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JessicaDavid1Considering his lover, the author of the ancient love story recorded in the Song of Songs penned these words, “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!…You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes.”


As I understand it, the first glance for these two occurred in the seventh grade, as David was one of Jessica’s first boyfriends. Sadly, yet in true middle school fashion, they broke up that same year. But only to reunite their senior year of high school, thanks in part to a scheduling coincidence where they found themselves solving for derivatives together in Pre-Cal. And thanks also in part to the senior Prom, which they attended together.


Senior year of high school. Over five years ago.


Five years is enough time for love to be tested, refined to a certain extent, not complete, but cultivated with effort, experience, and counsel. For many, the choice of a marriage partner is one of the very freest choices we make as human beings. And if anything has been made clear to me from our conversations and from the words of your friends and family…it is that you, David, have chosen Jessica…and you, Jessica, have chosen David.JessicaDavid2Your choice consists not of a singular judgment but rather a series of decisions. And while most in attendance know how you have planned and thought and worked and waited throughout these years…we probably have no idea how you have anticipated this event.


Well it’s here.


…and it’s good.


And now is when I say, “Dearly beloved…”

photos: Callie Murray

Atlanta Wedding MinisterTo have close friends is to approach a fuller life.

In The Four Loves, the author CS Lewis recalls the days when he and his friends met regularly, pulling up chairs around a small table in an Oxford pub. He describes how one person at that table has the ability, just by being around, to bring something unique and different out of each of the others. For Lewis, when any one person at the table is surrounded by close friends, and when those close friends are all drawing out of the one something distinctive and something exceptional, then and only then is that person most wholly himself or herself. He writes, “In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.”

This evening Ryan and Ashley want to take a moment of their wedding ceremony, the beginning in fact, to honor one of those friends, one who sits at their table, who is not able to be here today.

For the next eleven months, Josh Hemmings is on active duty in the Republic of Iraq. In your programs you will notice that he is named honorary groomsman because in Ashley’s words “he certainly would have been in the wedding party had he been in town.” Ryan and Ashley want to communicate their excitement that Josh’s family is in attendance in his place this evening. And as the harpist performs a rendition of “America the Beautiful,” I would like to invite us all to acknowledge the service and the friendship of Corporal Joshua Chandler Hemmings of the United States Marines.

Love is as strong as death.

Many waters cannot quench love,

nor can the floods drown it.

- – -

In many other, if not most, countries, the choice of a marriage partner is influenced by money, by politics, by work, by trusted friends, and more often than perhaps we realize, by the will of parents.H046

In our culture, however, many suggest that the choice of a marriage partner is one of the very freest choices we make as human beings.

To what extent, really, is family meant to be involved in matchmaking? And if they are involved, to what degree does their involvement benefit or detriment this, one of our “freest choices”?

Zack and Audrey, it strikes me that during your courtship you had at least two tremendous decisions before you. The first was whether or not to move ahead in your relationship without the blessing of parents. And I know that the admonition to wait came initially as a surprise. The second decision, and one that followed logically, was whether or not Zack was worth the wait, and whether Audrey was worth the wait. For having made the decision to get married long ago, it was as if you needed to make this decision once again, yet this time in different circumstances and on different terms.

Well, now…today…your choices are clear.

Having chosen one another yet again, having waited patiently, and having received with joy the full blessing of your parents, it seems to me that the involvement of your parents did not infringe, but rather enriched your relationship. For yours is a tested, a refined, not a complete, but a love cultivated with time and effort, and through guidance and counsel.

Simply put, floods came. …And they could not drown your love.

Congrats guys!

photo: Callie Murray

the NOT Wedding

Good evening.

notweddingHow can anyone bring themselves to affirm that they will care for another person twenty years from now?  It is one thing to promise your girlfriend that you will pick her up at eight o’clock; it is quite another to give her your pledge that you will love her for the rest of your life.  The marriage vows are simple ones, but remarkable both for the extremity of their selflessness, and also for the fact that in most cases they turn out to be the only true vows either partner will ever make, let alone hold to, in their entire lives.

On behalf of the couple…and on behalf of all those who have thought and planned and worked to make this fantastic event possible, it is my pleasure to welcome you this Sunday afternoon to the NOT wedding.

Let’s make no mistake about it: this is a party, a celebration. And today we celebrate not just all that which goes into making the wedding occasion unique among all others, but also marriage itself. For the NOT wedding celebrates both essence and experience…beauty and virtue.

We celebrate flowers and music and apparel and décor and dance and fine food. And we honor the pledge that couples make as they throw all natural caution and defensiveness to the winds and put themselves entirely in the hands of love by an act of the will. The NOT wedding celebrates falling in love…as well as marching into it boldly.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I now present to you for the first time…

MR. AND MRS. NOT COUPLE!

photo: Callie Murray

I don’t know if you know this but in addition to being a college grad, a part time school teacher and researcher, somewhat of a web designer, and, from what I understand, a fantastic financial advisor at Primerica, Jameson Brewer is also a Native-American dancing champion. I’m totally serious. And while he doesn’t have a degree in this art, if I remember correctly he holds championships in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and perhaps a few other southern States, I don’t know. I have never seen him dance, but I know that some of the things involved in these dances are: colorful feathers, hula-hoops, and, on occasion, flaming torches. In fact, this evening at the reception, Jameson will be performing a special dance for all of us wedding guests.  jamo 1

Actually, no, I made that up.

But I want to say this: Jameson, you’re a special guy. You are a very talented individual. You’re super organized with an entrepreneurial spirit. You’re a role model for young people, an inspiration to your friends. You are someone on whom others gladly depend. And you’re a dancing fool. And…Mallory is a lucky girl.

Mallory, you, too, are the real deal.  You love well and you live well. You’re also super organized. You have a sensitive and caring heart, a passion for God and for the things of God. People love your presence; it is, for them, a good thing to be around you. And, truly, Jameson is a lucky man.

I say these things to you both not to puff you up or to make you feel good.  But I know that the support and encouragement of family and friends is extremely valuable to you. Well, you’ve got it. I want to say publicly what I am convinced all of us already are thinking: We love you.  We support you. We’re proud of you both.  And we’re so honored to be your family and friends.

AND “NOW FOR THE VOWS”

Here I would like to encourage all couples to reaffirm their vows as Alicia and Faron proclaim theirs… 

Faron, Do you promise to love Alicia?  Do you commit yourself to her in all honor and faithfulness, encouraging her and partnering with her for the journey of life? Do you promise to live with her, and laugh with her; love and cherish her as long as you both shall live? 

  (”I do. “) 

Then will you repeat your vows to her:

“BEFORE OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY,

AND BEFORE GOD

I, FARON, TAKE YOU ALICIA,

TO BE MY BELOVED WIFE,

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD,

FROM THIS DAY FORWARD,

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE,

WHETHER RICH OR POOR,

IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH,

TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH,

TILL DEATH DO US PART.”

Now that you are both here, the first thing that I want to say to you is what a fantastic way to celebrate your love!…with the rising of the sun, and the beginning of a new day.  And while today is not your beginning…for your story began in the halls, a few classrooms, even a trailer of a high school Language Arts department…or perhaps it began with whispers in your ears from friends and acquaintances, convinced that this was the right woman for you and this was the right man for you, even before you had met one another. In fact, I wonder how many in attendance this morning secretly are taking credit for what is happening this morning.

bg 3photo: Tec Petaja

But the choice of a marriage partner (combined with the choice to get married in the first place, for the two cannot really be separated) is one of the very freest choices we make as human beings.  And if anything has been made clear to me, it is that you, Chad, have chosen Bethany…and you, Bethany, have chosen Chad.  And so…although today is not your beginning, today is the beginning of a new way of living; it is for you the dawn of newness.  …Today is a beautiful day.

bg 1photo: Tec Petaja

Krista and Thad

Ecclesiastes 3.1 says, There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…including a time to love, and to celebrate that love.thad 1So I would like to welcome you to this great celebration as we unite Krista Derbecker and Thad Gilliam in marriage.

I want to emphasize celebration. Krista and Thad have communicated to me their hopes that this ceremony be reverent and at the same time casual, important yet informal, worshipful and at the same time fun. They also wanted the ceremony to be personal, capturing who they are. And from the events of yesterday and from the looks of things today, I’d say that they’ve done a good job.

Krista and Thad, we know that in the depths of your beings you are celebrating. In fact, more than one person has said that when they think about your personality, Krista, their mental image of you is one where you are dancing, spinning in circles, and laughing. Thad, many people have told me that their mental image of you is one where you’re running in the Boston Marathon, and it’s raining, and you’re in first place…and you’re naked. And all of your friends are cheering you on. I don’t know where that image comes from, but that’s what they’ve told me.

thad 2

Anyway, I want to communicate that with everything inside of us, we celebrate with you. We are so profoundly pleased and excited about your marriage. And we consider ourselves blessed to know you and to call you our friends.

 

photos: Joy Thigpen 

Jen and Josh

He who finds a wife finds what is good… (Proverbs 18.22).

josh jen 1photo: Joy Thigpen

Josh, I think I speak for all of the Atlanta community, that when you left for Orlando nearly two years ago, we thought for sure you would find an apartment, some new friends, and we hoped a degree. But we did not know for sure that you would find a wife. And we had no idea that you find someone as fantastic as Jen.

Congrats, guys!