A couple of Sundays back we held a wedding blessing in our morning service. It may be old hat to some of you to do things that way, but it’s not something I have ever done before. The wonderful couple [they read my bloggages so I have to say that ;-)] had been married 10 years ago in a civil ceremony but wanted to mark their anniversary by renewing their vows and recognising that God is now a part of their marriage.
I was not at all apprehensive about the service, but I did wonder how it would go – whether it would fit into a worship service and whether it would feel ‘right’. In fact it felt brilliant. It was an opportunity to thank God for all he had done in their marriage, to celebrate marriage, to think about relationships with God and one another.
In the sermon I commented on how, in their photos, a small bear called Mr Gruff was present. He had been there when D&S had met, he was there as their relationship blossomed, he was there at the wedding, he has been with them in their married life (good times and bad) and he was in church with us for the blessing too. He was also in every one of their wedding photos, but was mostly hiding in the background.
To me that seems like a lovely parable of how God is involved in our lives and relationships if we will let him. He’s there all the time. Sometimes we are conscious of him, sometimes it’s as if he’s in the background. Sometimes we acknowledge him and include him, other times he’s simply ‘just’ with us. Knowing that he is there is reassuring and encouraging.
Of course his preference is to be involved, to be acknowledged, to be engaged. But he is gracious and patient enough to be with us all the time, waiting for us to turn to him, to involve him once again and to include him in every aspect of our life.
Don’t try to analyse what’s going on in my head – that’s dangerous territory – but this morning I was reminiscing about the teddy bear I had as a child. His name was ‘Teddy’ (I was as original then as I am now). He was given to me when I was born and I had the same teddy bear throughout my childhood.
During his active time with me he had several new skins, and some new stuffing, but he was still my bear.
(That reminds me of the roadsweeper who said that he had had the same broom for 50 years. The local news reporter came to interview him for such an amazing feat and asked him how he had managed to keep the same broom for 50 years. The roadsweeper said, “Well it has had 12 new heads and three new handles, but it’s the same broom!”)
We all grow and change. Not just physically (believe it or not but I once had hair on the top of my head!) but emotionally and spiritually too. I am not the same as I was as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult and even as I was last year. God’s Spirit is gradually changing me. But I am the same person. God’s renewal is not like giving us new skin and new stuffing, or new broom heads and broom handles. His renewal is more of a refining, an enhancing, a purifying process in which we are gently being transformed to become more like the people he has created us to be and less like the tarnished, imperfect version that we had become.
I am nowhere near the finished article. Oh no. Definitely not. (Please never put your ministers on pedestals because we will fall off.) I am a work in progress, but hopefully in each of us people can catch a glimpse of God through his Spirit at work in us as they see how he has changed us. It’s another way in which we can be free samples of Jesus.