October 16th, 2016

Rory and Jessica (Siciliano) Burkitt

The Cigar Factory, Charleston, SC – October 15, 2016

1 John 4:7-19

The theme of my meditation for your wedding today is “So thankful!”

We have so much to be thankful for today!   Let’s start with the fact that this weekend is not last weekend, when the hurricane made Charleston a ghost town.  Jessica’s Mom said she thinks your first baby should be named Matthew.  Let’s hope it’s a boy, then, because that would be an odd name for a girl.

But even if the storm had made its appearance this weekend, and you had to totally rearrange everything, we would have worked it out with God’s help and would still find many reasons to be “so thankful.” 

One reason for Linda and me is that we’re here.  Jessica, your parents joined Corinth the same year we did, 23 years ago, and we have loved watching you grow up.  I can’t imagine not being here to share this weekend when you marry Rory.  “So thankful!”

But even if Linda and I couldn’t be here, you would have so much to be thankful for.  Each other, for one.  Rory, God has blessed you with an amazing woman.  You should really wake up every morning, look at her, and shout “Hallelujah!”  (Well, maybe not if she’s still asleep.)   When I asked you why you wanted to marry her, you wrote, “She is without a doubt the most fun, loving nurturing, beautiful, and intelligent woman that I have ever met.”  You can’t tell her that too often, and you can’t look up to heaven too often and say, “So thankful!”

Jessica, you called Rory “undeniably magnetic,” and it’s obvious that magnetism drew you in.  Tim Walker, one of his groomsmen, said last night, “The only thing bigger than Rory’s appetite is his love for Jess.” You wrote about his kindness, genuineness, compassion, and protectiveness.  Your parents modeled stability and commitment in marriage, and you have chosen the kind of man your Mom was wise enough to choose and blessed enough to find.  He’s competitive and loyal, which are good qualities.  We know he’s loyal, because he never gives up on the New York Jets or Mets in good times or bad.  Jessica, God gave you Rory.  It’s easy to take God’s gifts for granted.  Don’t let that happen to this gift – not now, not 50 years from now.  Never forget stop being “so thankful!”

But even if you didn’t have each other, you would have so much to be thankful for.  The gift of being alive, the gift of being human, the gift of senses and reason, being able to think and choose and feel – it’s wonderful.  Being in a place like Charleston that is so full of history and mystery and beauty, much of it forever connected to your story.

Your rehearsal dinner venue last night is one of those places, a home and business for several generations of Jessica’s family, including her great grandmother, 100 years young, and able to be here today to share in your wedding.  This building, so beautifully repurposed, was at one time a textile mill and then literally a Cigar Factory.  Its employees, 2/3 or them black women, went on strike in 1945, singing “We Shall Overcome” before it became them Civil Rights anthem.  So much heritage to be “so thankful” for!

Why are we able to embrace and enjoy those stories?  For the same reason we can enjoy being part of a family and a church, getting an education, having a meaningful vocation, acquiring things.  It’s not just that all that exists but that you have the capacity to appreciate them. That’s because as a human God has made you so fully alive and aware.  Your dog Ranger is amazing, but he will never be able to appreciate life the way you can as a person.

But even if you didn’t have good places and memories and families in your life, you would still have the message of 1 John 4.  I’ll leave tomorrow evening for a few days in Moldova, Eastern Europe’s poorest country.  People there don’t have all the material blessings you and I have, but it’s so amazing to find believers who are still “so thankful” to belong to Jesus.  When I get home next Saturday, I’ll preach a funeral for a young man who grew up in Charleston, but in a home so full of neglect and abuse that he was placed in an orphanage, which turned out to be no better.  Then he was brought into a foster home and later adopted by a loving family and given a chance at life and hope just because they loved him.

That’s your story and mine as well, no matter where we came from.  God loved you and me, as the Scripture you chose from 1 John says so clearly.  God loved us so much that he sent his one and only Son to bear the sins of the whole world, to take our place in death so that we could have eternal life.

John writes, “Since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.”  As Rory expressed, life is not “wonderful 100% of the time,” and marriage “is a long, crazy journey.” Jessica added, “We are not perfect,” and I can guarantee you that both of you will only see more and more evidence of imperfection as you go through life.  When you realize God has loved you in your brokenness and sin before him to such a deep degree, you will be able to give grace to each other.  “So thankful!”

John goes one step even deeper than that.  He says the reason all this happened is because of the very essence of God.  God is love.  That’s so profound it’s unfathomable, and yet it makes everything else make so much sense.  The reason we can be “so thankful” today is because it’s the very nature of God to love and be loved.

Let’s take the example of marriage again.  Your marriage is obviously the reason we’re here, but Linda and I are 38+ years further into the journey, and I can tell you that this mystery of attraction and oneness between a man and a woman grows only deeper and more wonderful for those who go the distance.

Those who don’t go the distance miss out on is the depth of love that comes only through endurance, through permanence.  Marriage for a lifetime between two “others” (and that’s why God created man and woman) is the closest thing on earth to God who exists in eternity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons in eternal, perfect oneness.  The reason we are created with the capacity to love and be loved is because that’s what God always is, was, and will be.

And so really, everything we have to be thankful for here today, from the gift of eternal life to the gift of this incredible setting to a beautiful, calm weekend, to the awe-inspiring gift you are to each other – it’s all because God is love.  Never forget to be “so thankful!”

You have expressed a desire to share today in the sacrament of Holy Communion.  One of the names for this sacrament is the “Eucharist,” which comes from a word meaning “thankful.”  The wine we will use is your wedding wine, and the wafers are Charleston Benne wafers.

Linda and I picked out the platter for the bread and the cub for the wine at the Market yesterday.  Both are from the Victoria Ward Gate Collection, incorporating the rosette and interlocking circles.  The rose is a biblical and historic symbol of Jesus in his beauty and fragrance, and of course the rose is a wedding symbol as well. The interlocking circles represent God’s eternal nature of love, and your oneness as Christ joins you.

“This is real love,” John writes, “not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

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