“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” 1 John 4: 16
This past Christmas Eve, I had the privilege of officiating the wedding of two men in our congregation. I say this was a privilege because I have certain freedoms that many of my ordained peers do not have—most significantly, the freedom to officiate the sacramental blessing of same-gender-loving unions.
This is no small matter.
It was meaningful to me to perform this sacred act on Christmas Eve: the day when we gather as people of faith to attend the coming of Jesus in collective, holy memory, and to anticipate and imagine, together, the continual coming of the Christ within us and among us.
We gathered in the afternoon. The altar was sparsely dressed—white linen, ceramic paten and chalice, simple wooden ciborium, a single white candle. Two small Christmas trees, adorned with golden ornaments, sat in pots at either side of our altar. A narrow wood table to one side held their rings and handfasting ribbon. An intimate gathering of close friends and family greeted us. Too quickly it seemed, the music fell silent and we were all gathered together into the quiet.
In those mere seconds, I was for an instant, breathless—held in palpable Holy Assurance: thick, but light like a shawl, immediate yet boundless, abiding everywhere. Equally measurable, the tender trust of the two men before me placed them in our communal care. There, the truth of Christmas-coming spun sacred thread between us:
“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matt 18:20)
I found myself calling us all into one deep, collective breath—a holy inhalation and exhalation. It was, perhaps, the deepest of prayer: a grateful communal inspiration of Holy Presence; the continual coming of the Christ in loving hearts, quickened by the ever-birthing cosmic breath continually inspired among us.
Some sighed aloud. Some exhaled with laughter. Some quietly released, became open. Still, we shared the same Adam-invigorating, soul-bestowing breath. We took it in. Together, in word and sacrament, we participated in our greatest commandment: that we love one another.
Such moments speak to our call: to facilitate our collective awareness of Holy Presence inherent within every single person, in every act of human love, so we may become better bearers of Spirit. In reality, Spirit Love is already there. Already here. It is freely given to us, breathed daily into us, and abides. It is independent of us, but we are not, ever, independent of it.
Sadly, we are prone to forget this: that all who love know God and Holy Love lives within them. Period. For God is love. We need to be reminded of this. Not only do we forget, we are prone to think we are somehow the arbiters of Divine Love—that we know it fully and somehow determine its course. In our hubris, we decide what conditions determine the presence and expression of Holy Love within another. This belies the underlying assumption that something of God lives within us, yes; but only some of us. More, with our over-rated faculties and powers, we presume to decide who those people are.
This, the defining inclination of a long divisive history between Christians—the assumption of who has access to and lives within the Spirit and who does not. Across the centuries, a core feature of doctrinal arrogance has been the tendency to de-emphasize the actual lived Gospel of Jesus Christ in favor of a few convoluted ideas in some context-laden, over-written epistles.
Ultimately, whether or not LGBTQ persons can serve as ministers or marry is about whether or not we are remembering or forgetting that we are decidedly Not the arbiters of Divine Presence, nor are we the knowers of the heart of God. What we do know is we’re given a particular set of teachings surrounded by a set of stories—stories particularized by history, by context. Yet, they do offer insights to the ongoing, ever-emerging story of Holy Relationality in human history. Most of them are stories of outsiders: the very people the God of our ancestors chose to uplift. The still-evolving story calls us to deep listening. Perhaps, even, renewed thinking.
We, fellow Spirit-breathers, were given the gift of listening to the love among us—the sounds of Holy Presence in affirming community.
We shared Communion with them. We held them in the sacred embrace. We bore witness. And we committed to support them. We did this because all who love know God…and, above all else, we are called to love one another.
Liam Hooper lives in the deep south with his wife, Diana, a freelance publishing professional who keeps his calendar in line, and their teenage son, who keeps them on their toes.