I recently married my nephew and godchild, Michael Huff, to his beautiful bride on a barrier island off Charleston, South Carolina, called Folly Beach. It is a place of magic for many. Popularly dubbed the "Edge of America", it is a place where generations have returned to the womb, reconciled with Mother Earth, and found their way home to God. Michael and his bride, Leah (the name of my deceased sister) Eppehimer, share a unique love of mud and water (he is a crabber. oyster-man and sharker) and ocean (they both are free-spirited surfers).
Nature is our first home. The church, our second. We need to reconnect the two. They belong together.
The Am Ha'Aretz, or the "People of the Land", is a term found in the Tanakh. The Hebrews were an earthy people. So are we, although we have become disenchanted with earthiness. Lest we become too sterile of spirit, let us cross that bridge.
This wedding was performed under the threat of a coastal storm. God held back the rains and gave us one of the most beautiful sunsets seen in recent times.
A Homily for the Am Ha'Aretz (Michael's and Leah's Marriage Homily)
Michael and Leah remind me of Adam and Eve in that they met each other in the beauty of nature. Only….their relationship was conceived and fostered through an intimate connection with the primordial ooze of pluff mud and the primal, nurturing, mystical power of the ocean.
Their relationship has been baptized, you could say, in the waters of Folly Beach. And now a family whose own relationships have been fostered a bit north in the waters of the jersey shore have come to support in love and prayer the baby of her family, Leah, in her marriage to the baby of his family, Michael. So here we all are, about to be baptized by water from the heavens themselves. What a joining, sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and family and matrimony and mud and sand and garden and love.
We in the church are familiar with the phenomenon described by the phrase, “Spiritual, but not religious”. Open to spiritual ideas, and hungry in heart for answers in life. Just not so enamored of churchy stuff.
I get it that for many “Mother Church” has come to seem “Old Fashioned”, perhaps even irrelevant, in the minds of some. And yet the faith into which you both were baptized has drawn us all here today, and through our prayers and love sustains you, as well as all of us. The transcendent God of the universe came, in the person of Jesus Christ to build a bridge between the ancient paths of the first magic of God’s creation to all of mankind and the future. We call it “Ancient-Future”, the gathering of all things past and present unto Himself.
Whether or not we realize it, we are all standing on that bridge that God built. From our baptism in the waters of the church… to where we stand today…not just physically here together, but situationally, wherever each one of us finds ourselves at this moment in time.
Do not burn that bridge. It has spanned human lifetimes and, although perhaps old and creaky here and there, it is large enough and plenty strong to hold us all on our journey through this life on earth to our eternal destinies, established in the heavens.
And now especially to you two, Michael and Leah. Anyone who has been married for longer than five minutes knows that storms will come. You will, and perhaps already have, hurt each other. As St. Paul says, “Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another and, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
In just a moment you will give your vows to one another. Not only are you giving vows; you are giving your souls to each other. And we who love you are witnesses. And we support you. May you ever deepen in the love that brought you here, and find the deep blessings of God in your lives, which now are becoming one in Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Rev. Christopher M. Huff