The Rev. Charles Hoffacker
A few years back, none of us would have imagined this day. Graham and Laurie were unknown to each other and a huge distance of land and sea separated them. But much has happened since then: an unexpected meeting, phone calls and e-mails, long conversations, multiple visits, a proposal, and now today a wedding.
God had it all in mind, of course, and the experience and character of both Laurie and Graham, developing over many years, prepared each of them for one another and for marriage. Yet this was a process of preparation incognito, unknown to the couple-to-be and to everyone else.
Our bride and groom were established in life, content enough with their circumstances, when that first casual encounter took place at a party, and soon it was wonder that was in charge.
Wonder. Surprise. Gift. Delight. These are good words for a wedding. These are good words for a marriage.
Wonder. Surprise. Gift. Delight. These are good words for this wedding of Graham and Laurie and for the life together they are inaugurating.
Wonder. Surprise. Gift. Delight. These are blessing words, words of blessing, that family and friends and church speak out and act out in one form and another today, that what they represent may still be real for Laurie and Graham forty, fifty, sixty years from today.
Back before they met, Graham and Laurie may not have been asking for wonder. Whether or not they were, wonder is what they got, and they can see wonder–and surprise and gift and delight–each in the other’s face on this their wedding day.
Wonder took charge for Laurie and Graham, whether or not they asked for it. Today, and in days to come, they can, if they choose, ask for it. They can ask for wonder and surprise and gift and delight, and they can receive it.
There’s a challenge to offer any couple on their wedding day: ask for wonder. Ask for it repeatedly through the years of your marriage, ask for it when you are alone, and when you are together. Ask not for the consolation prizes our culture endorses, but ask for something bigger and better: wonder and surprise and gift and delight. Let that be your way to see the world.
Graham and Laurie, your experience with wonder pre-dates your relationship. Your fascination, Graham, with computers and the problems they solve and create–certainly this is wonder at work. Your energy for teaching, Laurie, and how students learn and change–certainly this is wonder at work. The two of you have certainly not sold out your souls for consolation prizes and their disappointments.
New rooms in the palace of wonder now open up before you, each with its surprise and gift and delight. Wonder has been at work in your discovery of each other, your deepening relationship, your decision to marry. And wonder waits to work as well in circumstances and places you have not yet seen and cannot yet imagine.
Wonder waits for you in the life you start together this day. Yet somehow you must also ask for this wonder, and for its surprise and gift and delight. Together you must be susceptible to wonder. The style of life you choose and establish in the months and years ahead must leave you open to the wonder that awaits you. To establish and maintain this style of life is no easy business, but requires persistence, a willingness to get up and start anew. To establish and maintain this lifestyle friendly to wonder is a form of prayer.
Time for a story. Samuel Dresner tells of visiting his friend, the great rabbi Joshua Heschel. Heschel had suffered a near fatal heart attack and looked weak and pale. He spoke slowly and with some effort, almost in a whisper.
“Sam,” he said, “when I regained consciousness, my first feelings were not of despair and anger. I felt gratitude to God for my life, for every moment I had lived. I was ready to depart. ‘Take me, O Lord,’ I thought, ‘I have seen so many miracles in my lifetime.'”
Exhausted by the effort, Heschel paused for a moment, then added: “That is what I meant when I wrote: ‘I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And You gave it to me.””
[This story appears in Samuel H. Dresner. ed., I Asked for Wonder: A Spiritual Anthology Abraham Joshua Heschel (Crossroad, 1983), p. vii. What Heschel quotes is from the preface to his book of Yiddish poems.]
Laurie and Graham, you have encountered wonder in your work and in each other, whether or not you sought it. My hope is that throughout your life together, you will always ask for wonder, always leave yourselves susceptible to it, knowing that you can receive wonder and surprise and gift and delight, enough to enjoy and enough to share.
Copyright 2003, Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission.
• Copyright for this sermon 2008, The Rev. Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission. Fr. Hoffacker is an Episcopal priest and the author of “A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals” (Cowley Publications).