“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”
-- Song of Solomon 2:10-13
Years ago, when Cassie was being trained at Publix as the new employee she met this man standing beside her. By that time Russ had been working there many years, had seen many employees come and go, and didn’t pay much attention to the new recruit. But Cassie remembers what Bobby told her when they were first introduced: “Russ is your man if you want something in the kitchen.”
I’ve known Cassie for 10 years now, and ever since I met her, I’ve been delighted with her smiley and sunny disposition. I’ve had the pleasure of being her pastor, teaching her in confirmation, hearing her dreams of becoming a bartending librarian… and for a while there, had to put up with constant questioning from church members: “what’s up with Cassie and your son…they’re always together.” At some point I lost count of the number of times I used to tell people, “Nothing…they’re just good friends.”
But family friends and church friends do become very special to you, and when you see someone every week over a period of several years and watch them grow up, you start to feel a little protective of them. You look with wonder to see this flighty young teen grow into such a smart and responsible young adult, but then here she is…following the call of God and the urgings of her heart to join in this blessed bond of marriage, to become a family with Russ and Bailey, to allow that love which is bigger than us all to make the two into one.
Two becoming one – blood and bone, body and body. Russ and Cassie have made the choice of a lifetime in coming here before us and before God, to share their wedding vows. They have been thinking ahead and planning for this life together literally for years now. Even before they knew it themselves, from the time Russ drove half an hour to give her a Twix candy bar, or from their official public appearance as boy friend and girlfriend on Christmas eve 2012, Russ and Cassie have been journeying together towards this moment.
Love is patient, indeed, as St. Paul tells us. And kind. Cassie looked at Russ and saw someone who has worked long and hard to do the right thing and struggled to care for a family in the face of many difficulties. She was able to make him laugh and get him out of his shell, and experience life in a new way. Before Russ asked Cassie to marry him, he talked to Bailey and they looked at rings at the mall. Nervously, he went to ask Nils for Cassie’s hand in marriage, but he wasn’t home. The tension just got worse when it happened again. The third try, he and his future father-in-law finally came face-to-face. And rock-hard Nils was all tears of joy….
A week later, Russ and Cassie were back at the Ruby Tuesdays where they’d had their first date. Somehow the atmosphere in the restaurant just never seemed right for the moment. Instead of popping the question over dinner, they got back in the car, buckled their seat belts, and then it happened. By the time they got back to the Lenz house they had one question for Cassie, “So, you got new jewelry?”
Russ and Cassie, you will both be leaving this ceremony with new jewelry. Although you are two people, you are determined to live as one. Through our prayers and presence we declare that same God who created you and brought you together will also make you a new creation through the promises and commitment, the love and determination you share today.
Together, you have created a vision of what your marriage will look like. You’ve agreed not just to love each other, but to say “I love you” to one another often; not just to care about each other’s feelings but to talk about whatever’s bothering you, to have each other’s backs, to laugh a lot, clean up after one another, and to share your toys. In the vows that you are about to exchange, you will give yourselves to each other through Christ, who gave himself to us and to the world. With his own body and soul, the one who knows us inside and out, who sees the truth of our inmost spirit, also gives us his life and our heavenly Father’s love. Through Christ, God accepts us completely and enable to love others the way St. Paul describes: with both gentleness and wholehearted passion, with great tenderness, and with a strength that endures to the end.
Today we join our prayers and best wishes, and our own promises to support you in your new life together. May God grant you joy and adventure, long life and a full house. The best part is yet to come, so you better buckle your seatbelts…