Saturday, May 09, 2015

Caring For The Elephant

Wedding of Ian & Gillian

Readings: Genesis 1:26-28, 31a; Psalm 118; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8; Mark 10:6-9
Picture: cc Amanderson2

Ian and Gillian, dear friends, do you still remember the story of the blind men and the elephant? As the story goes, several blind men had never seen an elephant before. So they found one and felt it with their hands to discover what it was like. But each person touched a different part of the animal, and so drew a different conclusion. The guy who felt the ear said the elephant was like a huge fan. The one who felt the tail said it was like a piece of rope. The one who felt the trunk said it was like a snake. And so on. Since their experiences were different, they could not agree as to what the animal was really like.

Which of them was right? Well, anyone who can see will be able to tell them that they are all right to some extent. But since they can’t see, the blind men don’t know that. They can only judge from their limited experience. Does this mean that they are doomed to argue forever? Does this mean that they can never be friends? Not really, right? For although they may disagree over what the animal is like, they can agree on at least one thing. They can agree that it is indeed an elephant that each of them is touching. They can agree that the animal is real. That, in itself, is a significant point of agreement.

And this is already more than enough for them to come together to cooperate on a single project. To care for that elephant. To make sure that it has enough to eat and to drink. To make sure that it lives a happy life. What’s more, as the blind men work together, perhaps it’s possible for them to go even further. Perhaps each of them can share his experiences of the elephant with the others. So that they can each learn to better appreciate where the others are coming from. And, in the process, learn to live peacefully with one another, without having to argue all the time. Perhaps they will even start an organisation of blind men, devoted especially to the care of orphaned elephants...

There is, of course, no elephant among us today. And thank goodness for that. But there is a question that some of us may be asking. As we gather on this joyous occasion, when Ian and Gillian are united as husband and wife. The question is this: How did this day come to pass? How did this happy couple meet and fall in love? How did they decide to get married?

I don’t propose to tell the whole story. I’ll leave you to ask the happy couple for the details. If you don’t already know them. As far as I know, there’s actually more than one way to tell the story. According to one version, it all began 14 years ago. With a very helpful catechism classmate by the name of Bertrand. Whose remarkable teenage efforts at matchmaking are finally bearing fruit today. (Is Bertrand here by any chance?)

But Bertrand is not the only one we have to thank. For his efforts would have come to naught if Gillian and Ian hadn’t struck it off. If they hadn’t found a mysterious connection with each other that has lasted all these years. Through various separations and reunions. So... thanks to Bertrand… But not just to Bertrand. According to another version of the story, something bigger than Bertrand was at work. Something that goes by various names. Some call it fate or kismet. Others luck or fortune. The idea that this relationship is somehow written in the stars.

And then there is, of course, the Christian version of the story. A version told in the readings that we just heard. According to this version, the story dates back, not just to 14 years ago, but way back to the very beginning of creation itself. The first reading tells us, that when God created the human race, God decided to create not just individuals, but relationships. From the beginning of creation God made them male and female. And God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good.

But what exactly was so very good about this relationship between the man and the woman. The answer is found in the second reading, which speaks to us of love. Not just any kind of love. Not just the love that we may have for shopping at Takashimaya. Or for eating durians. Or for collecting Hello Kitty dolls. The reading tells us that this love is what makes life worth living. Without this love, we can even give our bodies to be burnt, and it will do us no good. After all, don’t suicide bombers do the same? This love is different. It is always patient and kind… never jealous… boastful or conceited… never rude or selfish... This love never comes to an end.

And the reason it doesn’t come to an end is because it doesn’t originate with us. It comes from God. It is out of this love that God creates the human race. It is out of this love that God sent his only Son, Jesus, to save us from our selfish ways. It is out of this love that God has seen fit to unite Ian and Gillian as husband and wife. And what God has united, man must not divide.

So there we have it. Different versions of the same story. Different opinions as to how this joyous union we are celebrating came to be. Different ideas about whom we have to thank. Bertrand. Kismet. God. But which version is true? Which version do you believe? Very likely each of us here will believe something different. And none of us has the means to prove the others wrong. But that’s okay. For even if we don’t agree about when, how and by whom this connection between Ian and Gillian came to be. We can at least agree that these two young people are truly very much in love. We can at least agree that they do experience some mysterious connection with each other. A connection strong enough to give them the courage to commit their lives to each other. For the rest of their days.

And because we can agree about this, the rest of us can come together to cooperate with each other. To commit ourselves to doing whatever we can to ensure that this beautiful relationship continues to survive and to thrive in the days ahead. Isn’t this also something that we are celebrating today? Not just the union of two individuals. Of Ian and Gillian. But also the coming together of various very different people. With very different beliefs. Yet bound together by a common bond. A common concern. A common friendship. A common love. For Gillian and for Ian. Something that unites us in spite of our differences. Something that may even lead us to share our experiences with each other. To learn from one another. And to live fuller lives as a result.

Ian and Gillian, my dear friends, what are you prepared to do to continue caring for the elephant in the days ahead?

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