An Atheistic Buddhist Lesbian Wedding Service
On Saturday, August 9th, 2020, I had the awesome opportunity to officiate my sister's wedding. It was a nontraditional affair, to say the least, and Sarah and Lenora tasked me with using the Buddha's Four Noble Truths as the basis for my service. No easy task! This is a subject concerning one's personal inner-space, and it can sound somber to a western ear; the first noble truth, after all, is "There is suffering." How does one translate such a subject with the light touch required for such a happy occasion? This is how.
We are gathered here today in the hand-sanitizer scented presence of masked family and friends (as well as our home audience in their pajamas) to celebrate the joyous union of Sarah and Lenora and the coming together of their two families as one. Today, pandemic be damned, Sarah and Lenora end their journey as two separate souls and married life begins. The gratitude here is overwhelming; we all have so much to be grateful for, and Lenora and Sarah extend their deepest gratitude to you for being here to support and encourage them as they cross the threshold into this wondrous new adventure.
I’m Jeremy, and I’m Sarah’s older, balder, cooler brother (justst kidding, you're pretty bald too, Aaron!). Now, as I’m more heathen than holy man, instead of opening with a Biblical passage or prayer, I’d like to begin our service with my favorite poem. It’s by Emily Dickinson, and it’s called “Tell All the Truth.” My lovely niece and Sarah’s Maid of Honor, Riley, will read it to you.
"Tell all the truth
But tell it slant
Success in circuit lies
Like lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind"
Thank you, Riley. Great job!
There are four truths that the brides have asked me to discuss today. My sister first introduced me to these truths when she returned home from Moorehead State University, (GASP!) wanting to be my friend. I was deeply suspicious, of course! Not just because my mortal teenage nemesis had suddenly taken an interest in connecting with me, but because I found myself sitting with her on the floor of a Tibetan Buddhist learning center, surrounded by unfamiliar religious iconography, facing a bespectacled American hippie in a monk’s robes, looking as if he might leave the place after the day’s lesson to hitchhike to California and surf Big Sur. Not exactly the image one conjures when they think of a Buddhist monk. My doubts were quickly dispelled, however, and what I learned in those few introductory classes to Buddhism would keep me coming back to the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, and the tools they provide, for more than twenty years. While these tools deal with the very personal inner space of one’s mind, I have found them invaluable in my own marriage, allowing for compromise, forgiveness, and loving compassion.
But like I said, I’m no holy man (or surfer monk), so I’m not going to bore you with my layman’s explanation of these very complex but subtle truths. Instead, ladies and gentleman, please allow me take some liberties with these Eastern ideas and present them to you in a fashion more digestible to our Western palettes. So, without further ado, this is the nuptials edition of the “Four Part Art of Eating Shit Sandwiches.”
(The truth of suffering)
Number 1: Know that there are shit sandwiches. Life will feed them to you. Your boss will make you eat them. Your children will stuff them in your mouth insisting they’re turkey and cheddar cheese. You two will feed them to each other left and right, complete with shit fries, and a refreshing shit shake to wash ‘em down. Worst of all, you’ll feed shit sandwiches to yourselves while blaming (point to Lenora) Shoeless Joe over here!
(The truth of the cause of suffering)
Number 2: Get to know the chef. There’s a reason you’re dining on shit sandwiches. Sure, shit happens, and there’s nothing you can do to stop that, but the question to ask yourselves is: “Am I eating a shit sandwich that I made for myself?” That unfortunate taste in your mouth may be because you’re unwilling to accept life as it is. When you build expectations for your wife in your mind, you convince yourself of an imagined future reality, and when that reality fails to come to pass, we humans tend to put on our very own chef’s hat while blaming our spouse.
(The truth of the end to suffering)
Number 3: Insist to look at the menu. Sometimes you get what you get, and you just have to be grateful for your shit sandwiches, but more times than you may believe, you could order something else. Like pizza or ice cream. Seriously. And when you do have to eat those shit sandwiches life puts on your plate, you don’t have to go back for seconds. You can accept life the way it is. Your spouse the way she is. The shit sandwiches can also teach you to feel deep gratitude when life comes back around to you with the opportunity to savor a delicious chorizo breakfast burrito.
(The truth of the path to the end of suffering)
Number 4: Don’t just read the menu, memorize it. Be mindful of it. Learn it so deeply you could recite it drunk. Love is arguably the most important and mysterious piece of the marriage pie, the bit that brings us here today. It’s not just love for each other, though, it’s love for your children, your extended families, your friends, your fellow humans, and it’s love for yourself too. Loving yourself is being honest with yourself, being mindful of your own thoughts, and allowing what is to simply be what is. In this moment you stand together to become one. Notice your breath as you inhale. Notice your exhalation. Listen to your body and know how it feels. Your successful and healthy partnership, this coming together of two as one, begins with your own successful and happy individual head spaces. Through mindful observation of your own thoughts, you both have the amazing power to engage life as it is instead of how you want it to be, freeing your collective path from the imaginary obstacles created by your own expectations of and desires for the future or remembrances of the past. Well, the future is uncertain. The past is gone. NOW is your moment. Your only moment. Inhale. Notice your breath. Exhale. Feel the love in your heart. Mindfulness is expressing love and compassion for your own self, and it will help your love for each other to grow, thrive, and bear ripe fruit; unfettered by expectation and the unnecessary eating of shit sandwiches.
With the support of their newly blended community, Sarah and Lenora stand ready to declare their commitment to one another.
You may now share your vows.
Sarah, do you take Lenora to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold and eat shit sandwiches with, from this day forward?
Lenora, do you take Sarah to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold and enjoy shit sandwiches with, from this day forward?
Lenora and Sarah have asked Parker to hold the rings. Please come forward with the rings at this time.
Lenora, please take your partner’s hand in yours. As you place the ring on her finger, repeat these words: “With this ring, I give you my heart.”
Sarah, please take your partner’s hand in yours. As you place the ring on her finger, repeat these words: “With this ring, I give you my heart.”
By the power vested in me by the Universal Life Ministries, I now pronounce you wife and wife! You may kiss your bride!