that you two had found yourselves in each other. It’s the work—no, it’s the play—of the unconscious, which always takes your side. (Your unconscious knows when you can give yourself away.) Though you’re both smart, it’s the sense of Someone—that’s “Someone” with a capital “S”—who’s a whole lot smarter than either of you or both of you together. I’m talking about the Spirit of God. The Church is right to call it “the mystery of love.” And it’s not only a mystery, it’s a miracle. Every act of love is miraculous. Though some scientists might like to, it can’t be reduced to something neurobiological, as if we were only the human animal. It’s God acting in us, exceeding the limits we’ve set for ourselves—or our societies and cultures have set for us—and revealing our capacity for everything from empathy to sacrifice.”

The miracle and mystery of love had touched Lisa and me in a way that made it impossible for us to not marry.

“Speaking of mysteries, Lisa, in the beginning Stuart was a mystery, though you felt safe in it. (That unconscious again.) As the days and weeks went by, he became less and less so, until, now, he’s literally an open book. You’ve read it, Southern Fried Fiction. This is the man I’m going to marry! This is the man I’m going to play house with! This is the man I’m going to grow old with! I’ve read the book too, from manuscript stage on. Two-thirds of the people in this congregation have read the book. (If you are in the one-third who haven’t read it, Google Amazon immediately following the reception.) He’s not hiding anything. Few among the people I know are so willing to risk that much transparency—and other people’s judgments, not to mention other people’s envy. You know what you’re getting, Lisa, and what you’re getting is an unusually brave man.”

As is the case after a Thornton sermon, eyes teared, hearts pounded, souls lifted. This was classic John Thornton—every word, inflection and gesture—only this time at a wedding, not a Sunday service, or an installation, or a school graduation, or some other celebration. For Lisa and me, it happened with the usual pleasure of first hearing John’s words and then reading them later. And rereading. But it was more than usual, it was über-special, because, that day, we were the center of John’s universe for twelve and a half minutes. Some people, if they are so fortunate, have to wait until they are dead to have “fame” like that!

I don’t want to reprint the whole homily. That’s a decision John needs to make shortly as he compiles his third and final book of sermons. The first two are in print, but not commercially available. Once he adds the third edition, I will urge and help him market them, perhaps on Amazon or the St. Michael’s Cathedral website. They are too precious and profound to remain in the hands of a few hundred people in Boise, Idaho.

Stuart Hotchkiss
August 4, 2015

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