The upcoming wedding of my friend Mel Soriano of I ntegrity USA (the LGBTQ-inclusive mission and ministry of the Episcopal denomination) and his partner, educator Stephen Mulder, reminds me that the Bible celebrates same-sex love as the example others emulate (not only that between Ruth and Naomi but also that between the Roman centurion and his "pais" in Matthew 7): "Don't leave me. Don't urge me to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me" (Ruth 1:16-17). Christian weddings commonly repeat these words of Hebrew wisdom that celebrate love between two women who see themselves as "one flesh," although those who use these biblical words of same-sex love to express their marriage covenant may, ironically, otherwise call same-sex partnership "sinful" or an "abomination."
However, the wedding language that Christians draw from the biblical Book of Ruth is indeed about covenant, about becoming "one flesh" -- a term also used in the Bible to describe those same-sex partnerships of mutual allegiance between blood kin (for example as Jacob and his uncle and father-in-law Laban celebrated their loyalty to one another in Genesis 29:14) and between the tribesmen of Israel and David as their leader (2 Samuel 5:1). Still, applying the words of Ruth for her committed love of Naomi to marriage is sound biblical interpretation: The Hebrew verb that tells us Ruth "clings" to Naomi in Ruth 1:24 ("davaq") is most often used to describe sexual partners being "united" in one flesh, as in the Genesis account of the creation of human partnership. Therefore, these words of same-sex love from Ruth -- originally expressing love between two women who live as one flesh in a family covenant -- is still used rightly by couples today to celebrate the covenant of marriage regardless of gender.
The love between same-sex partners, an "abomination"? No! Discrimination against same-sex partners is a false witness to God's perfect love and grace. Even mere "lukewarm" tolerance is distasteful to God from a faith perspective (Revelation 3:16). The right words for same-sex Christian marriage include "sacrament," "witness," and "testament." In Christian community, marriages are celebrated as occasions for worship with a liturgy before our community of faith, as a covenant in which we celebrate, praise, worship, love, and devote ourselves to embracing and experiencing God's presence in a love that is not purely erotic ("eros") nor mere friendship ("phileo") but the kind of selfless love that expresses God's very nature ("agape"). To love one another in sacramental covenant as same-sex partners is to bear witness to the unconditional goodness of our God. So I celebrate the love my sisters share with each other and the love my brothers too share in their same-sex marriages with a wedding prayer inspired by the work of Kittredge Cherry, Patrick S. Cheng, and Joe Perez.
Rainbow Christ, You embody all the colors of the world that You created. Rainbows bridge Your different realms: East and west, heaven and earth, queer and non-queer. So inspire us to celebrate each color of Your rainbow together.
Lighting a red candle: The red of Your rainbow reminds us to LIVE FULLY a renewed Life rooted in Spirit. Living and Self-Loving Christ, nourish in us the grace of healthy well-being. Renew our bodies, our minds and our spirits so that we may follow the abundant inner light You give us. Thank You, God, for creating each of us just as we are.
Lighting an orange candle: The orange of Your rainbow reminds us to THANK You for the gift of creativity, including the fire of sacred human sexuality, sanctified by the Spirit. Christ, Word made Flesh, open and free us to receive from You relationships that are mutual means of grace. Help us to forgive the past and to embrace now all that is positive in this present moment, expression our passion and our desire in creative, healthy, grace-filled ways.
Lighting a yellow candle: God, the yellow of Your rainbow reminds us to REJOICE, even in the very gift of self, each of us made in God's own image. Christ, our core, Your Spirit empowers us, radiating in and through us. Grant us grace to value and trust ourselves and each other enough to "come out" continually from secrecy, shame, and self-rejection into Your light that illuminates and affirms Your image and love in each of us.
Lighting a green candle: God, the green of Your rainbow reminds us to LOVE, the very heart of Your Spirit. Transgressive Christ, You are our heart, braking into the perfect freedom that You alone give us through Your perfect love that casts out fear. Fill our hearts with untamed, compassionate love for all beings, including ourselves and each other, in every area of our lives, so that we give love and receive love with happiness, balance, grace, and harmony.
Lighting a blue candle: God, the blue of Your rainbow reminds us to GIVE VOICE to our selves, made in Your image, beloved by God, trusting that self-expression is the voice of Your Holy Spirit in, through and between us. Liberator Christ, You are our voice, speaking out with calm, confidence and power against all that oppresses Your creation. Grant us gracious, prophetic, active, and just voices to speak Your truth in love.
Lighting a purple candle: God, the violet of Your rainbow reminds us of the inner vision that seeks and knows Your highest Truth, which is LOVE, the deep intuitive wisdom of Your Holy Spirit. Interconnected and interconnecting Christ, You are our Wisdom, creating and sustaining us and Your universe. Grant us the grace of interdependence, freeing us from isolation. As all the colors of Your rainbow are connected and yet distinct, connect us with each other and with all of Your creation in ways that bring peace, wholeness, balance, and nurture of our spirits. Though the colors of Your rainbow are distinct, You bring them together to make one light. All-Encompassing Christ, our Crown, in this same way You unite humanity with God. So too unite us with each other, liberating us to accept from You interconnection as a gift of Your grace. Like the rainbow, may we too embody and reflect Your light, color, beauty and promise. AMEN.