October 22, 2018

Another Look: Weddings and Being Too Easily Pleased

Fiddler on the Roof – Wedding Dance. Photo by William

Weddings and Being Too Easily Pleased
John 2:1-11

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.

• • •

Photo by William at Flickr. Creative Commons License

Comments

  1. Thank you for the reminder to just enjoy the presence of our God. It has blessed me.

  2. “Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden… There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least – sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be *twisted* before it’s any use to us.” – Screwtape

  3. Passion gets a bad rap in the stained glass circus. It’s too often automatically conjoined with sex, or sports, or something. I think passion is closely related to worship, and similar to beauty, is a sign of life in the right environment.
    Opened up some decent ($16) Cab last night that I was saving for “good company”. I decided to consider myself “good company”. Let’s celebrate a good GOD this 2018, and all the good HE has made: US !!

    • Gotta love a good Cab…$16…really? do tell?

      why am I paying more?

      Enjoying a glass now…it’s after 5, you see:) Plus, just had a tough conversation with a family member–augh.

      I love this Jesus/ water into wine story–it just sums up Jesus and who He is and what He came to do, and who we are in light of Him.

      Perhaps if people celebrated more like in Fiddler….we’d take them more seriously. Editing a book now on marriage….fascinating people’s.authors/theologians diverse perspectives.

      Love the post.

  4. This reminds me of Irish fantasy writer Lord Dunsany’s short tale which I include here in its entirety. (Dunsany’s work is now in the public domain so no copyright issues here.)

    A MORAL LITTLE TALE

    There was once an earnest Puritan who held it wrong to dance. And for his principles he labored hard, his was a zealous life. And there loved him all of those who hated the dance; and those that loved the dance respected him too; they said “He is a pure, good man and acts according to his lights.”

    He did much to discourage dancing and helped to close several Sunday entertainments. Some kinds of poetry, he said, he liked, but not the fanciful kind as that might corrupt the thoughts of the very young. He always dressed in black.

    He was quite interested in morality and was quite sincere and there grew to be much respect on Earth for his honest face and his flowing pure-white beard.

    One night the Devil appeared unto him in a dream and said “Well done.”

    “Avaunt,” said that earnest man.

    “No, no, friend,” said the Devil.

    “Dare not to call me ‘friend,'” he answered bravely.

    “Come, come, friend,” said the Devil. “Have you not done my work? Have you not put apart the couples that would dance? Have you not checked their laughter and their accursed mirth? Have you not worn my livery of black? O friend, friend, you do not know what a detestable thing it is to sit in hell and hear people being happy, and singing in theatres and singing in the fields, and whispering after dances under the moon,” and he fell to cursing fearfully.

    “It is you,” said the Puritan, “that put into their hearts the evil desire to dance; and black is God’s own livery, not yours.”

    And the Devil laughed contemptuously and spoke.

    “He only made the silly colors,” he said, “and useless dawns on hill-slopes facing South, and butterflies flapping along them as soon as the sun rose high, and foolish maidens coming out to dance, and the warm mad West wind, and worst of all that pernicious influence Love.”

    And when the Devil said that God made Love that earnest man sat up in bed and shouted “Blasphemy! Blasphemy!”

    “It’s true,” said the Devil. “It isn’t I that send the village fools muttering and whispering two by two in the woods when the harvest moon is high, it’s as much as I can bear even to see them dancing.”

    “Then,” said the man, “I have mistaken right for wrong; but as soon as I wake I will fight you yet.”

    “O, no you don’t,” said the Devil. “You don’t wake up out of this sleep.”

    And somewhere far away Hell’s black steel doors were opened, and arm in arm those two were drawn within, and the doors shut behind them and still they went arm in arm, trudging further and further into the deeps of Hell, and it was that Puritan’s punishment to know that those that he cared for on Earth would do evil as he had done.

    • Nice!

      –> “…and it was that Puritan’s punishment to know that those that he cared for on Earth would do evil as he had done.”

      That reminds me of Jesus’ “woe to you”-s in Matthew 23. The people who should’ve been helping people ENTER the Kingdom and HELPING THEM once they were inside…doing just the opposite.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      Flannery O’Connor would have agreed with Lord Dunsany. She got it dead to rights in her short story Revelation.

      bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who , like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer.

      They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They, alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces even their virtues were being burned away.

    • “You know how this wine is blended? Different types of Pharisee have been harvested, trodden, and fermented together to produce its subtle flavour. Types that were most antagonistic to one another on Earth. Some were all rules and relics and rosaries; others were all drab clothes, long faces, and petty traditional abstinences from wine or cards or the theatre. Both had in common their self-righteousness and an almost infinite distance between their actual outlook and anything the Enemy really is or commands. The wickedness of other religions was the really live doctrine in the religion of each; slander was its gospel and denigration its litany… All
      said and done, my friends, it will be an ill day for us if what most humans mean by ‘Religion’ ever vanishes from the Earth. It can still send us the truly delicious sins. Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar.” – Screwtape Proposes a Toast

  5. …Being Too Easily Pleased

    How I wish it was that easy for me, lol. The curse of the analyst and critic and self-improver…

  6. In wine making, yeast eat grape sugars, they convert it to alcohol, and in the process stereoisomers( literally thousands of various complex chemical compounds) are formed. Common red wine compounds in cooler climates are currants, blueberry, cherry. In modest climate plum, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry. In warmer climate fig ,raisin, and floral compounds. Common white wine compounds are apple, pear, citrus, peach, apricot, melon, kiwi, banana, mango, pineapple, warm florals. And either can be buttery, depending on the grape. And winemakers make a big difference in compounds depending on process( wine drinkers know they get vanilla at least).
    So you see some wine drinkers swirl the glass, maybe take a deep whiff, how about just sip, or hold it in mouth a few seconds to let taste buds work. How about choose only grapes from between the 42nd and 43rd north latitude. Or only in Europe from those terroirs. Or only certain grape blends, Or only estate grown and made. Or only process with stipulations. And how about knowing which of all of the above are overpriced, and there are values with all of the above. And how about knowing that importing can be knowing to stay away from the wine that the sending location… locals don’t want. Oh, and governments can control parts of all of this, and that is usually bad, but not always. And expert ratings is a bad way to make choices. And French bordeaux historically were the best, but that is passe. As is French wine sold in the US. And despite trying to catch up to Europe for years, US wine makers still haven’t. And the Carmenere grape is a fascinating story. But then so is Vranec, Blaufrankish, Granache…look up wine grape varieties on wine searcher. Of course these are only my enjoyments about wine. And the Lord knows all this about wine( and more as He once proved).

  7. Nice timed, CM. I was just listening to the soundtrack yesterday with my gradeschooler.

    I love the wedding dance sequence in fiddler, in part because the abandonment is really about rest and allowing life to be mysterious. When one gets to experience something happy and precious, go with it. Interrogating it and measuring it and doubting it just makes it harder to bear all the crummy mysterious life throws up.

    To life, to life, l’chai-im,!
    L’chai-im, l’chai-im, to life!
    Life has a way of confusing us
    Blessing and bruising us,
    Drink l’chaim, to life

    To life, l’chaim!
    L’chaim, l’chaim, to life!
    A gift we seldom are wise enough
    Ever to prize enough,
    Drink l’chaim, to life!

    God would like us to be joyful
    Even though our hearts lie panting on the floor;
    How much more can we be joyful,
    When there’s really something
    To be joyful for.

  8. Burro [Mule] says:

    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.

    Some of my evangelical acquaintances accused me of converting to Orthodoxy so that I could “drink whiskey and vote Democrat”. Having done both now I regret neither but have to report that they are somewhat overrated, especially voting Democrat.

    • You need to find better whiskey and better Democrats then. 😉 (I suspect the former will be easier to find than the latter.)

  9. john barry says:

    Little old lady sitting in church Sunday , preacher going strong on drinking is wrong, amen Brother tell it like it is said the little old lady, smoking cigarettes is wrong said the pastor again amen from the little old lady, then the preacher said dipping snuff is wrong to which the little old lady replied “now you are meddling, stick to the Bible”.
    Personally on a practical level I have been to many a wedding and like Chaplin Mike mostly enjoy them but at the end of the day the weddings without alcohol are usually better to me due to the atmosphere , which is just a personal observation absolutely nothing to do with any Biblical prohibitions .
    The good thing about this land and our freedom we can go or not go to whatever faith based group we chose. I would think, of course do not know, that most non Christians think all Christians are moralist based on present culture attitudes as Cole Porter wrote in the 1930’s “Anything Goes”.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      In the version of that Little Old Lady story I’m familiar with, It’s when the preacher starts going strong on gossip that the LOL goes from AAAAAA-mening to “Now you’re meddling!”

      • john barry says:

        Headless U. G. Either way it is good because like most good jokes/humor it is based on some truth.

  10. senecagriggs says:

    As a committed conservative Evangelical; I stick to a religious wine, “Blue Nun.” smile

    • john barry says:

      senecagriggs, Blue None more like it. Any nation welcome but Carrie on many a 1920’s bar or saloon outdoor sign , which I really do not know the difference between.

      • According to Word Detective, ““Saloon” does imply a larger establishment than a simple “bar,” but the words are otherwise interchangeable.”

        • john barry says:

          Eeyore, thanks , I thought the difference was Miss Kitty worked in a saloon while Diane Chambers worked in a bar but I watch too much TV. It just does would not sound right if at Bill Hitchcock was killed in a bar instead of saloon but at least everyone there knew his name. I guess someone was trying to clear out the deadwood.

    • –> “As a committed conservative Evangelical…”

      I take it that’s “committed” not in THIS sense: “sent to be confined in a psychiatric hospital.”

      😉