A Wedding Homily for Michael Palmisano and Theresa Kennedy
Delivered on Saturday, September 2, 2017
At St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church
In Fort Washington, Pennsylvania
By the Rev. Marek P. Zabriskie
Michael and Theresa:
Your big day has arrived. Congratulations! Relax. Be in the moment. Take it all in and enjoy every single moment. What you begin today will last a lifetime. You who love to run are starting the most wonderful marathon of your life – a marathon of love and togetherness.
Michael: You have been so active in our parish, and we have sponsored you for seminary and ordination. We are very proud of you and grateful for all that you have contributed to our church. We are proud that you will one day be a very fine priest.
It is an awesome thing to offer a homily at your wedding and utter a few fragile syllables to express something about what is so human also so divine – to speak for a few minutes about the sacrament of marriage. I wish to say three things – 1) what your marriage says to God, 2) what your marriage says to the world and 3) what your marriage says to us.
First, your love says something special to God. It reminds all of us that you are two extremely faith-filled people with an abiding love for God. When we met for your pre-marital counseling, I asked you each to write 20 things that you love about the other. Michael’s first five things about you, Theresa, were that:
- You are so sweet and gentle to everyone
- You are compassionate and forgiving
- You are faithful and diligent in your relationship with the Lord
- You are hopeful
- You are generous with giving of yourself and your gifts to others
Theresa noted about Michael:
- He loves God, others and me
- He is the sweetest, kindest man that I have ever met
- He cares very deeply for others, even strangers
- He has a strong faith and belief in God; this is what centers his life
- He is inquisitive and always learning
Indeed, your love says something special to God. Everything about this ceremony, which you have carefully and prayerfully planned, notes that your love for one another is not of your own making. It is not something that you created on your own, for your love was born of God. You did not begin it yesterday or even while running track together at Princeton. It has a much richer history. It goes back to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit loving one another so intensely that this love spilled out into creation and brought forth this amazing world.
The Holy Trinity decided to shape human figures in such a way that a man and a woman might mirror what God is like and what love is meant to be. Even before you were born, God knew you in the womb and loved you with an everlasting love. God knew then that one day your eyes would meet and your feet would run side by side and you would walk down an aisle hand in hand and share the journey of marriage together. When we met for premarital counseling, Michael said, “I knew one or two months into it. Theresa and I sat down together and read the Scriptures and prayed. I just knew that this was it.”
Today, God’s love crowns your love for one another in this sacred ceremony that Christ consecrated by his love for us displayed upon the cross. It is an incredibly sacrificial love, and you mirror that love as you offer yourselves to each other with a love which flows out of you and says “yes” to all that is good and holy and true. You are channels of God’s love for one another.
Your very presence in our church as you become husband and wife tells God, “We owe this love to you. This day we rest our hands in your hands. With grace we shall try to love each other without reservation in good times and bad times, in times of health and times of sickness, in moments of joy and periods of sorrow.” As St. Paul has taught us, “clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
Second, your love says something to the world. You don’t need an Episcopal priest to explain that married love is not tea for two or Fantasy Island or the Love Boat. Sometimes, married love is more like an episode of Survivor. You will live your love in the midst of all sorts of people in a world that is becoming increasingly diverse and complex and where we need to increase our tolerance and understanding and not seek seclusion by surrounding ourselves with people who look, act and think just like us. Your love will take you into a world riddled with contradictions, where love mingles with hate, racism and terrorism as well as with tenderness, beauty and affection.
Your families have similarities and differences. You will be moving forward to create a family of your own, bringing forth the best of what you know and integrating that into a new family. It is an age-old, beautiful and challenging task. Michael, you come from a small, quiet and very loving family. Theresa, you hail from a very big and more extroverted family. Every summer for some 70 years your family has vacationed together on Long Beach Island. Michael told me, “As we crossed the bridge to Long Beach Island the first time, Theresa freaked out because I was going to meet 50 people. Their family reunions go on and on. I was meeting people for two hours and it went on for eight more hours, and I was then crashing!” Welcome to the family!
Both of sets of your parents have modeled a beautiful love for you to emulate. Michael, your parents have gone to breakfast together every Saturday morning since they were dating. I urge you to build traditions of your own like this for they are the grist of a good marriage. As you run together and train for races, prepare meals, visit with family and friends, drink lattes in coffee shops and take long walks, make sure that you build in lots of Michael and Theresa time, for it is the fuel for a good marriage, and that is what God desires for you.
Your love is a message of hope to all of us. For all the hate that exists in the world, your love proclaims that “love is strong as death…. Many waters cannot quench…. it.” Your love will tell a world riven by violence in Syria, where North Korean missiles scare the globe and angry protests in Charlottesville tear the fabric of our nation, that love is stronger than hate and is made for peace. How can you take your beautiful love to places that need it and proclaim a message of hope? Not so much by words, but more importantly by how you care for each other and love those around you.
When you graduate from seminary and live out your vocations, you will hear the cries of help from those who are poor, frail, aged, depressed and marginalized. How will you love all of them? Is your love up to the challenge? Remember Mother Teresa’s words when she was asked how she could alleviate the hurt and hunger of untold thousands. She replied, “One at a time.”
Lastly, your love says something to each of us who are privileged to know you. The wonderful gift that you give us is the way that you look at us in love. Your eyes glow with warmth and energy. They do not dart around like those who are easily distracted, physically present but emotionally absent. You are totally in the moment. The way that you look today forces us to ponder more profoundly and grasp more vividly the rich hope of life.
On our honeymoon in Paris, a waitress in a French restaurant said to my wife, Mims, and me, “You must have just gotten married. Your wedding rings are so shiny.” In time, our wedding rings get scratched and become less shiny, but they still unite us in love. You remind us that to be genuinely alive we must be willing to risk, to have the courage to engage an unknown future together, to say “forever” and mean it, to trust that with God all things are possible.
This afternoon, you tell us without words that all of us place our future in God’s hands – hands so gentle and strong, so enthusiastic and open to learning and growing and being together. You urge us without words to recapture laughter that comes easily, a smile that overcomes tears, little acts of kindness that transform our world. You give us courage to repeat words that we have uttered, “I take you for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.” You invite us to grow young again along with you.
In return, we promise you a gift that cannot be purchased or wrapped in a box or shipped. Our gift to you is that whenever you need us, we will be there for you, any and all of us. Perhaps not so much with Tiffany, porcelain, silver or gold, but with warm hearts and hands outstretched. Wherever God sends you, we will not be far away. You now have an extended family watching over you. Godspeed and good luck to you. May you cherish one another always. Amen.