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Dear Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
There are many details to attend to when planning for a wedding. Flowers, cakes, dresses, music, honeymoon destinations, vows, invitations and everything else. Martha Stewart noted, “After looking for what felt like forever, you’ve finally found the one. And no, we’re not talking about your future spouse, but rather your wedding dress! Most brides-to-be will spend countless hours obsessing over the perfect gown, the matching veil, the right big-day beauty look, and of course, their grand entrance. But what will they hear when the doors open?” Yes, even Martha Stewart believes that music at the wedding sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Thirty-two years ago, my wife Janna and I were planning our wedding music. I had been a former high school choir director and singer when we first met, so I invited a small ensemble to sing, and since Janna was a flute player she wanted flute music woven into the service as well. Choosing a processional was a little tough. We wanted something traditional, but something that was somewhat unique, and so we settled on Handel’ s Largo from Xerxes. Unfortunately, the music was both Baroque and broke. We didn’t have a wedding coordinator in the church to communicate between the organist and Janna and her father when the processional was to begin, so we just had to play it by ear. Janna and I were both looking at each other from opposite ends of the center aisle, and decided that the music the organist was playing kind of sounded like Handel’s Largo, and so she nudged her father to walk down the aisle. And so our well planned processional music was never played at our wedding. It should have sounded like this.
As I was looking back at our wedding program, and I noticed that we never chose a recessional for the service, or at least designated one. I would like to think that we would have chosen something as buoyant as the Hornpipe from Handel’s Water Music.
Mind you, not all music is appropriate for a wedding ceremony, and believe me, after performing several weddings away from the church, I have heard lot of odd songs. Engelbert Humperdink’s “Please Release Me,” was just not a good choice for the recessional, nor was Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” And I’ve seen poor grandmothers of the bride turn off their hearing aids because the music being played was either too loud or too suggestive.
Even here at Lake of the Isles, the wedding music has changed over the years. Granted the majority of our celebrations are fairly traditional, and the music reflects that tone. All music is performed live, and that does limit the possibilities. But we have had trumpets, violins, blue grass, jazz, gospel, country and rock as a part of weddings here.
Music sets a tone, stirs up emotions, and shares a message with your guests, so picking the right songs for the procession down the aisle is key. But it’s not everything. Nor is it even the most important thing. After 32 years of marriage, I am reminded that the presence of the unseen guest on that wedding day has made all the difference in our lives and in our marriage. And that is what I would like to share with you today. Things do go wrong at the wedding and in life. Your wedding processional may not have sound as you hoped. Ultimately, however, it doesn’t matter, as long as God, the unseen guest is there to make everything whole again.
The story of the Wedding at Cana offers a profound promise for men and women in all walks of life. God is performing miracles every day, great and small, and bringing hope and love to desperate and broken lives, where all of the best planning cannot anticipate the challenges and realities of life.
The Evangelist St. John writes that Jesus’ first sign took place in the village of Cana about six miles from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. It was a miracle unlike all others. Wine was an essential part of every celebration, much as music is today. As the ancient Jewish rabbis said, “Without wine there is no joy!” And, so we read, that suddenly, there was no more wine. Of course, that is how disappointment often enters into all our lives. It is unexpected, and there is no provision that will hinder its coming. We plan and trust that life will be fair, and that it will unfold as intended. But disasters come just the same. Just as it was true at the wedding in Cana, it happens in our lives. Suddenly, there was no wine, and there was no joy.
St. John writes that there were six stone vessels set aside for the rites of purification. Now, if each of those vessels held between 20 and 30 gallons of water, then Jesus gave the party 180 gallons of wine. I don’t know what Mary imagined Jesus would do, but I am certain that she was surprised by his miracle as well. And yet what else could Jesus do for a lowly, peasant couple? He himself was a poor village carpenter with no fields or vineyards to call his own. He had no money or jewels to offer the bride and groom. Instead, he offered a gift which would illustrate for brides and grooms for all time the assurance one receives when God’s grace comes to those in need. There is not simply an adequate supply, but rather an abundance. Indeed, Jesus’ gift reminds us that there is no human or physical need that can exhaust the amazing and joyful grace of God.
After the processional is complete and the congregation is settled in, weddings couples expect that I will offer them bits of wisdom for their married life. Often I suggest these few little words. To the grooms I say, “In times of honest reflection, remember, ‘All men make mistakes; married men just find out about them sooner.’ And in times of a heated argument, remember, ‘The most important four words for a successful marriage are: ‘I’ll do the dishes.’” And to wives, I say “In times of differing views, remember, ‘Marriage is the bond between a person who never remembers anniversaries and another who never forgets them.’ And in the awkward times of marriage, remember, ‘Marrying a man is like buying something you’ve been admiring for a long time in a shop window. You may love it when you get it home, but it doesn’t always go with everything else in the house.”
But my most important counsel for their life together is this: As much as you have prepared a time line for the wedding day and a soundtrack of music for your wedding, from the very beginning of your relationship, prepare a place for Christ and welcome him as a guest into your home and into your lives. It is just a relevant for you and me. Whenever Jesus enters into a person’s life he can turn the imperfect perfect. It is a deep, spiritual truth to begin love and marriage. Jesus has the ability to transform ordinary things into extra ordinary things. In his transforming hands he can take broken lives and strained marriages and make them into healthy, life giving relationships again. God knows that there will be unfulfilled dreams in marriage. There will be moments when couples disappoint each other, but let me assure you, God will not disappoint you.
And that leads to the final truth: with Christ as the unseen guest in love and marriage, the best is yet to come. God’s loves and continuously blesses marriage, families and the home every day. He is there as the unseen guest prepared and able to do what needs to be done. Without the presence of Jesus in our lives and marriage they often become stale, flat and uninteresting. But with Jesus, life becomes colorful, sparkling and exciting. He can transform ordinary love into something wonderful and divine. For if Jesus can turn ordinary water into the finest wine, what more can he do with your life which is even more precious in his sight?
My friends, God is performing miracles every day, but don’t be surprised if you can’t see God’s mysterious hand. It may take time, but be assured, God is bringing a message of hope to desperate and broken lives. That is his promise for love, life and marriage. And with Jesus as a regular guest in your home and in your marriage, the best is always yet to come. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.