These are excerpts from my wedding sermon for A. and D. yesterday:
"When I was a little girl, one of my mother's sisters and her husband and their two small children moved to rural Zumbrota, near Rochester, Minnesota. They did this because my uncle had decided that he wanted to build a house -- by himself. I remember the first time we visited them -- it was memorial day weekend, I think. They had just bought this property with an old, falling-down farmhouse on it -- that was all. Our family brought a tent when we visited them, because there was no place to stay in their house.
It seemed like an adventure to us -- although (when I think back) it probably didn't seem so much like that to my aunt. For awhile they lived in this old farmhouse while my uncle got started. It think it is diplomatic to say that this old farmhouse did not have many amenities. And -- you guessed it -- the first thing my uncle had to build was the basement -- that is the foundation. I remember going to visit them again, when they were actually living in the basement of the house. That's how they did it. They would build a section and then stop for awhile until they had enough money and time for the next step. So for awhile -- actually it seemed like a long time to me -- they lived in the basement of their house. They had these multi-colored carpet squares on the floor, and a kitten who lived with them. Since they lived in the basement for a long time, you know it had to be a GOOD basement.
Now in case you are getting worried, I do remember visting them after the house was all completed. It was a lovely, large house with a beautiful floor plan. But I'll never forget camping out the first weekend, and the carpet square basement they lived in. In fact, I think I visited them in their basement more often than I visited them in their finished house.
You may be wondering why I'm telling you this story. One of the things you have told me in our time together, is that building a foundation is important to you. You were both looking for someone you could build a foundation with. That is one of the things that attracted you to each other. Here is someone I can build a foundation with, you each thought. Of course, one of the pictures I want you to have in your mind when you think about "building a foundation" is the carpet-squared basement, because building a good foundation takes time. It's messy work, and it's not always exciting work. When you talk about building a foundation, you're taking the loing view. That's so important on a day like today, the first day of your marriage. I want you to take the "long view" when you think about your marriage too, a foundation you are building for a house you are going to live in for a long time, a house that, in some sense, will never be finished. You'll be working on your house for your whole married life. Sometimes you'll be building that basement, sometimes you'll be working on the windows, sometimes adding a room or re-modeling for a different time of your life. But you will always be working on something. I'll bet a lot of people in this room can tell you stories about painting the living room, or re-papering the kitchen, and they won't be pretty stories. In order to build a foundation, there are certain skills that you need, and not just pouring cement and pounding nails. You need patience, understanding, compassion, forgiveness ... and oh, an ability to laugh about it later. That comes in handy too...
... Our gospel story today (Matthew 7:24-29) tells us that it also matters where we build our house. If we build on rock, our house will stand, but if we build on sand, our house will fall. I think many people build their house on sand rather than rock, because they build on romantic love, which is great, but not enough, or on faith in each other, which is also great, but not enough. Because you, D. and A., wonderful as you are (and I think you are both wonderful people) are human beings, and you are bound to disappoint each other sometimes... you are bound to put up a few bad planks, or put up with some multi-colored carpet squares. You are bound to need to say "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you" sometimes...
.... In a little while, you will be joining hands and making promises of faithfulness to one another. My prayer for you on this day, is that you know that there is one who in baptism has made an eternal promise of faithfulness to you -- and who renews that promise every time you share his meal. My prayer for you, is that you build your marriage on his love for you, his promise of faithfulness, and his forgiveness, so that whether you are living in a tent or a basement, an apartment or a mansion, you will be living with God, and relying on his love."