My oldest son is now married. And I presided at the wedding.
In the weeks leading up to the wedding, lots of folks asked how I would be able to do that without getting emotional. You know, father of the groom. First-born son. All of the emotional stuff tied up with being a father.
To a certain extent, all of that is true. Chris and I have a special relationship. We have always had the gift of enjoying time together, of good and sometimes deep conversation. I have been awed and humbled that Chris calls me or sits in the living room with a beer and asks for fatherly advice in a way that I never did with my own father. I don’t know how things worked out that way, but I am grateful.
Back to the wedding. When we first started the conversation about where it would be and who would preside, we talked about other options; for many different reasons, none of them were better than having the wedding at Faith Lutheran Church (where I am the Senior Pastor) and having me preside at their wedding.
As the wedding day approached, as Chris and Liz planned their wedding service, as I shared in those plans, I became more and more determined that for a little over an hour on a Saturday afternoon in October, I would be pastor and not father.
That may sound strange, especially given the nature of our relationship. It’s also strange because as a pastor, what I do and who I am are inextricably linked. I am a father; I am a husband; I am a pastor; I am Jim. While I might try to distinguish these roles, I never very successfully segregate them. So, when I preside at my son’s wedding, I am father, I am husband, I am pastor, and I am Jim.
Which brings me back to what I said a few lines ago. For a few hours on Saturday afternoon, I was determined that I was going to be more pastor than father. It would have been easy to tell cute stories about Chris when he was a kid, or about the phone calls when he told me about he and Liz falling in love. But I’m convinced that would have been the easy way out. And it would have short-changed Chris and Liz.
For the promises they were making, they deserved to have someone speak to them about how their covenant is informed by their faith, by the long arc of scripture and tradition, and by the sacramental presence of God in their lives and in the assembly gathered around them. The weightiness of the promises they were making demanded that their words of promise to each other be put into the context of their own baptismal calling where God spoke words of promise to them. They needed to hear how it makes a difference that they make those vows in the presence of the Body — those gathered, and the Body extended through place and time.
It was a delightful weekend, full of family, celebration, stories, laughter, and bright hope for the future. As father, I relished all of it. But in the middle of a weekend filled with being the proud and happy father, for one hour on a Saturday afternoon I was pastor.