Friday, November 03, 2006

Ubuntu - A Wedding Homily

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” Before the Bible tells us anything else it tells us that the heavens and the earth, everything we see and everything we do not see, comes to us from the hands of God. Furthermore, it assures us that everything God created is good, because every time God creates a star or a whale or an amoeba God declares it good. Finally, at the end of what must surely be the most productive week of work in the history of the universe, God declared everything that had been created to be “very good” indeed.

Thus, the Christian faith proceeds from the assumption that the world is good. There are religions that are not at all sure that the world is good. There are even Christians who act as though the world is a bad place, rather than a good place; there are Christians who are afraid that the good gifts of God’s creation, the things that delight the senses – wine, food, music, even the joy of husband and wife—are perhaps at least a little sinful. Oscar Wilde once said that a Puritan is a person who is afraid that somebody somewhere is having a good time!

But the Bible tells us otherwise. It tells us to enjoy God’s good creation. To be sure, there is nothing so good that it cannot be abused but that should not take away from the pleasure God intended us to have in the beautiful creation about which Genesis speaks.

God created light and called it good; created the seas and dry land and called them good; created humankind and called us good; but finally God declared one thing not to be good. What is the first thing in the Bible that God declares not to be good? It is not one of the “usual suspects” – stealing, lying, murder and so on. Rather, the first thing God declares not to be good is to be alone: “It is not good for humans to be alone.”

It’s a remarkable statement. We have a whole creation to enjoy, a creation full of good things, but God tells us that we are to enjoy it in the company of others, rather than by ourselves.

Psychologists and physicians tell us that the most important indicator of health (not just emotional health, but physical health, as well) is a person’s social network. The more connected we are to others, the more likely we are to be healthy. But we didn’t need a researcher at Harvard to tell us that; the Bible tells us that at the very beginning. “It is not good for humans to be alone.” Our Jewish sisters and brothers recognize this in one of their most ancient prayers; “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, ruler of the universe, for you set the solitary in families.”

God has put a drive toward community in every human heart. We need the company of others to be fully ourselves. Africa’s Zulu language has a word for it – ubuntu. Ubuntu means “I need you to be me” and “You need me to be you.”

None of us is whole or complete by ourselves. I need you and you need me… ubuntu. Marriage is a special form of togetherness or community. It is a recognition of the truth of Genesis and the truth of ubuntu. A good marriage is not based on the belief that we must marry someone to be whole or complete; rather it is based on the deep and abiding conviction of the couple getting married that they complement each other in just the right ways and that they can be so much more together than they can be apart.

The force that pulls us toward others is a kind of gravity. Each of us is a satellite flying through social space. Now we are drawn toward this one; then we spin off into space again; and then we are drawn toward another. The Bible gives a name to this gravity that draws us together; it is love. There are many kinds of love. One kind of love draws us together, but I believe another kind of love keeps us together. The love that draws us together is more or less automatic, but the love that keeps us together requires work. Scott and Blair, you will feel yourselves drawn in many directions, but I charge you on this day to be attentive to the gravity, the love, that drew you together in the first place. Keep it strong and never take it for granted. Anchor yourselves to one another with kindness, patience, and understanding.

Christian marriage is a special kind of community, for as Christians we believe that we are on a journey and that our spouses are our special companions on this journey. There is a love even stronger than the love you feel today for each other, and that is the love of God that took human form in Jesus of Nazareth and lived among us. Let that love draw you into the very heart of God, for the closer we come to the love that created the universe, the love that endured the cross and the grave, the love that makes us more together than we could ever be alone, the closer you will be to each other. Amen.