And Two Shall Become One
As a pastor and ordained member of the clergy, I have conducted many hundreds of wedding ceremonies – literally. Some have been more elaborate than others and I have officiated at ceremonies held in back yards and at the most elegant venues you can imagine.
In fact, once I even performed a ceremony in a hotel where the couple didn’t like the wallpaper, so they covered all the walls in expensive fabrics and created a maze that the guests walked through to get to the room where the ceremony was held. When they arrived, guests found themselves in the midst of more than 1000 candles in an unbelievably beautiful room. Of course, to most of the guests, that paled in comparison to the $17,000 ice sculpture in the center of the reception area. I’m sure that you get the idea that some of these affairs are way over the top – this particular one cost more than $200,000 for the reception.
The reason that I am mentioning this is that through the years, I have found that the best weddings are the simpler ones – done with love and care by the couple and their friends. All the money, pomp and circumstance just can’t compare with the authentic, true love that permeates a simple God centered wedding ceremony. Yesterday, Janet and I had the wonderful fortune to attend one of these weddings – one of the nicest events we have ever been to. That’s right – we attended as guests – I didn’t conduct the ceremony.
Now you know that I am a harsh critic of wedding ceremonies because so many of them are contrived and more about the show than the meaning behind getting married. But this wedding was terrific. It just happened that the bride, Deborah, is the oldest daughter of my dear friend Paul. You’ve probably read about Paul in my posts before. He is my closest friend from seminary and the current president of the school that we attended.
Deborah and Jesse, her new husband, planned a marvelous wedding ceremony. It was all about God and how God would always be at the center of their union. The sanctuary was decorated in Christmas trees with white lights, making use of seasonal color and the flowers were simple and elegant. The emphasis on their love of God and each other was evident every step of the way.
What’s more, the music choices were wonderful. And I have never heard them used before in wedding ceremonies. For example, if you are Methodist, or Presbyterian, or one of several other Christian denominations, you have probably sung a doxology that goes like this – “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above, the heavenly host; Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” Know the music that goes with those words? Well, that was the bridal processional! And it was beautiful.
Deborah walked in on her father’s arm, and everybody in the place was aware that as she walked down the aisle, Deborah was praising God “from whom all blessings flow.” How appropriate – as she was about to take the most important step in her young life, it was all about her faith, her heavenly Father and her husband-to-be. The vows, music, ring exchange and all other aspects of the ceremony were just as meaningful. And the recessional? You won’t believe it! The chorus from Handel’s Messiah! You know, the one where you sing all the Hallelujahs and people stand when they hear it? You got it – the same one. It was incredibly moving to see Deborah and Jesse leave the sanctuary to the strains of this wonderful chorus. I have never heard either of these music selections used at weddings; and I just loved it.
Then we were on to the reception – held in the church gymnasium. It was a cupcake reception. Cupcakes and hot chocolate. In fact, 5 different kinds of cupcakes – all decorated by friends of the bride. And there were more than 1000 of them for the 350 or so guests who attended. And it wasn’t like most weddings where people show up for the reception but skip the wedding ceremony. Because, for this crowd, it was all about the faith aspect and honoring God with our presence as witnesses when Deborah and Jesse joined their lives together. As you can tell from my description, this whole day was about God, family, friends and relationships. It wasn’t about impressing people with filet and champagne – or seat covers and flowers. It just could not have been nicer.
I saw many of my school friends and teachers. Current students came up and introduced themselves to me. And I was thrilled to give Deborah a huge hug when Janet and I went through the receiving line. All said, it was a wonderful day – and as I said at the beginning of this post, I am a tough critic at these things.
The verse for tonight reflects the biblical perspective of what God says about marriage. Out of respect for the beauty of the King James Version, the one used for this wedding, Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:31, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”
My encouragement this evening is that God designed men and women to live and love together in the state of matrimony. My prayer is that you have as much commitment to your spouse as God did when He created the institution of marriage and designed men and women to complete each other. Because I can’t think of anything more satisfying than being married to someone that God has ordained and created especially to be with you. I should know – both Janet and I have this kind of love. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…