By John Thomas Tuft

The bride wears a gingham gown. There are field daisies braided into her blonde, swept-up hair.  The groom wears his best Walmart pants and a pair of dusty boots – his only pair – as he awaits his bride. She stands just inside the arched entrance to the sanctuary, pondering this moment, trying to release her worries, all the years of sighs. The groom runs his tongue across dry lips, his heart pounding, filled with wonder that this day has finally arrived. I find my place and take in the scene before me, this tableau of transformation, this worship of the wistful.  Everything is set. I reach to my left and hit ‘play.’

He is now to be among you, at the calling of your hearts…

“John, there’s someone in town who needs help.”  What minister doesn’t do backflips upon hearing those words from the faithful? It means they are more concerned about being of service than about feeling right and tight with the Creator. It turns out Emily is in her late 30s, is going blind from diabetes, has 3 kids, and one of them, a 9 year old girl, requires weekly treatment an hour bus ride north for tumors behind her ear. So the four of them walk to the main road, rain or shine, wait for the bus, sit through Sissy’s treatment, come home, hope for food in the pantry, money for rent. Rain or shine.  Her boyfriend is getting out of jail after serving a few years and they want to get married.

Rest assured this troubadour is acting on His part…

Well, if you’ve been reading these, you know how this story goes. It’s summertime. The kids have a scholarship to go to camp for a week. I pack them into my car with their green garbage bag suitcases. They chatter excitedly about all they’re going to do, all the adventures that await. We get to the camp in the mountains of wild and wonderful West Virginia. A bus pulls up. Kids pile out lugging sports equipment, shiny new suitcases, bags of candy and snacks.  My charges huddle together for refuge, quiet now, wondering where they fit. Suddenly I’m a little kid again in hand me down jeans and dirty white undershirt. afraid of what God’s going to think of me for just existing in this big, wild world.

The union of your spirits here has caused Him to remain…

Emily makes her way down the aisle, her face glowing with a natural blush.  The haunting swells of Paul Stookey’s guitar and the gift of his words fill this holy space.  The groom shifts his weight, awaiting the arrival of his best chance. She’s escorted by the smile on her face, and as she passes, her children fall in behind her and guide her to this holy place.  Afterward, we gather on the front porch of their home. It is draped in the sunshine of a late summer day. On a sideboard a lopsided, homemade layer cake from a box mix fights the heat.  Butter mints and lemonade refresh us as simple magic holds sway.

For wherever two or more of you are gathered in His name…

Years later, I’m getting ready to officiate at another wedding, another celebration of sacred scope. I’m shifting my weight from side to side, trying to outrun the constant, constant pain.  Rain or shine.  Friends and family are gathered ‘round in a well-appointed living room. The bride flashes a nervous smile as she makes her way forward.  The spouse-to-be also looks at me with a soft question in her eyes. I nod. Reach to my left and hit ‘play.’

…there is love…there is love.

Is faith about needing to feel right and tight? Or is it about choosing to give ourselves away in serving?

Words are magic and writers are wizards.