Posts Tagged ‘weddings’

Weddings and Worship

Posted: November 27, 2012 in Uncategorized
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This immediate past Sunday our congregation had a treat. At the close of one of our worship services two of our own stepped forward and were married. It was a delight in all ways. The wedding was over in five minutes, it had to be. But that did not diminish its importance in the slightest.

Those few minutes clarified a great deal for me, not only about worship, but about weddings. Since we have multiple worship services every week and I’ve been at this for more than three decades I have led no less than 3,000 worship services. And I have presided at hundreds of weddings.

To begin with, the wedding in worship we witnessed this weekend would not, could not work for just anyone. The bride and groom are an intimate part of the community, the church being their spiritual home. Exchanging vows in that context was natural and beautiful because of that. And for the worshiping  community, that five minutes at the close of worship did not detract from worship, but rather amplified the strong connection between our collective life together and our personal lives. It was testimony without being preachy.

In the Christian life we always say that weddings should be a form of worship. Some are more than others. Many lapse into cultural spectacles or shows. They can be more or less God-centered, depending. But it’s a hard thing to transform what has become a cultural stereotype into something more. When you attempt it, the result often comes off as mechanical or stilted – unless – you change the context of the wedding altogether. That means avoiding all the accoutrements and hype that normally accompany it.

When you attempt to transform a wedding into a worship there are built-in challenges. One is that over half of the crowd will not be there to worship. They are there because of friendship or kinship ties. A preponderance of attendees don’t worship regularly in any Christian community, if they are Christian at all. They have no experience or Christian formation that might help them understand a thing that’s going on. And when it comes to having communion at a wedding, we skate on thinner ice still. How do you invite people to participate in something that is little more than a mid-service snack?

Some weddings can become more worshipful – if you really work at it. And what I discovered this weekend is that it is possible to bring weddings – some weddings – to worship. They should somehow be informing one another, worship and weddings. And the souls at Broadway Christian Church just discovered that truth on a typical Sunday morning through a quintessential sign of loving God and one another.

It was at the close of the wedding, after the vows. As a final symbolic gesture water was poured into a large bowl and, taking turns, the bride and groom each kneeled before their new spouse and washed their feet.

We’ve seen it many times on Maundy Thursday, of course, the reenactment of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet as a part of that last supper. You shall love one another, he said. The master of all should be the servant of all.

But this was the first wedding I’ve witnessed in which foot washing was included as a part of the ritual. I like it, not for every wedding, but for those who appreciate what it means. Such a gesture needs to be mutual, going both ways, as partners begin that long process of serving one another as Jesus served his beloved ones.

Question: Can you get cold feet as easily if you know they are going to be washed by someone who loves you?

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the words Yin and Yang? Probably you imagine the unity symbol of dark and light intertwining mirror opposing parts. Or you may think of the roots of the concept in ancient Chinese metaphysics. It exists in Confucianism. And Taoists draw upon it as it is found one time in the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu. The basic concept is that opposites need one another, and exist because of each other. Only when both sides of an opposition are recognized, when pairs become twins, can the whole be known: Day and night, cool and warm, male and female, even and odd, north and south …

But when I think of the Yin and Yang I now think of flower girls at a wedding. Let me explain.

It was the typical wedding. The guests had arrived and taken their places. The long preparations were finally at their end and the actual event was commencing. The groomsmen stood in a line in front, like so many penguins. The bridesmaids strolled somewhat awkwardly down the aisle. One almost fell off her shoes. And then, preceding the Bride, the flower girls made their entrance. There were two. I will name them Yin and Yang.

Yin was maybe six years old and understood her role well. She was preparing the way of the bride and as she walked up the long, carpeted avenue she scattered rose petals left and right. Yin had a regal air about her, as one carrying a treasure up to the palace.

Yang was younger, perhaps four, and she followed behind Yin. She, too, sensed the importance of the moment, how the whole assemblage was counting on her to do her part. But somewhere along the way the very young Yang had not quite understood the flower girl memo. Because as Yang walked up the aisle,  she dutifully retrieved each and every rose petal left behind by Yin, filling her basket.

On the way to their destination Yin and Yang had both scattered and gathered, arriving with one basket empty and the other full. Together they comprised two sides of the same flower girl, each having offered what the other lacked.

Once upon a time Jesus said something about the first shall be last and the last shall be first. He was always talking paradoxes. And of course, the first and last need one another to be what they are.

In my mind they will be casting and gathering forever, Yin and Yang will. Maybe they always have been.