Sunday, January 25, 2009

I Do...

Tabitha and I are wedding planning, as you probably suspect. In case you’re wondering, the colors are ‘citrus’, the theme is ‘Panama Chique’ (where the honeymoon will be too…thanks Mom and Dad!), and of course, keeping with that idea, I’ll wear a linen suit. Truth be told, it was probably my desire to wear/purchase a linen suit that prompted the Panama theme in the first place. Provided she doesn’t smash too much cake into it, you’ll see the suit in the pulpit many a summer Sunday.

As a pastor, I’ve become used to wedding planning, from the ceremonial end of things. A couple saunters into the office, or sends an email, and we discuss how the service will transpire. I ask for their ideas and input, and typically their response is rather general. “We’re hoping for something with a traditional feeling.” “We want it to be unique, something that reflects our relationship.” I appreciate such comments, and it basically means that the details of the service are left in my hands. I’m the professional, after all. I’m supposed to know about such things.

For my wedding, however, two pastors will marry each other, so we’ve given much thought to the details of the service already. Poor Rev. Laura; she’s a brave pastor for agreeing to marry us. But having been trained in the arts of worship planning and wedding ceremony construction, we’ve encountered a number of different traditions about marriage. We’ve studied many workable models, and spent much time discussing this or that element. We also, both of us, have type A personalities, so ‘being in control’ is a temptation we face continually. And like many couples getting married, we too want the service to say something true about the shape and scope of the promises we will make to each other. As Christians, of course, the core of our convictions in this regard is that we will promise to live faithful to Jesus’ love and call on our life as we live faithful in love to one another.

Thus, I’m worried that my non-Christian friends will find the ceremony a bit off-putting. There will be much Jesus-speak involved, I can say with certainty, and as such, we will take Communion, wash our hands in remembrance of our Baptisms, ask the congregation to pray over us with a laying-on of hands, and sing a few hymns that announce God’s love for Creation and hopes for a human community shaped by mutual respect, justice and forgiveness. My fraternity buddies might think it’s all bit spooky, but being good guys, I suspect they’ll appreciate its deep meaning for Tab and I.

Since the congregation that will gather that day will include a diversity of views and spiritual opinions, we’re also concerned about two additional things: inclusive hospitality and Christian witness. Simply put, it’s a matter I believe all Christians face throughout the many dimensions of our lives. On the one hand, we want to imitate God’s respect for each person’s individual freedom to understand and approach God in her/his own fashion. On the other hand, we want each person to learn something true about God’s great love for all God’s children. If my friends can walk away from our ceremony knowing a) Tab and I authentically love Jesus, b) We respect their decision to love God/Jesus (or not) in whatever way they find most life-giving for their lives in this world, and c) God would love it if they too loved God, than the ceremony will have worked well. To accomplish all this, it’ll probably be best simply to tell a bit of our story in Christian discipleship, and why it is Jesus means so much to us and our marriage, since our friendship with non-Christians isn’t dependent on their one day ‘being like us.’

But that means we must be able to articulate clearly and respectfully why we’re on this Christian adventure in the first place. Again, I believe this is but another instance of a perpetual Christian task, important not just on our wedding day, but in the pulpit on Sundays and in the grocery store on Wednesdays. And it’s a task, opportunity really, you and I share. So why are you a Christian? Why do you continue on this Christian Adventure? How would you explain that to others? Do you want to invite others to join the Adventure? I do.

Grace and Peace,