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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wedding Season

This is the season of weddings. In fact, my own anniversary is just a couple days away. Weddings can, and do, happen all across the calendar, but summer seems to bring out the marriage impulse in people.

And it's not just people getting married for the first time. Sure, there are plenty of first-time brides who are dreaming of big summer weddings, and countless groomsmen who are dreading wearing black tuxedos on humid 90 degree days, but even people marrying later in life, after a first spouse has died or been divorced, seem to want to get married this time of year. Marriage is an interesting institution.

A few years ago I sat down and estimated about how many marriage ceremonies I had performed over the years. I've had a couple of years where I have done 30, and one of 42 (personal record, 2004. And a nod to Congress and President George W. Bush who started a war and called up countless young men and women who got married before being deployed. I did 73 marriages, 60 of them involving service men and women, in the first 18 months of the Iraq war.) I am somewhere around 350 weddings I bet.

There was one day--July 7, 2007 (07/07/07) that I did 4 weddings. That too is my personal daily record. Now, I am not trying to be brave here, and I don't imagine I am anywhere near the "Most Weddings done All-Time" by a preacher. I'm just saying that I have seen my fair share of weddings. (Sadly, I have not been able to perform a wedding for any gay or lesbian couples. This is not right, and the world will be a better place when we have marriage equality.)

I'd also say that maybe only 2/3 of those weddings have been in churches. I have done weddings in Legion Halls, boats, bars, restaurants, backyards, golf-courses, pastures, cornfields (with standing corn), my office (this one is becoming more and more popular), living rooms, a pool, and the ocean, to name a few...I'm doing one next month in a historical village, fortunately, I don't have to dress in costume.

I've had brides in dresses costing thousands of dollars, and one who got hers the day before at a Goodwill for 10 bucks. (Her wedding cake was also made from Rice Krispie treats.) I've seen grooms in everything from shorts and flip-flops to jeans and cowboy hats to Armani tuxedos. (That was me.) Although I probably haven't seen everything, I've seen a lot. Except for one thing...

I've never seen someone not get married. (True, one time the bride was 30 minutes late, but her limo died, and she had to walk the last mile in 100 degree Chicago heat. I wish cell phones were invented back then, as the groom was freaking out a bit.) Everyone has always gone through with it. I've signed the licenses, I've blessed the rings, I've encouraged to the couples to kiss. Every single time they have gone through with it. Even if they knew they were getting divorced on Monday, they went through with it. (I don't know that has happened, but how would I know?)

And that interests me because it seems to imply that people find something valuable in those weddings. Maybe it's love? Maybe it's sex? Maybe it's family (whatever shape and size that might mean)? Maybe it's God? It could be commitment...it could be faithfulness...it could be happiness...(brings to mind the Stanley Hauewas joke: Christians have to love one another, even if they are married.)

I don't know what it is about weddings, but I think they are a time for us to be at our best as people, trying to figure out what we have in common, how we are related, and partying on someone else's dime. Whether there is a patina of religion on the wedding or not (and obviously I don't care if there is or not), I am sure God is smiling at most weddings. Weddings don't satisfy some rule that God has about sex or love; weddings aren't for moralists to preach about things they do not understand; weddings are about love and sharing it. Nothing more, nothing less. And if you find someone you can do that with on a regular basis...why wouldn't God smile? Why wouldn't you?

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.

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