Originally posted Nov. 8, 2012, at Halstad Parish. Republished with permission of the author.
My middle son was married the last Saturday in October. It was a wonderful, joyful, grace-filled, exhausting time.
It was probably a bit different than many weddings you go to. For one thing, there were a lot of pastor-types around. Not only are my husband and I both pastors, but Ben is a pastor, his wife, Mara, is finishing her studies at the seminary this year, and they involved many of their friends in the service. I lost count at nine (I think) and that was just at the rehearsal!
You might think that with all those clergy around, it was a somber, serious affair with a large dose of “you have to do it this way.” Granted, there was a bit of discussion about where people were going to stand, sit and process but it was more about how to make things work well rather than laying down any sort of liturgical order. It was one of the most relaxed and joyful weddings I’ve experienced. You could tell that people felt at home in the church, even though many of us were there for the first time.
Some of the differences from TV/movie weddings:
Perhaps the most central difference was that Ben and Mara put the focus of the service on God and living in faith. For them, this was most definitely a worship service of Word and Sacrament and they came for God’s blessing. All of the other choices followed from this truth.
The entire wedding party entered the church in procession while the congregation sang “Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia” (a Tanzanian Easter hymn) and we fairly danced out to “Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ.” We sang “Where Charity and Love Prevail” as the hymn of the day. This is something my husband and I did at our wedding. I wish I could say I was smart enough that we knew it when we did it, but doing that has been a great blessing. Unlike wedding songs that are soon forgotten or become embarrassing later on, our hymns have followed us throughout our lives, continuing to connect our marriage to faith in God.
We celebrated Holy Communion and along with that (as was true from the beginning in the early church) an offering was taken going to a local charity and the ELCA Malaria Campaign.
Along with the flower girl, they had a Bible bearer. Instead of a ring bearer with a little pillow, Ben’s godson carried a Bible to the front, which then was read and preached from during the service and is now Ben and Mara’s family Bible.
The preacher was carefully chosen and lifted up the good news for all of us. We were both challenged and filled.
When the service was done, my younger sister remarked, “Why can’t church on Sunday be this much fun?”
The reality is that it can be. This service was carefully and thoughtfully planned with a lot of effort and focus. The presiding pastor did not carry that burden alone. There were a lot of people who came prepared to worship with holy glee and celebrate faithfully. I’m afraid that all too often, pastors (myself included) come to worship bearing the burden of the service alone or nearly alone, and doing what has been done because they are too busy, tired, rushed, crammed or depressed to do anything else.
What if a group came to church earlier in the week to plan and rehearse for worship? What if many of the people came to worship ready to give to those in need, to come hungry to the table, to pray, and to celebrate the gift of Christ? What if we allowed ourselves to come to worship expecting to have fun?
Worship can be fun when we come faithful, when we come prepared, and when there is participation by many in the preparation, and no one person is counted on to do everything. No one has shoulders big enough to carry that for very long. Liturgy really is the work of the people and the more of us that come ready to participate and give of ourselves faithfully, the fuller our experience will be. The more we give, even sitting in the pew, the fuller our hearts will be. Worship is not about what we get but what we give.
“Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47).
Find a link to Christine Iverson’s entry on the blog Halstad Parish at Lutheran Blogs.