Perhaps you woke up to this news headline about a wedding getting called off at the last minute and the reception then given to Sacramento, California’s homeless. It is a touching story. I certainly want to commend the bride’s family for their kind charity. And though plenty of critics will find cause to beat the When-Helping-Hurts drum, the only criticism I can offer is to ask why the homeless were only invited when the wedding was called off?
I have personal experience in exactly this scenario. I want to share with you the story of Agent X and Mrs. Agent X’s wedding. It was way more humble than the headline-making party in this morning’s news, but it was intentional by design.
When Agent X asked the future Mrs. Agent X to marry him, they both came from previous failed marriages. Both were children of divorce. Both were keenly desirous to invite Jesus to their wedding and into their marriage. And since Agent X had begun a life in prophetic ministry, we saw the opportunity to invite Jesus to a wedding as something overtly biblical!
How do you invite Jesus to your wedding?
(Glad you asked.)
The X’s consulted Scripture like a wedding planner. A number of texts lent themselves to this staged proph-O-drama, among them being Matthew 25, where Jesus equates “the least of these brothers and sisters” with himself, and Luke 24, where Jesus is revealed in the breaking of bread. It quickly became clear that communion with the poor would be central to the wedding plan. And that is when Agent X decided to follow the Holy Spirit’s Script of a wedding like the party/parties of Luke 14. (Please take a minute and read Luke 14:7-24.)
We decided to make the whole ceremony into an extended communion service. It would be a sit-down meal punctuated with prayer, bread, and “fruit of the vine” at strategic points and an exchange of vows in the midst of it all. No altar, no aisle to walk down, no giving the bride away – all that traditional stuff is nice, but it had not served either us or our parents well. All that mattered was inviting Jesus to join us.
It was a relatively uncomplicated idea to invite the poor. We asked permission to host our wedding at Carpenter’s Church. Some of the poorest people in Lubbock can be found there every day. We got the brother-in-law to prepare the fatted calf Texas-BBQ-style and cater the homeless. As the wedding got underway, the bride and groom even made a ceremonial/prophetic walk through the alleys nearby to invite and compel any homeless people we met to come to our party. But throwing a Luke-14 party suggests there would be seats of honor, and someone would have to be shamed into taking a lower seat.
How do you shame someone at your own wedding? Who would want to do that?
That was a tough question. We wanted to be true to the Luke 14 Script, but we did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings – not at our wedding! That did not seem Christ-like. Perhaps we could ask someone to pretend to take the seat of honor and thus stage the humiliation as an actor (the very definition of hypocrite, btw). That idea just seemed too disingenuous. We wanted to be for real!
After much thought and prayer, the X’s decided it was not possible to plan this feature in the wedding. After much prayer and consultation with Script and with others, we decided to quietly drop that part out of the proph-O-drama and scramble the tables in the wedding hall so that there would be no “seats of honor” – except the bride and groom’s seats. We decided we would be the last to take seats so that no one could upstage another. In fact we opted to sit with the homeless at our table rather than family! It seemed that was as close as we could come to honoring that portion of Scripture.
Then the ceremony began. Most of our guests were already there at, or around, Carpenter’s Church. (If you have ever been there, you know it is often surrounded with people loitering under the NO LOITERING signs.
Our family began to arrive. Soon, they began to catch the drift of the ceremony. The bride’s aunt and uncle particularly took up the mantel to serve in humility.
Seriously. Who packs their own wedding with HOMELESS people?
What can I say? The party was on. The homeless took to the feast like a duck takes to water. The family had never been to a wedding so intentionally humble, but they figured out their roles quickly enough. But the bride and groom only felt anxious that Jesus come. We purposefully asked Jesus to come to our wedding and to our marriage. And as we looked around the room at our guests, we hoped they were the evidence that he had accepted our invitation. (But still the groom grieved that the seats-of-honor part had to cut out of the Script.)
We asked one family member to emcee the affair. He directed us through the party with prayers and comments on each element. The children would actually serve communion bread and “fruit-of-the-vine” as the meal/ceremony unfolded. This was a meal with someone talking us through it, explaining how there would be communion and vows exchanged WHILE we ate.
It was just at the moment when we began to break the communion bread that the door of Carpenter’s Church flew open and one last street drifter stumbled in. He rubbed his eyes a second, looked around at the party and started to back out the door again saying, “Oh… sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
It was just then that the groom looked around the room and noticed there were no empty seats left. The house was packed. There was no seat left for Jesus when (in the form of “one of the least of these”) he came in the door right at the breaking of the bread!”
SOMEBODY GET JESUS A CHAIR!!!
There were not seats left! But then it became clear to the groom – I have taken the seat of honor out of turn. Whoever sits with the bride has the seat of honor!!!
Suddenly the groom jumped up and prevented the drifter’s retreat. The groom put a halt in the whole ceremony and communion prayer as he COMPELLED the man to take the seat next to the bride. The groom rushed around to prepare one last plate of BBQ’d fatted calf and served the man. Then the groom shared the seat with the bride next to this Jesus who did accept the invitation to the Luke 14 wedding party and proph-O-drama!
Sadly, that wedding made no headlines. But if we had more weddings like this, perhaps there would be no “broken homes” and maybe even no more homelessness.