Tipsy Groomsmen, Queasy Brides and Micro-mini Mourners
August 22, 2016
So what exactly would you do with a nauseous, pregnant bride, trapped in a closet, in the middle of a wedding? What words or strategies might you employ to help keep inebriated groomsmen from walking bridesmaids and guests into walls or the edges of pews? What is the best way to deal graciously with a micro mini-skirted mourner, bent over a casket and mooning everyone behind her?
Every pastor, musician, sound tech and church custodian accumulates a file of strange but true stories from weddings and funerals. We are privileged to be part of some of the best and worst days of people’s lives. Additionally, we are often presented with the opportunity to interact, in significant ways, with unchurched family and friends attending these occasions. How do we welcome and respond to people who don’t know or understand the language and culture of our church world?
Jesus frequently hung out with the dregs of society, and they loved him. James writes some strong words about how we treat people that don’t look, sound or smell like us, but before I delve into that I will share how we handled the above situations. My husband is the sultan of smooth. He is nonplussed by awkward situations and faster on his feet than any Olympic gymnast.
So, what about that nauseous bride? During a wedding Ken officiated, the bride quietly said, “I’m going to be sick.” With vows and rings done, he instructed the groom to escort his new wife to the rest room. As they left, Ken explained the situation to the guests, asked the organist to play some music and invited people to socialize. Unfortunately, the groom didn’t attend our church and instead of leading the bride out of the sanctuary, he took her into a large closet inside the sanctuary. Ken simply left the platform, while all eyes watched, and guided the now pale green bride and the frantic looking groom out of the closet to the correct doorway.
The tipsy groomsmen showed up for wedding pictures in a bad state and clowned their way through the photo shoot, leaving the bride in tears. After Ken observed them staggering outside to drink from pocket flasks, he decided to intervene. He invited them into his office under the guise of resting in air conditioning. While he shared cups of coffee and bottled water with them, he spoke firmly but kindly about their behavior and what he expected from them during the ceremony. They pulled themselves together and did fairly well with no major gaffs.
Finally, the micro-mini-skirt mourner seemed oblivious to the results of bending over in a tight, short skirt, yet her own family members did nothing except stare at her. We were merely guests at this funeral, but just as I was about to make a move, the pastor’s wife glided up to the casket, put her arm around the young woman, hugged her, then gently led her away from the casket. Well done. At our church we see people fresh from the world frequently at our altar, so it wasn’t my first rodeo with clothing issues but it was lovely to see another sister handle this so graciously.
In James 2 he discusses the sin of snobbery. Verses 1-12 are a stern lecture about treating people differently based on their outward appearance or behavior. In verse 8 (NIV) he calls the golden rule the “royal law.” In other words, in God’s kingdom, treating everyone well is the law. This is not a negotiable or gray area and to make that crystal clear, he closes this section with a warning. “…judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.”
The Greek word for filthy, in verse 2 is “riparian” which means that someone is so filthy that their body odor is noxious. Ever been near someone whose body odor is so sour, it makes your eyes water and your gag reflex kick in? That’s the picture here.
So, how would you or your church treat a woman clearly dressed as a prostitute, if she showed up in your service? What about an individual who is high? What do you do with mentally unstable people if they start acting out during your services? When a homeless, man dragging his filthy little suitcase, walks through your church doors how do people respond?
All of these scenarios are things we see at our church weekly. We do everything to make people who have been humbled and tossed aside by the world, welcome in our midst. Sometimes they need us to throw an arm around them or just be with them and make conversation. Other times, if they are disruptive, we gently lead them to participate in the service in a separate room where it’s televised. We are prepared with handmade prayer cloths to preserve women’s dignity and modesty when they collapse under the power of the Spirit working in them. Listen, the Holy Spirit often deals with people trapped in numerous bondages and sins in ways that don’t always fit our neat little paradigms.
My question for you is, are you prepared for the lost souls of this world to turn up on your doorstep or at your church? They come with emotional and physical messes and baggage so complex and filthy, that some believers just don’t want to deal with it, like the church people James scolded in Chapter 2. Believers who are passionate about winning the lost need to be prepared to receive them graciously, warmly, when they do wash up on your doorway. What do you need to do to be ready for them?