Monday, July 21, 2008

Weekend Fun

This was one of those weekends that I just had to write about.

I had a wedding on Saturday. And frankly, I've had a string of good experiences with weddings this year. This was no exception. I enjoyed working with this couple. They've basically known each other their entire lives, and there was little doubt in my mind that this wouldn't just keep getting stronger.

The ceremony involved a cast of thousands: six on each side besides the couple, three musicians, a humongous extended family. When I asked the families to stand in support of the couple, a good quarter of the packed sanctuary stood. I had a feeling that the place would be full - the family is well-known and loved in the congregation, and there were a number of friends presumably from college and earlier there as well (she was in a sorority, so that helped, too).

The other notable thing about the ceremony itself was that they requested that most of the chancel furniture be removed. Our chancel can be pretty cramped, and they wanted something more airy; more room to move for pictures and such. So we left the altar, and stashed everything else in various corners of the building. Keep that in mind for later.

As I stood in the narthex before the service, I was able to observe quite a number of the guests. As start time approached, a woman whom I'd estimate was barely in her early 20s entered carrying a newborn baby girl probably not more than a few weeks old. The way this woman was holding her, her head was just hanging upside-down. And then I overheard this exchange.

Guy: Her head is just hanging there.

Woman: Yeah, I don't know why it does that.

(Deep breaths. Very deep breaths.)


Later at the reception, she was doing much better. I'd learned that an older couple from the church had approached her, so maybe that's what did it. I'm actually beating myself up a little for not saying something myself.

The reception was billed "adults only," and the CoffeeInLaws saw this as an opportunity to stop up and look after Coffeeson while his parents got to enjoy an evening out. It was held in the reception hall of a Greek Orthodox church, the second time I'd been to a reception in such a place. The Orthodox really know how to host a party, too. They didn't have the vermouth to make a Manhattan, but they did pretty well for themselves otherwise.

Okay, so Sunday morning. Remember how everything had been moved out of the chancel? Well, they did move everything back, so there was no issue there. But when the liturgist stepped up to lead everyone in the Call to Worship, it was clear that the smaller details--such as plugging the microphones back in--had been overlooked. So during the first hymn, I and another church member sitting near the front scurried to the lectern to locate the cable and plug it in. I'm sure it was fun to watch, as I didn't hear a whole lot of singing while this was going on.

The rest of the service, as far as I'm concerned, was pretty forgettable. My sermon didn't feel very inspired, even though Coffeewife later observed that I seemed pretty riled up. I preached on the parable of the wheat and weeds, talking about how there's no place for spiritually stifling and evil (yes, EVIL) things in the kingdom of God. I cited modern examples such as using religion to justify hatred, violence, and bigotry.

Nowadays, I find myself less and less tolerant of watching fundamentalists of any stripe calling for death and destruction, and in recent years I've greatly moved away from any sort of explanation that begins, "Well, you have to understand their culture..." Pardon me, but that's bullsh*t. There is no culture-based excuse for violence. Period. Thanks for playing. If we want to explore and dig at the roots at how the actions of our own country has contributed to feelings of anger in another, that's one thing. But implying that it somehow justifies innocent lives being taken...that's not gonna work for me.

So all that was weighing heavily on my mind while I wrote my sermon last week, and everyone else had the pleasure (or misfortune) of me spilling it out into their laps.

So after a marathon weekend for ministry, a friend and I went to see The Dark Knight. Coffeewife elected to stay behind with Coffeeson and let me have Guy Time, with the understanding that I'd take her to see it later. The best word that I had for it afterwards was "tense." Heath Ledger is excellent as The Joker, and I could see why I've read two separate comparisons to Al Franken. It was a pretty dark film, exploring the side of human nature that seeks self-preservation above the welfare of others, and humanity's need for someone to step up and be a symbol of optimism and hope. In fact, I didn't experience it as much of a fun summer popcorn movie at all. But I did enjoy it.

That was more or less my weekend.