Now that I am retired, I am still busy, but not consecutively. I bounce from one “one-time” event to another–a funeral, a wedding or two, a concert here and there, and writing. That along with the avalanche of priorities for caring for two parents and family priorities. My joke is, “I do lots of things, but not two in a row.” My other is that now I mostly do “leavings, cleavings and (when I fill in for a preacher) relievings.”
Relationships abide past the end of work, and recently we were invited to celebrate a sixtieth anniversary of two dear friends in my former pastorate, Crawford and Marlene Taylor. I was their pastor for most the past twenty-nine years, and we gathered to have a party. We celebrated the marriages of their son and daughter, and welcomed their grandchildren together. Our new pastor, Dr. Eric Spivey, gave the opening prayer and blessing for the meal, and their children shared a hilarious parody of “Old Man River,” entitled “Old Married Couple.”
I was asked to bring a benediction. We have come to mean benediction as “marking the end” of something, but it is in fact a blessing as we go, continuing the “word” we have shared back into our going. Here is what I shared for these two wonderful friends.
“Crawford and Marlene,
We have all come here to rejoice. The two of you have interwoven into our lives, else we would not be here, except for the free food, of course. But we have known generosity, and laughter and intensity of faith in you both. You are not the same, but as you have journeyed through life, you have created what only faithful determination to “do it together” can—abiding love, deeper understanding, laughter and tears. You are now long become fixed points of navigation to the people who sail along nearby. Thank you. So, I say today, as next year we have known one another thirty years, that friendship has no expiration date. It continues, even into death as memory. And so may I offer this blessing for marriage to you, from Irish author and priest, the late John Donohue, as long as you are privileged to dwell together.” Dr. Gary Furr, on the occasion of your anniversary, August 28, 2022.
As spring unfolds the dream of the earth,
May you bring each other’s hearts to birth.
As the ocean finds calm in view of land,
May you love the gaze of each other’s mind.
As the wind arises free and wild,
May nothing negative control your lives.
As kindly as moonlight might search the dark,
So gentle may you be when light grows scarce.
As surprised as the silence that music opens,
May your words for each other be touched with reverence.
As warmly as the air draws in the light,
May you welcome each other’s every gift.
As elegant as dream absorbing the night,
May sleep find you clear of anger and hurt.
As twilight harvests all the day’s color,
May love bring you home to each other.
O’Donohue, John. To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
It occurs to me in this moment of insufferable and infantile tirades and resentments that we might need more parties, more rejoicing, more marking of times, and far more blessing. Rev. Myron Maddon famously wrote that we have “the power to bless.” The companion of that, naturally, is the power to curse. In a moment of constant accusations, blaming and vulgarity, wouldn’t a little more blessing be in order?