Armed with the news that their pastor’s son would be married in a park near the lake, instead of in the church, the super-pious gossip mill kicked into overdrive…
Pastor Kelvin breathed a sigh to himself, “How can these dear folks see any spiritual value in gossip. How do I define gossips? Rumour-tism sufferers - nourished by devouring others’ reputations - who keep fit by running people down, by stretching the truth, by digging up dirt and by jumping to conclusions; but never by wrestling with their consciences?
“Should I preach on gossip – ‘Confessing others’ sins instead of your own?’ Nope, they’ll think I’m preaching about someone else!”
He was thrilled that against a culture of marriage devaluation, Paul and Leonie had invited many unchurched friends for whom a sanctuary may be intimidating. He saw this as an opportunity to affirm God’s availability to them - right out in the open.
The big day rapidly unfolded, with hope and excitement engulfing all the final details, until Pastor Kelvin now saw everyone gathered in the shade of the whispering leaves that formed a deep green canopy overhead.
Pachelbel’s Canon swirled and then softened to silence, as his son and imminent daughter-in-law held hands before him, their eyes shining.
His gaze shifted to see so many happy faces, while personal versions of divine disapproval were being silently proclaimed on the super-pious faces at the rear. Yet he was not about to turn this happy, holy day into a heresy trial, so he raised his voice in welcome.
“Leonie and Paul have invited us to share their joy and anticipation as they offer themselves to each other in a sacred promise before God, who is here to add his unmistakeable touch to our prayers and hopes for them. And since God got Adam and Eve started in a garden, without any walls to hem them in, we can relax in the freshness of his love.
“Today we celebrate the hopes and dreams of these two beautiful but imperfect young people, so let’s consider what the bible says about a three-fold cord being not easily broken. The love they share is the first strand, and their prayers and our prayers add a second; the strand of God’s perfect love to overlay and to empower their love.
“The third strand of this cord comes as we contribute our strength, by offering them the space they need for personal and mutual growth, and by offering them our support anytime they find the going gets tough. And to underscore the importance of that third strand, they want to invite every married couple to join hands and relive your moment of promise to each other as you hear their vows.
“If anyone's marriage has experienced the pain of death or divorce, please pause to give thanks that you have outlived that pain, and for what you have learned, and for all that you can still bring to your world.
“If you aren’t married, please carefully consider how you may also open your heart to the possibility for you, as Leonie and Paul express their deepest hopes together - from their hearts and without any prompting from me.”
Paul and Leonie faced each other, hands clasped, to declare in turn:
“In the beauty of God’s presence, and surrounded by our family and friends, I promise that I will love you with all my heart, mind and strength.
"I promise to be faithful to you – now and forever.
"I will be your lover, companion and friend.
"I will be your ally in conflict; your greatest fan; and your toughest adversary.
"I will be your partner in adventure and your accomplice in mischief.
"I promise to be your consolation in disappointment; your strength when you need me and the one I turn to first in my own hour of need.
"It is my vow to encourage you in all your endeavours, and to walk by your side to help you to achieve your goals.
"I will never leave you. I am here to stay and I will be proud to be married to you.”
As their vows unfolded, Pastor Kelvin noticed smiles, frowns and knowing looks breaking out around the crowd; and he sensed God’s grace providing a third strand. Then a smile curled across his own features, for he could see several super-pious folks yielding to an encroaching and unwelcome sense of relaxation…
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