Relationships Aren’t Easy, They Aren’t Supposed To Be!

Homily delivered at St. Paul’s Piney Parish, November 17, 2013Image

I have been reflecting this week on marriage and more broadly, on relationships.  One of the underlying themes in this morning’s gospel reading alludes to how difficult relationships are and how they can go amiss.

I am no expert.  I only have my theories and opinions.  Because i am not an expert, it seemed to me that perhaps some advice and counsel would be a good idea.  Where does on go for such counsel you ask?  Well Google, of course!  So I found a website with sage advice on several different questions on marriage.

The first question, How does one decide who to marry?

Kelly, 9 years old – “You flip a nickel, and heads means you stay with him and tails means you try the next one.” –

Concerning the proper age to marry…

Bert, 5 years old – “Once I’m done with kindergarten, I’m going to find me a wife”-

What Do Most People Do on a Date?

Martin, 10 years old – “On the first date, they just tell each other lies, and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.” –

Craig, 9 years old – “Many daters just eat pork chops and french fries and talk about love.” –

The Great Debate: Is It Better to Be Single or Married?

Anita, 9 years old – “It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need somebody to clean up after them” –

Will, 7 years old – “It gives me a headache to think about that stuff. I’m just a kid. I don’t need that kind of trouble.” –

So, what got me to thinking about all of this?

I was driving up Route 5 this week, and saw a big box van.  The entire box on the back of the van was covered with graphics.  There was a handsome couple in the center of the picture on all sides with smiles as wide as Nebraska with perfect teeth and they were beautifully dressed.

In as large of letters as possible next to this couple were the words, “Marriage Made EZ”.  Underneath, at the bottom of the graphic on the truck was their web address,

This whole sight of this truck and the implication of it that there is a magical formula for marriage to be easy nagged at me.

I went to their website.  Sure enough, this couple, Pastor Mike and Dr. DeeDee Freeman have a “ministry”.

There are a few things about this that make me suspect.  Some of my observations are judgmental.  I will admit to that.  Some are skeptical.  I admit to that as well.  And some are hopeful that this endeavor by these two people is making a difference.

Here is what is really bugging me.

  • Marriage is not easy and it is not supposed to be.
  • Relationships are not easy and they are not supposed to be.
  • Life is not easy and it is not supposed to be.

Now don’t misunderstand, it’s not hard all the time, but relationships are work…they take effort.  And lots of it.

 So, where is the theology in this little rant of mine?

Yesterday, Mother Julie and I participated with hundreds of others in the Confirmation Service at the Cathedral.  We were witness to people who are saying publically, “I want to serve Christ!”  Our very own Nicete Moodie and Dee Jameson were received into the Episcopal Church in this service.

They, along with the hundreds of others there, were asked if they reaffirm their renunciation of evil.  There was a resounding, “I do.”

They were asked if they reaffirmed their commitment to Jesus Christ.  Again, with significant volume, the answer came. “I do, and with God’s grace I will follow Him as my Savior and Lord.”

And then the Bishop asked us, the congregation present in the cathedral, “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?”

After that, for the second time in a week, I participated in community and communion, in renewing the Baptismal Covenant.

If you would like to follow along, grab a Prayer Book and turn to page 416.  As I prepared to bring you this morning’s message, the words found there have a lot to say.

You see, in each question, I underlined a word or two for emphasis.  I personalized these questions to me and I want to share that.  It wasn’t just the words or liturgy that way that I have recited over and over again.

Some of the questions or issues raised by focusing on these words were affirmations.  And some, were clearly things that I need to center myself on more often

  • Do you believe in God the Father?
  • Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
  • Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?

These first three were easier for me. While occasionally, my human mind tries to understand all of this and it can’t, in the end, I have the faith that even though I cannot possibly comprehend this or make it make human sense…I do believe.

  • Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?

I underlined the words “Will you” here.  It’s a fair question and one I should ask myself every single day.  It is not news that I occasionally get lazy.  I may stay in bed on a Sunday morning or I may not pointedly spend time in prayer and meditation.  But… I have said I will.

  • Will you persevere in resisting evil and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

Persevere, the very word says work.  And to persevere is to never stop in your work and effort.

  • Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

I underlined word and example here.  What does my life look like to others?  What does your life look like to others?  Is our example what Jesus wants? I have a favorite poem by Edgar Guest and it opens with the sentence:  I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.  Do you realize your life tells a story whether you are focused on that or not?

  • Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

This is my favorite one.  Will you seek Christ in all persons?  You see friends, I believe with all of my being that Christ exists in EVERYONE; the evil, the lost, the homeless, the rich, the poor, everyone.  We are called to find Christ especially in those in which it is not easy.

  • Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?

What can I do to affect justice and peace?  Well, there two things for sure….PRAY for those affected and make sure it isn’t me that is part of the problem.

 You can call these rules if you want.  You can label them with any words that works for you.  The label you put on them is not the point of my message to you today.

My point is this.  Relationships are not easy.  You can’t just buy a big truck and put the words on the side and make it so.

Relationships are work.  They take effort.  They take dedication… and often, re-dedication.  They take periodic assessment and adjustment.  They take joy.  They take enthusiasm.

Whether it is the relationships we have with each other or…our relationship with God and Jesus Christ, it’s hard work.

Let me say that again…

Whether it is the relationships we have with each other or…our relationship with God and Jesus Christ, it’s hard work.

But, my friends, hard work can yield big rewards.  No, let’s use a different word for rewards.  Because hard work in relationship with God and with each other produces blessings.

Good relationships, love, caring, nurturing, support, fun… all of these things; that is what the God I love wants for us.  That is what it’s all about.  But….YOU have to do the work.

Would you pray with me please?

In my closing prayer, I repeat the words of the collect said in the service of confirmation

Almighty God, we thank you…
that by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ…
you have overcome sin and brought us to yourself…
and that by the sealing of your Holy Spirit you have bound us to your service.

Renew in us your servants the covenant you have made with us at our Baptism

Send us forth in the power of that Spirit to perform the service you set before us;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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