The Holy Mess
The vast majority of weddings I have participated in have gone well, but I will never forget the exception. When a staff member left a church I was serving, we failed to coordinate one of his wedding commitments with our church calendar. A month before the wedding the bride’s mother called, which was our first clue we had a problem. We had two weddings scheduled at our facility on the same day, and at the same time.
After we worked through the initial shock with both wedding parties, we arranged for their ceremonies to take place in two different locations at our facility. Fortunately, we had a large sanctuary and a chapel, which were both quite adequate. Since one of the weddings was on our calendar and a minister had already been chosen, I agreed to take the other one. Of course, none of the families involved appreciated the fact they were going to be sharing some common space on their big day, and it was a bit strange to realize we were going to have two limousines in our parking lot, as well as two farewells, complete with rice. But we worked through it.
Then on the evening before the wedding day I received a desperate call from a local funeral director. A man had committed suicide and his family needed a preacher at the last-minute to say a few words at his service. They didn’t have time to meet with me, but only requested that I keep it short and not say anything about the circumstances surrounding his death. I showed up Saturday morning for the funeral and had an opportunity to minister to the family and offer some words of comfort. I had one hour to drive from the funeral home to our church facility and begin the final countdown to my wedding.
All went well until it was time for the vows. In my haste and scattered state of mind I had mistakenly written the name of man whose funeral I had preached into my wedding notes. I began, “Do you…?” It didn’t go well. The groom shook his head “no” and the bride looked at me in horror. I actually had to look at the wedding program in the leaf of my Bible to get reoriented. I repeated the correct name and tossed out a light joke (no one laughed), and in twenty minutes I was in my car and on my way home. Needless to say the family using our facility did not become regular worshippers with our church family. They were, however, very gracious, considering the mistakes we made.
This wedding day was a bit of a mess, but at least it was understandable. Unfortunately, some of the messes we experience as the Bride of Christ have no explanation and a few are downright inexcusable. They are made worse when they take place in clear view of non-believers.
Our most visible sins have become a common topic of conversation throughout the world. It is hard to live down religious wars, the torture and murder of church reformers, sexual abuse by the clergy, scams, scandals and bigotry. Of course Christ’s Bride is not the only perpetrator of these acts, but she is arguably the most derided.
Christ never promised His church would be perfect. Had He wanted perfection He might have used a different criteria for His disciples. But He did promise the gates of Hades would not prevail against His Bride. Amazingly, after hundreds of years of abuse and self-destructive behavior, she is still here.