Living in This World

Striking Away the Chains of Fear

I'm at the office, late on a Friday afternoon, awaiting the arrival of a wedding party. It's been a busy day at church, and even before I got here. Because I took the day off yesterday, I had a bulletin to finish, and a homily for the annual assembly of the Vacationland Council of Churches, and a need to print out materials for the wedding rehearsal, and then emergencies related to our Annual Report and other details too trying and numerous to mention.

But today there have been pleasant surprises: delicious maple almond butter on a whole-grain roll that became my lunch, the chance to listen to a streaming webcast of the President-Elect's first press conference with three colleagues early to the meeting, and finally, in the peace after leading the worship and escaping to my own space, reading a poem that will be part of the wedding tomorrow.  The young bride chose it. She grew up in this church, was confirmed here, and surprises me continually with her depth and thoughtfulness.

Touched by an Angel
~Maya Angelou~

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

I'm thinking about Prop 8 this afternoon, sadly, wishing that what is so easy for this young couple to do is not available to others who want it so much. I've never been asked to do a commitment ceremony or blessing of a union. Aside from a couple of ceremonies for older couples, most of my brides and grooms have been young, already living together. That's the "New Traditional," I find. They have SO much freedom. Why can't we extend it to everyone?

With my friends who want to marry and cannot so much on my mind, and because I'm writing a charge to the couple based on readings I have not used before, I wrote something completely new today. (Don't look shocked. My clergy pals know we all recycle wedding material.) And I made a point of writing it inclusively. No one else may notice, but this is for my friends who still face discrimination, and for the kids who dream of growing up to have a wedding and cannot imagine they'll be prevented from having one simply because of who they love. May love strike away  the chains of fear.


We have gathered for a holy
moment in a holy place to participate in a ritual as old as humankind, the
joining together of two people making a commitment to one another. The details
may be different, the words or the traditions, but for uncounted years, one
person sparkles and the other reacts, one person smiles and the other comes
closer, one person loves and the other loves back.


The playwright Thornton
Wilder wrote, “People are meant to live two by two,” and today we legalize and
bless that hope and that reality for G and J. Paperwork plays a part,
but mostly we come to celebrate love and to invite God’s blessings on two young
people who believe in each other and in a hopeful future together. Over the
past few months, we’ve talked about what drives them, what keeps them working
together and how they sort through challenges. We’ve laughed and grown serious,


The readings they chose give
a glimpse into the depth of their feelings for each other.“If we are bold,”
wrote Maya Angelou, “love strikes away the chains of fear from our souls.” Love
allows us to be ourselves, no longer paralyzed by false expectations. And it’s
a paradox that what binds us together also sets us free. In a relationship of
depth, when we take the time to know another person deeply, really, not to
assume things but to learn them over time, we find ourselves free to be who we
truly are, too.


G and J, may you
find that deep knowing together, throughout your lives.

11 thoughts on “Striking Away the Chains of Fear”

  1. hmmm… the poem is quite lovely and just what i need for a card i’m sending to someone. how timely…. blessings on your weekend and on the wedding.

  2. That’s wonderful…(and of COURSE we recycle…how would we ever find anything fresh to say about 1 Cor 13?? )

  3. I’m touched by your sensitivity to the issue and to hearts whose oneness aches to be acknowledged. Angelou read this poem I believe for an episode of Touched concerning an HIV+ woman (actor Natalie Cole) marrying a HIV- man. Especially moving since Ms. Cole’s brother died of AIDS. Anyway, I hope your friends tell you what your support means. It’s ironic that in colonial VA Baptist marriages weren’t legal, yet Baptists have forgotten and often lead the charge against all these sinister people who want to love each other for life. Peace. j

  4. As thrilled as I am by the overall results of last week’s election, I am also very hurt by the votes to ban same-sex marriage, which seem as irrational and mean-spirited to me as the miscegenation laws from the bad old days. Blessings on your young couple!

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