I'm at the age now where I'm getting invitations to weddings of the next generation: nieces, nephews, and children of friends. Weddings haven't changed that much from a generation ago. For that matter, weddings have stayed remarkably unchanged for centuries. They, along with funerals, are just about the only ceremonies left in our culture that are broadly celebrated in similar ways.
How do Christians begin marriage in the Lord? Obviously, Reformed Worship believes that Christian marriages are best begun with worship, or we would not be devoting this issue to weddings. When family and friends gather to witness a marriage ceremony, they ought to be doing more than watching an event. They ought to be taking advantage of an opportunity to praise God for the gift of love shown to all of us in community.
I was amused by a wedding invitation I once received. The bride and groom asked guests to join them in celebration as they became "one in Christ." They apparently didn't realize that since they were Christians, they were already one in Christ—in fact, I was one with them. But even though I chuckled a bit over that invitation, I still appreciated the couple's desire to recognize Christ as the source of their unity.
The Scriptures do not say much about wedding ceremonies. Deuteronomy cites that delightful regulation about recently married men who were not to be sent to war: 'Tor one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married" (Deut. 24:5). And the gospel writer John describes the joyous wedding at Cana that Jesus blessed with new wine (John 2).
Jesus' parable of the wedding banquet (Matt. 22), which likens the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast, suggests that weddings are festive events, involving many guests. But that parable hardly prepares us for the most striking wedding scene of all: at the end of time, after the final battle has been won, comes the marriage of the Lamb. In Revelation 19, John records Christ's revelation of his own wedding—and ours too, those of us who are part of his church. God himself issues the wedding invitation from the throne by quoting partly from Psalm 134. (No wonder Psalm 134 is still often sung at weddings.)
Praise our God, all you his servants,
you who fear him, both small and great!
This invitation—a call to worship—is followed by a great roar from the responding multitude, which includes all the saints, all those blessed with an invitation to the wedding supper of the Lamb:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
In chapter 21 we see the procession, "the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." And then begins the only marriage truly "made in heaven"—a marriage that will last forever.
What does this glorious picture have to say about planning Christian weddings? In these chapters we find spectacle, feasting, adornment of the bride—all events we associate with weddings. But primarily we find worship. Thaf s what God's invitation calls for, and thaf s what the shouting is all about.
Christians often plan elaborate weddings, pouring great care and expense into the flowers, the music, the garments, and the feasting that follows the ceremony. But so does the world. The difference ought to show in the way Christians make all these elements part of worship. Christian weddings needn't be elaborate or expensive, but they must be honest and fitting. And the time, effort, and money we put into them must be in proportion to the care and attention we give to other important aspects of our lives.
Let our wedding celebrations be joyful and exuberant, a "foretaste of the great feast that is to come." Those words are usually reserved for our Sunday worship with the Lord's Supper. But in some ways the celebration of a Christian marriage may exhibit a greater foretaste of the marriage supper of the Lamb than most typical Sunday services do.
And no wonder. We usually spend a great deal of time and money on a wedding to make sure it is beautiful, flawless, memorable. But what is "if? Wedding or worship? It ought to be both! Christian weddings ought to be rooted in worship.
In This Issue
We hope this issue will be helpful to ministers, worship commmittees, musicians, and those planning Christian weddings.
In these pages, four pastors offer their insights into wedding content and preparation. John Timmer's wedding meditation (p.4) is followed by some advice from Alvin Hoksbergen on planning weddings. Wayne Brouwer (p. 11) reflects on the complex relationship between the family, the church, and the state, all of which play a role in weddings. Donald Draayer (p. 25) provides several alternatives for different parts of the wedding service.
Three musicians offer suggestions on wedding music. As director of chapel activities at the Air Force Academy, Joe Galema participates in about seventy-five weddings each year. When we asked him and Shirley Boomsma for appropriate weddings music for organ, voice, and other instruments, we didn't realize how much good material they would include. It was more than would fit in the pages of our magazine! So for the first time RW is including a resource list as an insert to the magazine. We expect that this comprehensive list will be very useful. We also think you will appreciate the recent wedding hymn texts that Roy Hopp gathered for us (p.20). (I won't list our sentimental singer in "View from the Pew" on p. 30 as one of our musicians, for obvious reasons!)
Several other pieces round out the wedding resources, including a banner (p.14), a planning checklist (p. 16), congregational guidelines (p.23), and brief reviews of other available resources (p. 32). After all the wedding resources come our usual seasonal resources for fall, so this issue is packed. We hope you will find it helpful.