Re-post: About Weddings and Such

Photo credit: Oh mon héros ! [Kenya express) via flicker.comI got a note yesterday from a longstanding friend in a midwestern city to remind me that 40 years ago this month she, her groom, and I stood at the altar in the Greenville church where I administered their wedding vows. The bride’s father, an ordained minister, assisted. Her note was warm to both Kathleen and me, with other comments about that special day and our visits together that led up to it, and how much it had meant to them across four decades. Ministerial moments like that create a bond for a lifetime.

It so happened that about one month earlier Kathleen and I had shared a celebratory mail with a couple here in Ontario, for the same purpose. In a restaurant overlooking beautiful West Lake, we remembered that I had led them in exchanging their vows in New Westminster, B. C. 50 years earlier that very month. In the glow of the late afternoon sun we had reviewed our memories of the wedding and certain features attending the event. Those memories too are precious.

In a sense, each wedding was a one-of-a-kind event, never to be duplicated. Each was planned by the bride and her mother. (Grooms often show little interest in the details of the wedding itself; they just want to get through it.) In another sense, both weddings were the same in that, from a Christian perspective, all weddings are the same. That is, they all celebrate the wedding couple’s entrance into the “institution of marriage.” We Christians believe that God himself set the standards for marriage when he brought Eve to Adam with the intent that “they too shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24b). That truth is declared at every Christian wedding.

Across our 67 years of ministry there have been many weddings, some private, some public, some joyful, some vaguely sad, some lavish some simple but beautiful. There was the wedding of the bride who had been abandoned by her father in her early childhood, and whom she had never seen again — until he turned up unexpectedly on the morning of her wedding. This brought on a paroxysm of tears, a panic, and, for her, it took the bloom from the day. Once, a couple came to my study to tell me that they had divorced four years earlier prompted by a foolish fight that got out of hand. Over time and with the cooling of their pride they had realized what a mistake they had made. A week later I took them into the Luzader Chapel along with their children to be the first couple married in that facility. It was a tender moment of reconciliation.

Kathleen served as the wedding hostess at our weddings, coaching the bride and bridle party, and thus relieving their stress, and endearing herself again and again to the brides’ mothers. This was one of the most pleasant of pastoral duties for which we teamed together. Her services certainly made my part of the task easier. And by our generous services we signalled to the families that this event was very important to us – not just something ministers do on Saturdays.

I could not have foreseen all this as a challenging and enjoyable part of the work when as a 16-year-old boy I made my first affirmative responses to a call to the ministry. Nor could I have grasped the broad assignment of Christian ministry and the breadth of its challenges. Kathleen couldn’t have either when she consented to marry me. But recalling it now reminds us of what some young people will miss if they disregard or resist the call God places on their hearts to enter pastoral life in the service of the Master. It’s not just wedding and such, it’s entering deeply into people’s lives at their big transitional moments in life. What a rich blessing. Recalling it fills us with thankfulness to the Lord for the trust.

See my piece on how to conduct a wedding here: http://pclm.freemethodistchurch.org/

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2 thoughts on “Re-post: About Weddings and Such

  1. I wish every wedding I have performed were from a Christian viewpoint. But in any case I believe that normalizing a couple’s relationship is not only a gift but it eases consciences so that life together works so much more smoothly. You remind me of high points in my ministry and how Doris participated. But in many ways Doris saw either an open door or a call to minister and went ahead on her own without anyone’s coaching–except of course the call of God. As a result I have found many in our Brazilian church remember her well–better than me. That is great.
    blessings, Roy C. Kenny

  2. What a heartwarming and inspiring recollection of he couple divorced, reconciled and then remarried at the Luzader chapel.Reading,,I realized : one can’ be married in church twice,if it’s to the same person. I hadn’t thought of that before.What a triumph of reconciliation.

    Kathleen’s service as wedding hostess just goes to show how
    important a pastors spouse is in ministry.A ministerial team in fact.

    I think good strong marriages make us all more secure.For marriage is the foundation of family and families are the essential units of communities and societies.

    Family breakdowns seem to have become increasingly prevalent, including .divorce and separation ,abortion,unfaithfulness , adultery , domestic violence and the hiding one’s income and debts from each other. Marriage guidance agencies,like Relate, report this last phenomenon as typically causing marital strife.All this is very worrying for marriages, families and communities.For society.

    I feel that God is the heart of every wedding,along with bride and groom’s love for each other .With their love,He is the glue in every marriage. Wedding vows made by bride and groom are as much made to God as to each other..It is a covenant.As long as the covenant is kept ,the marriage can look to God’s guidance,protection and blessing.

    One of my very favourite pieces of Christian writing about God’s part in marriage is ‘A Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell’ written by Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer i,n May 1943.

    Pastor Dietrich had been imprisoned by the Gestapo for his brave opposition to the Nazified Protestant Church in Germany, whose allegiance was to Hitler.This church removed the Old Testament from the Bible ,thus removing the Christian and Biblical marriage basis and laws.It sought to ‘’dejudaize’’ the New Testament ,making a judaism -free Reich church,presenting Jesus as a non Jewish anti semite ,against the prophets and against scripture.New pagan heresies were promoted The whole theology of this new church was an absurd travesty whose adherents were coerced by fear.

    Hitler had taken over the church,turning it into an empty Christ f-ree shell.His intentions were open ,cynical and diabolic.

    ‘’The Italian fascists prefer to put up with the church in the name of God: I shall do likewise.Why not ?But this will not stop me from wiping out Christianity in Germany,destroying it fully down to the last root and branch’’ from ‘Hitler speaks’ Hermann Rausching 1993 p.51.

    Hitler gave Goebels the task of exterminating Christianity,advising him

    ‘’Let the churchmen dig their own grave; they will surrender their kind little deity to us.They will give up anything just to preserve their pitiful junk,ranks and incomes’’ and ‘’Positive Christianity is National Socialism’’ and ”Christianity is not dependant on the Apostles Creed’’ .

    Even insistence that Christ is not the son of God was made.aThat in ‘real ‘Christianity the Fuhrer is the herald of new revelation.No wonder the thousand year Reich died within a decade.

    3,000 pastors became loyal to the nazified Christ free church under Hitler. 12,000 pastors sat on the fence to varying degrees. But 3,000 pastors,such as Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, stayed loyal to Christ,supporting the Deutsche Evangelissche Kirche ,or Confessing Church ,.risking imprisonment,torture and death,by continuing to spread the Christian gospel.

    In 1935 alone,700 pastors were arrested,for supporting the Deutsche Evangelissche Kirche including Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer.Pastor Dietrich risked his life to keep his soul.

    In his marriage sermon,a gift to bride and groom of his family, Renate & Eberhard Pastor Dietrich highlighted these Christian marriage principals .

    ‘’God is guiding your marriage’’

    ‘’God makes your marriage indissoluble’’

    ‘’God establishes a rule of life by which you can live together in wedlock’’

    ”God gives you Christ as the foundation of your marriage”

    ‘’Something of the divine spendour is reflected in our earthly relationships’’

    Here are more inspiring words from his sermon,beautiful guiding words on marriage.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

    ”Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy ordinance, through which he wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time. In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom.

    ‘’In your love, you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man.’’

    And this wonderful sentence of advice to Eberhard & Renate ,sums up the power of Christian marriage.

    ”It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”

    For a comment on a blog about marriage,I seem to have written a lot about the persecution of Christians and attacks on the church,in 30s Germany.

    Modern Christian persecution is a constant concern. .Hitlers failed attempt to destroy Christianity failed,His attempt to abolish the Old Testament failed.So God’s guidance on, His Will for marriage and holy matrimony survives intact.

    But todays percecutions of the Christian church – in the middle east and Nigeria and all around the world, still threaten the Christian way and the Christian way of marriage…In USA many black churches have been burned or their congregants murdered ( the most recent being the African Methodist Church in CharlestonThey have stayed Christ centred..

    Another threat to Christian life and Christian marriage ,is the contemporary,worldly spirit of the age which seeks to loosen God’s Biblical Law,blurring it’s edges , seeking to lure God’s people into believibg morality is relative..The devil is cunning and persuasive.

    In quoting Pastor Dietrich’s Christian words on marriage, words written from his prison vell,it seems only right to remember the context of his suffering and the attack on the church.That it be not forgotten or submerged in history.

    In the end ,Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was transferred to Buchenwald concentration camp.Then to Flossenberg concentration camp,where he was hanged naked in a futile attempt to shame him in death.As the Romans failed to shame Christ at crucifixion. Pastor Dietrich stayed true to Christ unto death and joined the communion of saints..

    Pastor Bonhoeffer leaves behind his Christian writing,,including his marriage sermon.Somehow his predicament seems to have sharpened his message about the rich blessing of Christian marriage. The blessing of Christian marriage shines brighter with every God ordered Christian marriage and Christian family.Bringing earth closer to God’s Kingdom in Heaven.

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