Yesterday I attended a royal wedding party that began in the wee hours of the morning. Pajamas and tea and really tacky hats. It was delightful in a decidely girly way in which I do not typically indulge. Later in the day I went to a fabric store and a woman whose job it is to hand make wedding dresses said to me, “I don’t care about the stupid royal wedding! It’s just two more people getting married! They royals are broke anyway!” Actually, she sort of shouted it at me. Well yeah, on one level, she’s right. It is just two more people getting married and it isn’t really that big of a deal. Two more young people whose families can’t really afford it had a huge ceremony and party. I’ve read a whole lot critiques of both the display of wealth and the widespread obsession with it as well and there is a point to be made there.
However, a wise pastor once told me that you make contact with more unchurch, underchurched and lapsed Christians at weddings and funerals than any other church activity. If he is correct, and I think he is, then yesterday’s wedding was a marvelous thing. People all around the world watched a worship service in person, in public squares, on television. They watched it in one another’s homes, in massive groups, alone on their couches at home. Tons of us sang along with “Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer” and a good Wesley hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”. The reporters in the massive public gatherings in the UK say that the groups there belted out the verses along with the music coming from the enormous screens. Countless numbers of people recited together the Lord’s Prayer and heard beautiful renditions of “This Is The Day Which The Lord Hath Made” and “Ubi Caritas”. Where charity and love reside, God is dwelling there.
Oh I am not naïve enough to think that everyone was as enthralled with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s deft flipping of his mitre tails over his head mid ceremony or the gorgeous copes they all wore. (I do contend, however, not many can escape the hypnotic power of AB Rowan Williams’ eyebrows.) I am not foolish enough to think that many got very close to the screen to see what was on the altar and the images behind it as I did. I’m sure many would never even realize they were watching a worship service and maybe many…maybe even the majority of all who listened and watched cared more about the hats and dresses and Kate Middleton’s sister’s figure and David Beckam. That is all true. David Beckam is beautiful and Pippa Middleton’s stunning sillouette could have stolen nearly any show.
But sometimes, perhaps even when we least expect it, God manages to slip some things in on us that we didn’t expect. He manages to do things to get to us even when it seems highly unlikely he’d be spotted at ‘an event like that.’ All who watched heard the proclamation of these words “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect…” and the rest of the Romans 12 text chosen for the day. All bore witness to some of the world’s richest and most powerful in a church. All heard the words: Almighty God, Father, Jesus, Holy Ghost, Lord, Blessing and Amen. I would venture to guess that a staggering number of the people watching do not hear those words on a regular basis, do not hear scripture on a regular basis, do not hear or recite the Lord’s Prayer on a regular basis and surely don’t sing “Joy of Heaven to earth come down!”
But they did yesterday. And that is a good thing.