October 17, 2017

Another Look: Why I now love weddings

chuppah-9

Note from CM: I’m officiating a wedding this week, one of several I’ve been asked to conduct this year. Thinking about the privilege of participating in these joyous occasions brought this post to mind.

• • •

I used to not like weddings very much. They seemed like a lot of trouble, and people tended to overdo them. When we had children at home and lots of things on our plate, it seems that weddings always interrupted other plans and caused upheaval in our routine. Plus, they usually took place on Saturdays, and, as a pastor, Sundays were packed, so I was preoccupied and unable to just take part and enjoy. Sure, we were happy for the couple and their family, but we were also glad when the whole affair was over.

Now I love weddings. First of all, since I work for hospice and am on hand for so many sad occasions, it is a nice change of pace to participate in an event that is all about life and love and joy. Second, I don’t have as many Sunday responsibilities these days, so my mind is freer and more able to focus on the fun and celebration. Third, many of the couples whose weddings we attend are in some way connected to our children, so we are able to rejoice with our friends in the coming of age of a new generation of families.

Being outside of our former pietistic evangelical circles also enables me to enjoy the wine more freely. And the dancing. And many other celebratory aspects not always included in the wedding parties of the moralists.

I remember watching “Fiddler on the Roof” when I was a young man and being befuddled by the total abandonment to celebration pictured in the wedding scenes. What a killjoy I was! I wouldn’t have known a good time if it had bitten me on the tukhus.

And along comes Jesus in John 2:1-11, providing wine at a wedding — the very best wine, in large quantities, after all the other wine has already been consumed — as a sign of who he is and what he has come to do. Taking the stone water pots that were sanctified for the somber religious purposes of purification, he had filled them to the brim and then transformed their contents into the finest of alcoholic beverages — for the pure enjoyment of the people who were gathered there.

The result? A sign — a sign of the Kingdom. Glory — the glory of God. And where was God’s blessing seen and experienced? In glasses raised and toasts proclaimed! In whirling dances! In laughter and light-hearted banter! In joy and celebration!

Don’t imagine God is pleased with your sacrifices. Don’t believe he delights in your strenuous efforts at holiness, your morbid introspection, your sober demeanor and serious attitude. Don’t think for a minute that he wants you to rein in your passions and turn your back on pleasure. No! No! A thousand times no! Not for nothing does the psalmist say to God, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.” (Ps. 16:11)

As C.S. Lewis reminded us:

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

L’chaim! Now and evermore.

Amen.

Comments

  1. Christiane says:

    Ah! Fiddler !
    skip the ad and enjoy!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ee-htWvXMIg

  2. Hats off to all of you able to pull off this marriage business. I’m afraid that life has taught me that the canopy held over the loving couple in the image above is a vain attempt to protect them from the doo-doo storm that is about to erupt on completion of those fateful words, “I now pronounce you . . . ” However don’t let me rain on your parade. Here, you can stand under my umbrella.

  3. Heather Angus says:

    I agree, Chaplain Mike, that we Americans, especially we WASP-y types, have a hard time letting go and really whooping it up, unless we’ve had lots and lots of alcohol. Not for us the “In whirling dances! In laughter and light-hearted banter! In joy and celebration!” We may smile benignly from the sidelines while our kids act like that, but it’s not for us.

    Too bad. Life is tough, and we need a lot more of these types of celebrations. Unadulterated (and un-medicated) joy is a wonderful gift. We need to set ourselves up for more of it.

    On the other hand, C. S. Lewis kind of does some sleight of hand in his passage:

    “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”

    Ah, but the mud pies in the slum (and the drink and sex) are here and now, while the “holiday at sea” is reserved for the next life.

    Lewis was always more or less in love with death, probably because his personality was rather depressive (like my own), and his faith (at least up until his wife’s death) was absolute and rock-solid. So in the last book of his Narnia series, for instance, he has the children die in a train wreck, so that now “your lives can really begin.”

    But bless his heart (as the Southerners say), he was just another guy trying to muddle through like the rest of us, and finding comfort and joy where he could. I envy him that rock-solid faith in the holiday at sea, and hope for it myself with my rather marshmallow-solid faith.

  4. Robert F says:

    Well, I did more than my share of inebriating when I was younger, but never became good at celebrating. It’s just not part of my personality, not in my make-up; I started the introspecting and pessimism from the moment I became self-aware as a child, and later inebriation only exacerbated my native tendency. In my own defense, I’ve never been much good at the “strenuous efforts at holiness” stuff, either, and I’ve never really applied myself to it. I enjoy the little bit of wine that comes with Holy Communion, and I mumble my prayers when I remember to, but I don’t have great expectations of myself in either the holiness or celebration departments. And I’m okay with that. Can’t change a leopard’s spots, you know. I’ll just lean on God’s grace.

  5. Heather Angus says:

    The full moon looks on
    Its splintered reflections in
    The wandering fireflies.