I had never actually met Melinda and Joni before the day I officiated at their wedding!
They were very dear friends with members of the church I attend, who told me what a wonderful couple they were and that Melinda and Joni had been together for 33 years. The wedding was held in their back yard with four witnesses, the two brides and me. They had been active members of a local congregation, but the new pastor has made it difficult for them to be there now. The wedding was held on a Thursday morning, because that was the actual date Melinda and Joni had spiritually committed themselves to a marriage relationship 20 years before.
We had talked on the phone several times to discuss the ceremony and it was clear each of them was excited for a legal marriage to happen, as well as to experience such a sacred, spiritual moment on their journey together.
I read some scripture and spoke about the fact that this marriage was far more than a legal contract, which was not inconsequential at all. But, this ceremony was a true deepening of a spiritual covenant they had begun 33 years earlier, ceremonialized with just the two of them 20 years earlier, and now were affirming “as long as they both shall live.”
Melinda and Joni had chosen to write their own vows, so when we reached that time in the ceremony, I joined their two hands together, faced them directly into one another’s eyes, and stepped back. What followed were probably the most deeply spoken, heart-felt, truly honest words I have ever heard as marriage vows. They had tears rolling down their faces, as did I and the four witnesses. I could feel the Spirit of God within them, around them, and literally hovering over us all.
Once I composed myself and stepped back in to pronounce Melinda and Joni legally married, I could not help spontaneous words something like: “How I wish that news cameras and reporters could be sending this scene throughout the world for all to see and experience. Regardless of how one felt about same-sex marriages, no one would be able to deny that what was expressed here was the purest of love and the strongest witness of grace and faith and hope and peace and joy. Their expressed love was palpable.
The words of scripture came to me so clearly; that passage “spoken” at the baptism of Jesus. That day, in that place, I was sure I heard a voice from somewhere speaking something like, “These are my beloved children, with whom I am well pleased.”
Why do YOU think the church should care about marriage?