Smoky Mountain Wedding
By: Gordon Dasher
Standing at just over 3,000 feet above sea level in the mountains just west of Asheville, North Carolina, I look off into the distance at the horizon, to other mountains rising even higher to 5,000 feet or more. It’s a beautiful place for a wedding. And that’s just what we will be doing in about four hours. I had never met the young couple until a month or so ago, but I liked them. They are quiet, much quieter than I am. They hardly spoke as I sat in the restaurant on Asheville’s east side last month and spoke with them about marriage and Jesus and the miracle of birth.
They had a problem; they had already given birth to a child, a beautiful baby boy just a few months old. And now, they wanted to legally become husband and wife. I got the impression that they had trouble getting a Christian minister to perform their ceremony because of their “sin.”.
To be honest, I had made a commitment to myself years ago that I would forgo performing marriage ceremonies due to the fact that so many people come into their marriage relationship with no thought of the God who made them. They often had no idea that a relationship with Jesus is the framework for a good and fruitful marriage relationship. Besides, even though I once required all prospective brides and grooms to complete a course in marriage counseling, many of them still wound up getting divorced.
But I thought about this young couple and what they needed more than anything. And I thought about my role in it all as a pastor. And what is my job? My responsibility? When I thought about it that way, I realized that I am not responsible for outcomes, not in a marriage ceremony, not even in my church, nor even in my family. All I can do, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians, is to plant the seed and water it. It’s up to God to produce a crop.
I also thought about this question: what would I do if the owner of the local redneck bar asked me to preach in his establishment on Saturday night? Would I turn his invite down because bars are such sinful places?
No! I would not! Instead, I would seize the opportunity and tell people about a redeeming Savior who will rescue those who are done with the lies of the Evil One. I would stand on the bar (if I could actually hop up on it) and loudly and unashamedly tell the patrons of Bubba’s bar about Jesus’ death and resurrection and his promise of new life.
If you’re wondering why I would subject myself to something like that, I will tell you; Jesus is their only hope. How could I miss the chance to tell them about him?
So, I looked at this young couple, and I loved them. I knew that Jesus is their only hope too (just as he is mine), so I agreed that I would stand at their altar and preach the gospel to them. That I would plant and water the seed a little, and let God do his mighty work in their young hearts. It is a good deal for me: I get to preach the Good News and get a free meal to boot. They were already taking baby steps in the right direction. I just decided I would follow God and meet them where they were.
This is important, taking Jesus into the midst of sinful brokenness. The stakes are high. In my opinion, most of the social chaos in society is something we can trace to the disintegration of the American family. Kids often don’t have daddies and sometimes their mothers are also absent. They have nothing tethering them to reality. So many kids are without any sense of direction at all. So, they follow the ones who make the boldest and best sounding arguments, people who do not love them nor have their best interests at heart.
You may not agree with me on much, but you can’t deny that we are in trouble. Sadly, this kind of brokenness is now generational.
Therefore, when I run across a young couple who wants to escape their past and do things the right way, I want to stand with them, to support them. And if they are willing to listen to the Word of God, I’m right there, ready to speak it to them.
When this beautiful couple stands with their baby before me, I will point to the beauty of the mountains around us and remind them that the same God who created the hills also created them. He is the one who formed their little baby while he was in his mama’s belly. Cell-by-cell, sinew-by-sinew, he formed that precious baby, and from day one, he imprinted him with his own image. I will remind them of the sacrificial God who died for them. I will remind them that the only logical response to the goodness and creative majesty of this God is to bow before him, to offer him their lives and the life of their baby, and live out their days here on Planet Earth revering the God who made them.
I don’t care about their past any more than I care about my own. I’m here for the future. For their future and mine. I’m here for a future that is eternal. I’m here in these mountains today to tell anyone who will listen that the God of all creation is a God who severs our ties to our pasts and points to a new life, an eternal life that we can begin living today.
I’ll perform their wedding ceremony, and I’ll do it with joy because I’m giving them a message that can point them to something far better than anything they could have ever imagined. The only thing I am responsible for is speaking the name of Jesus. I’ll do that! And I pray that out of my own weakness, this young couple will hear the Word of God and reach out to him and live for him.