Of all my posts to this Blog my meditation on being Father of the Bride is the most-read. It has attracted more comments and "likes" (here, on Facebook, by email, and in person) than any other post. It struck an emotional chord.
So, here's another reflection on my FOTB experience. The picture captures a lot of it. Here's how the dance started. Two little girls met for the first time that day, both on the Bride's side, but not related by blood. After their mothers broke the ice for them, they became fast friends. I'm sure a lot of people thought they were related. Sophia was adopted from China. McKenna's paternal grandparents came from Viet Nam. When the music started, the girls took to the dance floor.
Their joy was infectious. It was hard to resist joining the circle, dancing to Andy Grammer's "Honey, I'm Good!" We were alive, fully in the moment, and it was good. And we were good.
In Bible stories and prophetic visions the greatest celebrations the ancients could imagine were weddings. We know hardly anything about marriage liturgies in biblical times. We know the receptions went on, for days and days. Eating together, drinking wine together, being together with one purpose and one heart was the greatest joy our ancestors in faith knew. It's not stretching things to say they sang and danced together, too. When Christians made the Lord's Supper into something more than a sacred moment at the end of the weekly pot luck, they began to compare it to the heavenly wedding banquet. What became Communion was for them an appetizer at an even greater celebration to come. What we used to think was the only Presbyterian Communion hymn, Horatius Bonar's "Here O my Lord", is all about that "sweet foretaste of the festal joy". We need to refresh ourselves in that theology, if not the vocabulary.
Last month I dared to say being FOTB gave me a window into the mystery and wonder of God's love for us. I'll dare now to say our life together as Christians, including our worship on Sundays, is supposed to help us discover the joy in God's heart. More than a look through a window. A big stride in through a door that's never closed. On Trinity Sunday I talked about the wedding dance to describe the energy that draws us close to God.
As an FOTB who's still running on the energy of the wedding reception round dance, I'm looking for more joy in my life. And in life at Glenview. I thrive on the joy that's in the congregation I'm privileged to serve. But we could survive even more joy and still be Presbyterian. I'm convinced being church together is supposed to be a lot more like a wedding reception than a wake.
Discipleship, mission, being church together... Serious business, indeed. But we can't take on the serious business faithfully if we try to do it without joy. If we're not able to celebrate being together we won't find the confidence we need to work together, especially when the going is tough and we must make difficult decisions. The energy we need to be the church together today is the energy of the dance. God's mission is urgent. We are privileged to participate in that mission. Bringing joy to the world-- even quiet, confident, Presbyterian joy-- is a big part of our part in God's mission.
Coming together for a wedding celebration gives us hope for the future. It also puts our past into perspective. Whenever families gather there's a lot of history in the room. But the relative importance of past hurts, grievances, and grudges becomes clear. If we're lucky, we'll discover we've already moved on from the past and we really can move forward together.
This summer I plan to do some things I know will make me happy. Joy means more than just being happy. The two don't always go together. I'll know joy when I find it, though, with the memory of that day in May still fresh. And the energy of the dance still alive.