During my years of being a pastor, I regularly dealt with all things matrimonial. There were always weddings on my calendar’s horizon.
That changed when I vamoosed the weekly pulpit. My involvement with nuptials became as non-existent as wearing a color-coordinated tie and suit on Sundays. Weddings have become infrequent.
However, a few years ago, I attended three weddings within weeks of each other. Twice as a celebrant, standing before two eager, hope-filled couples and inviting them to “repeat after me.” Once with my family, settling into a chair with a front row view of the proceedings.
Mostly, I don’t like weddings.
Help a family with a funeral versus a wedding? I’ll take the grave.
Prepare parents for infant baptism versus a wedding? Please, let me get wet.
Attend a trustees meeting versus a wedding? You’ve got me! I’ll choose the ceremony (and even adjust the bride’s frilly train.)
I’m thinking about weddings for more than my own involvement. Even though same-gender marriage is now legal across the nation, during the current autumn of 2017 the Supreme Court will consider arguments about a Colorado baker’s 2012 refusal to sell a wedding cake. The disgruntled customers were a “gay couple.”
According to the highest court, it’s about protection of free speech. Or was it discrimination? Or a business owner’s right to greet certain customers with a “welcome” and others with a “goodbye?” (In other words, No shirt, No shoes, No service…) Or was it another skirmish in the religious/cultural war over “values” and “beliefs?”
Why don’t I like weddings? Drunken bachelor parties, mothers making all the arrangements, young people with barely a nickel in the bank going into debt, second mortgages taken out by parents, people in outfits they wouldn’t wear on the darkest Halloween night, someone drank too much champagne, insulted the DJ and ruined everything.
Well, I’m probably exaggerating..
I’m also a hypocrite. I enjoyed the recent ceremonies. I liked the couple I married in a backyard. They were older. No attendants or pricey clothes. I’d met one of them 30 years ago. The wedding was a reunion.
At my family’s wedding, I was brother. I watched the girl I played Monopoly with declare those risky “I do” words to the one she loved.
In the third festivity, a same-gender couple exchanged vows on a warm October day. Friends and family had donated time, food, and place for their wedding.
Of course, a fourth wedding teases my mind. Jesus told a tale of the 10 bridesmaids. Those radical spoilsports, the Jesus Seminar scholars, observed (in “The Five Gospels”) that Matthew 25:1-13, . . . does not have any of the earmarks of Jesus’ authentic parables.
It does not cut against the religious and social grain. Rather, it confirms common wisdom: those who are prepared will succeed, those not prepared will fail.
Being a grumpy contrarian, I agree with those learned scholars. The parable was likely Matthew warning believers about the end of the world. Be prepared! Or did Jesus share this story? Isn’t it fun to debate theology?
And yet, I can imagine those Gospel bridesmaids. Like every wedding, and especially for the two “becoming one,” some are ready, some are not. Unlike the parable, there’s no easy predicting who’ll be ready and who will not.
Maybe I dislike weddings because we put such an obscene emphasis on one day. The ideal white dress accompanied by ill-fitting tuxedos. Guaranteed stress and distress. But it’s the best day of my life! Really? What matters in any relationship is the hard work of each day.
Three weddings. Each different, but all had one similar moment. Two people turned to each other, claiming enough love and enough trust in God, to make a vow. I hope all three couples, in this wondrous, anguished world, take a moment to turn toward each other every day and declare a renewed vow of joy.
And then to turn outwards toward the world , as ready as the Gospel bridesmaids to live out the vow with all they encounter.
The Rev. Larry Patten of Fresno is a writer and minister who works at Hinds Hospice. He maintains www.larrypatten.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org