Carol and I were delighted to be asked to officiate the wedding of Alyssa Aldape and Nick Schaufelberger. When the lovely couple said, “We’ll pick the biblical texts we want you speak on,” we said, “Sure,” because we are accommodating ministers.
Most couples pick 1 Corinthians 13 (“Love is patient and kind”), which is sweet, or John 2, where Jesus goes to a wedding and changes water into wine, which is a great trick, or even the Colossians text that’s trendy at weddings, “Clothe yourselves with compassion,” which is an excellent metaphor that gives you an excuse to talk about how well-dressed everyone is at a wedding.
This time, the couple assigned Carol Isaiah 2:3-4, a piece of wedding cake. Carol takes “Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain, so that we may walk in God’s paths” as an excuse to talk about the couple’s love for hiking in the mountains. She does not spend as much time explaining how married people “beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools and no longer learn how to make war.”
They gave me Song of Solomon 2:10-13. This romantic poem raises questions like: Is this really in the Bible? How did this get in the Bible? How did Nick and Alyssa even find this text?
Which made me ask: Could this text be revenge?
I was Alyssa’s preaching professor for several classes at seminary. At some point I may have assigned Alyssa an obscure text on which to preach and she wanted me to know how that feels. Or maybe Alyssa, an ordained minister, was dismayed because brides aren’t encouraged to preach at their own weddings. She would have done a great job.
This text in Song of Solomon — which I’m sure is excellent Hebrew poetry — raises interesting questions.
- My lover said, “Rise up, my dearest, my fairest, and go.” Is her lover inviting her to go with him or does he need some alone time?
- The winter is past. The rains have come and gone. Is her lover saying, “The weather’s great. You go on. I’ll catch up.”
- Blossoms have appeared in the land. This verse is good advice for a young couple: You need to stop and smell the roses.
- The season of singing has arrived. Could the lovers be musicians going on tour?
- The green fruit is on the fig tree, and the grapevines in bloom are fragrant. Maybe her lover is inviting her to lunch — a fruit salad and a glass of wine.
- My lover said, “Rise up, my dearest, my fairest, and go.” You could read this as an invitation to elope. There is usually a moment at a wedding when someone has the crazy idea that eloping would have been simpler.
One thing we can be certain in reading this text is that these starry-eyed lovers could have been clearer in their communication. They could have used some premarital counseling.
Carol and I had the joy of doing premarital counseling with Nick and Alyssa. We used Prepare/Enrich — “The World’s No. 1 Premarital Assessment Program” — which required Alyssa and Nick to answer a bazillion questions and send them to either — and this part is not completely clear — to be studied careful by well-trained, loving therapists or be fed into an algorithm that spits out 27 pages of analysis.
Some might think it would be a clear violation of ministerial ethics to share that material, but if you are saying nice things, I do not see a problem. Based on their scores across nine core categories, Nick and Alyssa are best categorized as a “vitalized couple” — the highest level of couples. They have “many strength areas and a high level of relationship satisfaction. Their strong relationship skills will provide a good foundation for improving any growth areas.”
In church we would say, “God is doing a good thing with these two.”
Weddings are such remarkable events. In Whistling in the Dark, Frederick Buechner writes: “They say they will love, comfort, honor each other to the end of their days. They say they will do these things not just when they feel like it, but even when they don’t feel like it at all. In other words, the vows they make at a marriage could hardly be more extravagant. They take on themselves each other’s burdens. The question is, what do they get in return? They get each other. They never have to face the world alone again.”
One morning 10 years from now they will be in a rush to get to the law office or the not-for-any-profit-at-all office. They’ll hit the snooze button on their phones, and it will be hard to make up nine minutes. They’ll rush through their showers, hurry to find something that resembles breakfast, keep glancing at the time. But then, for just a moment, without expecting it, they will look past their cup of chai and see their beloved, really see. They will fall in love all over again.
That feeling of amazement will vanish so quickly they will wonder if it matters. It does. That feeling will remind them that God is doing a good thing with them.
Brett Younger serves as senior minister at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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