It was the first wedding I ever officiated. Just before walking out with the groom I suggested we pray. It was more to calm my nerves than his. Twenty years ago, in a hundred year-old church building of wood the Saturday evening light turned the foolish stained glass windows into something truly beautiful. Together the young man and I walked out and faced the assembled families. Together we looked up the aisle to the walnut double-doors.
They opened. Backlit like movie characters, the bride and her father began the joyful stroll forward. She smiled with genuine joy, and I began to cry. It was a very small building, and I had just 30 feet to pull it together before these two young people would become forever one. I croaked a prayer, invited the guests to take a seat, and managed a joke that was good enough to put everyone at ease.
I realized then that the best seat at a wedding is when you get to stand before the bride and groom and do the service. That’s why one time I was eager to drive 840 miles just to have the opportunity to perform one-third of a wedding ceremony. I served communion to a young couple who had just moments before recited the vows that made them husband and wife.
The narrow building that hosted the wedding had brick walls and a store-front feel. Gathered around banquet tables were just 80 or 90 guests. We worshiped like it was church and invited Jesus, the guest of honor. The local pastor took my two friends through the vows and the rings. Half whispered and half wept, they repeated sacred promises which no one could keep apart from God’s grace: then I stood before them with the elements of communion. In their first act as husband and wife, they chose to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
I said simply, “Jesus is the bread of life,” and they both broke into tears and grateful sobs. My knees went weak. The same one who celebrated in Cana of Galilee had chosen to honor them with his presence. I stammered a few more words but they ate and drank with him. I was no more than a table to hold the feast. A third pastor prayed and spoke prophetic words of hope and calling over their lives, and the two became one. An outpost of God’s Kingdom was birthed. Once again I had seen the miracle and watched in awe.
Ever since that first wedding each new wedding brings me closer to my wife, and Jesus. The three of us have been entwined for 36 years, which is barely the seashore of eternity. Each bride and groom can feel the ocean touch their toes. A powerful, loving tide will carry them on.
This article about my first wedding originally appeared here, and is used by permission.