Saturday, May 13, 2017

Wedding Joy

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

There shall once more be heard the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing: "Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!" - Jeremiah 33:10

John the Baptist said, "The friend who attends the bridegroom is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete." - John 3:29 (NIV)

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 64; Proverbs 6; 1 Corinthians 14:6-19

Today's verses brought me joy, as I immediately thought of my own kids' weddings. As it happens, Sheryl was in Indiana today for Elise's bridal shower. And her wedding is five weeks from today. So the wedding theme is strong!

As the Bible uses wedding images to talk about abundant life for God's people, there is always a sense of community. The couple who are getting married are there, of course. But it wouldn't be a proper wedding unless there are also friends and attendants, family celebrating, people who are expected to sing aloud of love and joy and gratitude.

There's also a dimension of plenty. A wedding would be a huge event for the whole town, with feasting and drinking and singing and dancing and celebrating for days. The wedding of two well-known people might be the biggest event of the year, and it would be remembered for ages, setting the tone for their whole life together. It would make sense to start off with an abundance of everything.

But one of the main pieces is the presence of joy, and I love how today's verses connect that joy with voices: the bridegroom approaching, the vows of the couple, the words of scripture, the prayers and songs and laughter of family and guests. Everybody is just enjoying the love the couple has for each other.

That joy overflows past the day of the wedding and on into the marriage relationship. Everybody knows that relationships take real work, and that in years or decades together, not every day will be a perfect, joyful day. But the realness of the wedding day is a source of continuing light, an unbreakable connection with the promises of God and each other, the prayers of loved ones, the celebration, the joy. Looking back at photos in a wedding album, whether the current day is dark or bright, can reconnect us with the love and hope and joy where it all began.

Today's verses remind me that this is how it is in our life with God, too. The New Testament verse is a quote from John the Baptist, who might be expected to be discouraged or jealous or angry when Jesus' ministry rises and starts overshadowing his. But John knows that he is the "friend attending," while Jesus is the bridegroom. The bride represents the entirety of God's people, and John has nothing but joy as he sees and hears these beloved ones coming together.

Life, even life with God, comes with its bad days and challenges. On those days, looking back at the deep joy of a wedding is not a mask to cover up and pretend that everything is fine, nor a promise that the bad things will just disappear. But the joy reminds us of our love, of those who support us, of community and abundance. Joy can keep us going with a light and clean and free heart, no matter what our current reality.

Today I pray for my kids and their spouses, and for all marriages. I pray that another good images comes to mind and heart, for everyone who is not married for whatever reason. And I pray that the image of laughter and singing and celebrating on a great wedding day, at a table large enough to include us all, will bring inspiration and joy.

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