A good friend of mine, Joseph Lown, has a public face. Because of that, his private problems are now public. He has reconciled himself to this, because the issues he is dealing with are more common than most in the U.S. would think. He has chosen to step out and be featured, while still protecting the identity of his partner and his partner’s family. You can read one of many articles about him and his situation here. He is also featured in a recent book, Amor and Exile. Read more about that here.
When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last summer, it offered the possibility of my friend’s return to the United States, specifically to Texas. That’s where his Libertarian-leaning, red-Republican, ranch-owning, FOX News-watching heart is tethered. He and I are so not on the same page in so many ways. But it was my great honor to be a participant and facilitator when Joseph and his partner “made it official” earlier this month in Mexico City. There was a reporter there, as well as a photojournalist from The San Angelo Standard Times, a Scripps-Howard newspaper so there will be more newspaper articles appearing, probably in the next week or so. What I’m sharing here are the remarks I made after the Mexico City judge performed the civil ceremony.
Wedding Service – November 16, 2013
We are here to celebrate the legal and civil union of _________ and Joseph Wendel Lown, who were formally engaged on October 13, of this year. But their commitment to one another goes back much farther. On May 19, 2009, they crossed the southern border of the United States, and came to live in Mexico. Much has been written about their situation. We who are here now, know what their love has cost them in the public arena. We are here to affirm with them that it has been worth the price.
Crossing borders, leaving behind old ways to align ourselves with what we know to be something better, is a familiar circumstance in the world today. Refugee camps have become permanent fixtures in many places. Both Mexico and the United States, have rich histories of offering comfort and refuge to those displaced by fear and hatred. If it seems that, as Jesus foretold, iniquity abounds, and the love of many has waxed cold, then our job is to love more. We are here today to turn up the flame.
We long to be where love lives, and we are attracted above all, to those who love God foremost. Ruth recognized that quality in her mother-in-law, Naomi, and expressed her determination not to lose sight of it when Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. Ruth pleaded,
Intreat me not to leave thee, or return from following after thee. For whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God. Where thou diest, I will die, and there shall I be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also, if ought but death part me and thee.
The greatest desire held in the heart of every human being is the yearning to be their own true and authentic self. God wants us to be what He created us to be. When we mirror that desire, it is a prayer. There is no greater gift we can offer another than to support and cherish that desire. So, we are gathered here, in prayer and support, not only for Joseph and ______, but in desire for ourselves, as well. It is only through being our authentic selves that we are able to help and support them.
The word “desire” literally means “from the stars.” We “hitch our wagon to a star” when we reach for something beyond what others might think we need, or deserve, or even be entitled to. It is an anomaly that with our reaching outward and upward from our authentic selves, we do not find ourselves disconnected, but rather entwined and concerned more with our fellow beings. We find ourselves in Love.
The Sufi poet Rumi writes, “The stars come up spinning every night, bewildered in love. They would grow tired with that revolving if they weren’t. They’d say, ‘How long do we have to do this!”
Love, and especially that love we share with a particular and life-long partner, does indeed make the world go round. It transforms our lives into a mirror of those revolving stars, a reflection of the infinite and eternal Love itself, which holds us all in its holy sphere. It changes the question from “How long do we have to do this,” to “How long do we get to do this!” The conventional answer, the conventional vow, is “until death do us part.”
With that in mind, I’d like to read some passages from Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, the book written by Mary Baker Eddy which, along with the Bible, was the guide with which Joseph’s mother raised him. I’m familiar with it, because I was raised with it, too. The author offers counsel in the chapter titled “Marriage.”
Be not in haste to take the vow, “until death do us part.” Consider its obligations, its responsibilities, its relations to your growth, and to your influence on other lives.
Marriage should signify a union of hearts.
Union of the masculine and feminine qualities constitutes completeness. The masculine mind reaches a higher tone through certain elements of the feminine, while the feminine mind gains courage and strength through masculine qualities. These different elements conjoin naturally with each other, and their true harmony is in spiritual oneness. Both sexes should be loving, pure, tender, and strong.
Furthermore, the time cometh of which Jesus spake when he declared that in the resurrection, there should be no more marrying nor giving in marriage, but man would be as the angels. Then white-robed purity will unite in one person, masculine wisdom and feminine love, spiritual understanding and perpetual peace.
Experience should be the school of virtue, and happiness should proceed from man’s highest nature. May Christ, Truth, be present at every bridal altar to change the water into wine, and to give to human life an inspiration by which man’s spiritual and eternal existence may be discerned.
In the spirit of communion, we here collectively offer our support to you, our prayers for you, Joseph and ______. We are your friends. We are your family. We will be there for you.
Now, if any individual wishes to declare that support and love, this is your opportunity.
(…………………..remarks from the floor.)
I will close, reading once more from Rumi,
God picks up the reed-flute world and blows.
Each note is a need coming through one of us,
A passion, a longing-pain.
Remember the lips where the reed breath originated,
And let your note be clear.
Don’t try to end it.
Be your note.
I’ll show you how it’s enough.
Go up on the roof at night
In this city of the soul.
Let everyone climb on their roofs and sing their notes!
And again from Mary Baker Eddy,
A louder song, sweeter than has ever before reached high heaven, now rises clearer and nearer the great heart of Christ, for the accuser is not there, and Love sends forth her primal and everlasting strain.