During our wedding ceremony I remember being embarrassed by what the pastor was wearing. The heat index was nearing 100 degrees and he had on what looked like a furry grey poncho. I’d never seen a pastor wear anything like that. I was already uncomfortable with the fact that the word “Homily” was in our wedding bulletin and that we were saying The Lord’s Prayer. My family and friends, my high school music teacher who I would’ve married in a heartbeat had he not already been so himself, all these other people, though Christians, weren’t Lutheran. I wasn’t either.
My mortification increased substantially the second he pulled out the meat cleaver, which could’ve been some kind of hatchet or ax for all I knew, and started swinging it around during the message. “Cleave to, not from” are the words from that day I will never forget. He had many other wonderful words, ones that I did not remember as readily, but would be eager to find again and absorb. For a long time I was ashamed of the wedding pictures taken during the ceremony. The onlookers seemed amused and delighted by the hatchet, but the look on my face reveals I was not.
I again recall a fight we had after our first pre-marital counseling session. The pastor hadn’t prayed with us, and I thought that was weird, like it seemed to me that the man who’d be guiding us into something as serious and monumental as marriage should’ve at least at first, or at some point along the way, consulted God in the matter. And such was the beginning of a history of poorly played notes, a record of wrongs I never dreamed of obtaining, nor ever intended to keep. Be gone the day, that horrid day, when I traded good intentions for being stuck in my ways.
“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared.” Praise God for forgiveness, the most beautiful of gifts, that has been granted to us alongside everlasting life. “Hold up the cross, never hold up the cross”, he said, something like that, as the homily went on. The words were as good, true, and beautiful as the marriage bond itself, this covenantal union that heals and simultaneously breaks our hearts. It breaks them as inside and out there still exists evil, and this world is not yet itself fully healed.
And it heals them because true love, of any kind, drives us to God, to Jesus our Savior, the healer and lover of all and most perfect of bridegrooms. It’s not a knock on me, or an insult to any other, to speak the truth about who Jesus is. For it is in his word of truth that our hearts are set free. He wants us to come to him with whatever it is that is on our minds, burdening our souls, or tearing open our hearts. And when we do he listens, and loves, and turns us back, that we might enter into the heart he shares and love again more fully. A love that blesses, and heals, and forgives, and lives on.