Gary Hall West Rose

Thirty-five years ago this April, Kathy and I were married at a small church in New England. One of the readings we chose for that service was read earlier tonight. In the third chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians, we hear:

For this reason I bow my knees before the One from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of God’s glory you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through the Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. [Ephesians 3:14-19]

I have thought about this passage virtually every day of our married life. In the Bible’s view of things, something deep and precious and holy is going on when two people commit themselves and their future to each other. Any marriage is lived out in times of sorrow and joy, sickness and health, stress and celebration. Sometimes things go our way; sometimes they don’t. But those of us who are married within a faith tradition live our lives together knowing that finally our struggles, our celebrations, our losses, our hopes mean something not only to us but to God.

The Christian church has only been in the marrying business for about a thousand years. While we have always honored and respected the marriage relationship, we didn’t begin to think of it as a sacrament—an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace—until we had been in existence for a millennium. We people of faith have been on a long trajectory in our understanding of marriage—from polygamy at the outset, to an unequal relationship between a man and a woman, to a more mutual and equal pairing of opposite sex people. We are now at a place where we are beginning to see, together, that the sacrament of marriage is a divine gift on offer to everybody, regardless of sexual orientation. We are all part of that One from whom every family in heaven and earth takes its name.

Today the Supreme Court of the United States made two landmark decisions that will take this trajectory several steps further. So tonight we stand together on the threshold of a new era, a time when our civil understanding of marriage begins to catch up with our theological vision of what God is up to when human beings unite with each other in love, compassion, justice, commitment, and love.

I am grateful to God and to Kathy Hall (probably not in that order) for the blessing of 35 years of Christian marriage. I am grateful to God and the Supreme Court (definitely in that order) for the breakthrough of today’s decisions. When everything is finally said and done—when God’s purposes have been fulfilled, when our human spouses have been parted by death—we will all, I believe stand together with God in a moment of wonder, love, and praise at the divine blessing that has been working itself out in the universe since the beginning. Today’s decisions will shine as one of many moments when faithful men and women have seen the possibilities of a divine love that will not let us go. And therefore,

For this reason I bow my knees before the One from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of God’s glory you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through the Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. [Ephesians 3:14-19]