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A message for Lydia and James’ Wedding

The Greatest … is Love
For the Lydia and James’ marriage (June11, 2011)

Click for Larger Image What a special day today! How precious this moment is! My only daughter Lydia is getting married. I am celebrating her wedding ceremony as an officiant. Is there anybody here who has officiated for their only daughter’s wedding? [You might know exactly what I am going through at this moment]. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not many people have this privilege. I am exceptionally gratified! I am so thankful to the Claremont United Methodist Church Congregation, Rev. Sharon, Rev. Dan and the Claremont church staff for their unreserved support in helping to make this event possible. This wedding ceremony marks a new beginning of life-together for Lydia and a great man, James, officially my son in law in the next few minutes, if everything goes to plan. This ceremony also marks a new beginning for the Rogers and Sohns to become ‘One’ new family.

In our contemporary culture, it seems that there are three main assumptions associated with the process of getting married. First, partners are freely chosen. Second, the partners get married because they think they are in love. And third, they believe their lives will be happier if they spend their lives together, forever basking in each other’s loving arms. I myself have come to believe that these assumptions, although important to a certain extent, can also lead to an unhappy marriage because they are, if not illusory, merely temporary. I want to stress what I hold to be the most important aspects of marriage in contrast to these contemporary assumptions as a way of offering a blessing upon this marriage.

First, for marriage, true life-long partners are chosen by God. In Korean, Cheonsaing baipil [천생배필] means “a match made in heaven.” If God has chosen for you, that choice never fails! Some of you might wonder, “how can I be certain if God has chosen my partner?” Well, of course you have to do some homework. The Book of Wisdom in the Hebrew bible says, even “God tests and examines to see who is right, just as we test and examine gold by melting it in the oven.” So I tried to test James. No, I didn’t intend to put him in an oven, although he certainly might’ve felt as if he was pushed into one. When James called me to ask for Lydia’s hand in marriage 14 months ago, I really wanted to hear his compelling reasons for why he wanted to marry Lydia. As any concerned father, I wanted to be sure. So, knowing what this PhD candidate was good at, I asked him 2 simple questions. They were: (1) why do you love Lydia among so many women out there? And, (2) how do you want to make her happy, not just for a couple of years but for her entire life? After several months of patiently waiting, I finally received a 1500-word in 12 fonts, 3 full page single spaced essay. It was more than just a personal response but also one composed of philosophical arguments and theologically grounded analysis. I believe I had a slight headache after reading it. I had a glass of wine. He began the essay, “intensely difficult questions.” But, what he said really assured by that this was the man for my daughter.

Second, marriage is not just for two individuals. It involves both the bride and groom’s families but also includes their extended local and faith communities. In the Korean tradition, Wedding is identified as “Dae Rye [대례].” It means a “grand ritual” because two families join together as one with a whole village community. It also associates the belief that heaven and earth are joined in a wedding. In James’ essay, he is correct in saying, “Marriage means marrying into a family.” He got the most points from me when I read that sentence. At least 1,000 points. He also wrote, “I want to make Lydia happy by learning about her family.” Becoming one family with different cultures and ethnicities can be very challenging based on my own communal living experiences over a decade at the Myra House. But it is also very exciting, magical, and the rewards are incalculable. What a world we live in where a family with roots from Korea, an East Asian country, becomes one with an Irish American family from Boston! I am not sure where and how he learned to like kimchi so much! He even enjoys soonduboo, an extremely hot and spicy tofu soup. Strangely, he seems to love Korean food more than some native Korean I know. We have certainly appreciated James enjoys cooking. Since he joined our community, our dinner table menu has become rich in nutrition, colors and aroma. We love when he bbqs bell pepper with onions and mushrooms, bakes glutton free pizza and even multi-grain begets.

Thirdly, and most importantly, a happy marriage is not just built upon two people spending their time together in search for pleasures. Rather, the source of true happiness comes from working together without forsaking the virtues we were born and raised with. Socrates says virtues make impossible things possible. In Christianity virtue is linked with salvation. In the Korean culture, virtue is what makes life beautiful by calling it ‘Miduk [미덕]. James, you were absolutely right when you said marriage is about serious commitment. You emphasized in your letter that a “long term living relationship requires work, conversation, changes, and acceptance even if what is foreign to one another.” Two special virtues are emphasized in the Korean wedding tradition, one for the groom and one for the bride. For the bride, the word is ‘il pyon dan shim [일편단심].’ It means ‘holding a single minded devotion for her husband.’ It was a noble custom for a married woman to never leave her husband to return to her parent’s house no matter what happened. For the groom, the word is, “Jeol Uyi [절의].” This is a two-fold virtue, including the one applied to the bride, that of “holding a single minded devotion for his wife,” and also the virtue of working towards things in justice.

In his letter James recognizes the many differences between him and Lydia. But he also emphasized their similarities: both seek social justice, environmental care, and a priority on family. We are born with loving care from our parents’ love. That sacrificial quality is not far from God’s unconditional love for humanity. Jesus whose life was reflected full nature of God, has taught us and showed us that Love, it was the greatest virtue of all that he laid his life not for himself but for others. As you appreciate at their concrete example showing us how to love, forgive and embrace, you both ought to live likewise for one another. For me, I am especially thankful to God to have Lydia as my precious daughter and to have had the opportunity watch her grow. Through her, I have learned how to love tangibly and love more deeply. If I have not had Lydia, nor raised her, I would never able to taste what true happiness is like.

Lydia, do you remember our prayers when you and I together every night before bed since your childhood? We prayed together about your future and your future husband. You’ve been anxiously waiting to find out who that person is. Here is the man God chose for you and for the Sohn family. James, here is the woman God chose for you. And to both the Sohn and Rogers family, welcome to this unity between James and Lydia. In this sacred space blue sky and high mountains are watching us. We are surrounded by ample green trees. All the saints of our faith traditions are here as witness and bless this marriage. All our Great ancestors and relatives who have gone before us are here and bless this marriage. Today, in this uplifting space, grandparents, parents, family members and friends travelled near and far, from east and west, north and south are here to offer their special blessings to this marriage.

James and Lydia, build your life most beautiful! Have a long and happy life together!
May God bless your marriage and watch over you as you begin your new life together.

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