Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Bahai-Jewish Wedding in Mexico

Saturday evening I officiated Shana and Arash's Bahai-Jewish wedding at Villa Amor in beautiful Sayulita, Mexico. Since Shana and Arash are both of Persian descent, I blessed them with the Priestly Blessing in Farsi, which was a first for me. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Almost every religion has one version or another of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others, as you would want done to you.” What we sometimes forget is that often that rule has been understood and is unfortunately by many people still understood to kind of have a little asterisk next to it. The asterisk says, “Do unto others, as you would want done to you, except for fill in the blank,” or “Do unto other, as you would want done to you, but only if they are part of our group/tribe/religion etc.” In this sense the Bahai faith is instructive. An important Bahai scripture addresses this very issue:

Should a person of whatever faith or nation, of whatever color, appearance, character or condition, be disposed to associate with you, ye should show forth kindness and treat him as a brother… (This) hath ever been and will continue to be true. It is not permissible to contend with anyone, nor is it acceptable… to ill-treat or oppress any soul. The fundamental purpose animating the faith… is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. Suffer it not to become a source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity.

The task of all people in the modern era is indeed to understand that there is no room for exclusions, no place for ifs, buts or maybes in the realm of the Golden Rule. Through such a universal practice of the Golden Rule, and only when practiced in such a way, do we ourselves become better people.

This is how Shana and Arash have personally lived their lives. They have never let anything stand in the way of their practice of the Golden Rule. They did not let the fact that they come from different faiths stand between them. Through their relationship, they have each indeed become better people. Through their relationship, and their acceptance of each other’s differences, they have, in fact, become more connected to their respective heritages.

Shana and Arash, may we all learn from your example. May we all consistently, and without hesitation practice the Golden Rule in the way you do. May the day that all religions hope for, arrive in your lifetimes, when through such practice, the world be at peace.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

John Lennon Had It Right

Sunday night I officiated my first wedding this year (125th overall!) right "next door" in McKinney, Texas. Here are the words I shared with this lovely couple, Rena and Jeff, and their guests:

When I was talking to Rena and Jeff about their thoughts, their experiences and their dreams as individuals and as a couple, it made me think about a little anecdote told by John Lennon: "When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life."

That short little story says so much. So many of us forget that what is most important are not the possessions we have, the titles we boast, or the trappings and accoutrements we hold. As Rena and Jeff tell us in words and action, these things really cannot give your life meaning. Only true happiness can.

How does one achieve such true happiness? Well, as a much older Lennon once sang, "All you need is love;" true happiness lies in loving and being loved. In Rena's words, "My love has grown for Jeff more than I thought was possible, and it continues to blossom. I can tell he genuinely loves me for who I am... He makes me laugh and find joy in mundane activities... I giggle to myself sometimes because I think about how content and giddy he makes me feel."

When we find this type of mutual love, it helps us not only in reaching happiness, but in wanting to spread love and happiness. Indeed, Jeff writes about Rena, that she has an affinity for spreading love, and about the affect her love for him and for others has had on him. "She is the most giving person that I know, spending her time giving back. Giving... makes her happiest and she is so warm and sweet to everyone. She makes me want to be a better person and give of myself to others like she does."

Rena and Jeff, as you well know, life will have its challenges. Marriage will throw you a few curve balls here and there. Much like a car, our very existence needs some realignment from time to time. Still, keep mutual love, love for others, your own happiness and the happiness of others central to who you are and what you do. If you do that, I have no doubt that your bond will not only be unbreakable, but even strengthen with time.