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Blessing of the Relationship of Raymond Herradura and Robert Zimmer at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu—October 4, 2003

Robert and Ray exchange their vows. When this homily was printed in the LCH newsletter, Pastor Barber included this note: “On Saturday, October 4, we had a blessing ceremony for Raymond Herradura and Robert Zimmer. Raymond and Robert planned a very meaningful service, which gave glory to God and honor to this congregation. Because this celebration forced me to clarify and define my thoughts and feelings as well as my faith, I’m including the homily I delivered that afternoon. Please know that I welcome your comments and the opportunity to be in dialogue with you, especially if we disagree.”

Homily by Pastor David Barber

If folks only knew what we’re doing here this afternoon, many of them wouldn’t be pleased. Some would vehemently oppose what we’re celebrating and pontificate that this is the work of the devil himself.

In fact, just this past week I had a conversation with a young woman who had recently attended a wedding...and the officiating pastor was gay. It seemed contradictory to her that a gay pastor would officiate at a ceremony for a man and a woman, and in her eyes, it spoiled the wedding. If she only knew what we’re doing here this afternoon, she wouldn’t be pleased.

I can’t be too hard on such folks because it wouldn’t have been that long ago that I would have found myself at least on the edges of their camp. It wouldn’t have been that long ago that I would have been very troubled and cautious about pastors who stood where I’m standing today. It wouldn’t have been that long ago when a blessing ceremony between two men wasn’t even on my radar screen.

What happened? I suppose you might say that a 3500-mile journey to the Lutheran Church of Honolulu initiated another journey within me, which became life-changing. And the changes in geography and culture are also symbolic of changes that took place in my theology as well as changes in my heart, mind, and spirit. This didn’t happen because I did more studying about homosexuality, but it happened in relationship with many of you as I saw the love of Christ made alive in you and through you. And I grew in the awareness that the blessings of God in whatever form these blessings take, could not be denied to you, but indeed, need to be affirmed for each of your lives.

That brings us to why we’re here this afternoon, for if folks only knew what we’re doing here in this worship service, many of them might be extremely pleased.

We’re not here to denigrate the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. We’re not here to destroy one of the primary building blocks of our society...often referred to as the traditional family. Husbands and wives and traditional families have often accomplished that very thing without any help from the gay community.

However, we’re here to celebrate and to worship God and God’s covenant promises, which is foundational for any relationship that is blessed by the church whether it’s a marriage between a man and a woman or a blessed union between Robert and Raymond. The covenant of God serves as the basis for any healthy and faithful relationship, and apart from this covenant what we promise to each other on days like this is mere foolishness.

You see our promises flow out of a much greater promise from God to God’s people, and whenever our marriages or our blessed unions are a reflection of this promise, God is honored, and society is served and enriched in a healthy and faithful way. Therefore, the distinction of what or who should be blessed by the church is not merely reduced to having the right body parts. It’s whether or not that relationship has the potential to mirror in its life what God intends for all human relationships such as love, faithfulness, forgiveness, generosity, mercy, grace, and kindness.

Ray and Bob, as you make your promises and vows on this day, may you live in the assurance that God joins his hands with your hands, supporting and empowering you, and looking upon you with favor. The promises that you are making to each other on this day might scare you to death. You’re making a public commitment that is irrevocable, and you know nothing of the future in which this commitment is to be lived out. You boldly pronounce your promises to each other even though you don’t know exactly what you’re getting in the bargain.

It would be so much easier if this were a contract instead of a covenant. Contracts are conditional. We’re committed to keep the terms of the contract only if our partner is doing the same. Covenants, however, are unconditional. We’re obliged to abide by them even if our partner breaks the terms. In addition, contracts are temporary, but covenants are durable or to state it in your own language, covenants between two people are “for always.” Contracts are governed by the pursuit of one’s interests, but covenants are powered by the demands of love.

If this seems overwhelming for you, you need to remember that you’re not alone in this venture. For the covenant-making and the covenant-keeping God is here on this day, just as God has worked faithfully and redemptively in your lives in the past. God is here to bless you and to shower you abundantly with love and grace. The love of God never ends, and the love of God never gives up on us. God is with us and God is with you on this day loving you completely and wholly so that you will continue to grow into God’s oneness and into the beautiful relationship of grace, love and forgiveness that God is already giving to you as a gift.

Therefore, you can go forward into the future together with trust... even to the difficulties...because God in Christ is there even now, supporting and consoling you, even as God stands here today smiling upon your promises. God is there with goodness, with steadfast love, and with faithfulness to all generations. And we, too, are here as a manifestation of God’s covenant community to support you, to encourage you, and to pray for you so that your relationship will become all that God intends it to be and all that you want it to be as well.

Then together we will sing that great song of praise, which comes to us from St. Francis, whom we also remember and honor on this day:

“Let all things their creator bless
      And worship God in humbleness.
Oh, praise him! Alleluia!
     Oh, praise the Father, praise the Son
And praise the Spirit, Three in One,
     Oh, praise him! Oh, praise him!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”

Yes indeed, if folks only knew what we’re doing here today how could they not be pleased, for God surely is.

Amen.

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