By the way, today my parents are celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary!
The other day, I was standing in the church atrium with my favorite funeral director, Mark. A wedding was about to take place, but we weren't there for the wedding. We were loitering by the door.
"You know," Mark said, "there really is no difference between weddings and funerals. I mean, there's a minister for both, and they're both an end. The only difference is that one you're rolled in and the other you meander in."
I was kind of stunned by the pessimism in this statement, especially coming from someone as upbeat and fun-loving as Mark. I feel the need to mention that he's happily married. We kind of joked about it and moved on to joke about something else.
Later, I was thinking about our conversation again, and I realized he's right. He failed to mention they both also involve crying and Mark greeting at the door. In all seriousness, they are both an end. But, at the same time, they are both a beginning. A wedding is the beginning of a life together. In the faith that Mark and I share, a funeral is the beginning of a new life, an eternal life.
It was only then that I realized Mark was not the first person to speak about weddings and funerals in the same way. Jesus Himself did it.
In John 14, Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."
Sounds to me like heaven-talk. Funeral words. Yes, but it's more. It's a cultural thing we miss, but His listeners would have been befuddled. This was wedding talk.
Max Lucado writes, "We Westerners might miss the wedding images, but you can bet your sweet chuppah that Jesus' listeners didn't. This was a groom-to-bride promise. Upon receiving the permission of both families, the groom returned to the home of his father and build a home for his bride. He 'prepared a place'" (Fearless 118).
Lucado goes on to explain that Jesus puts funerals and weddings on the same platform. They share the same hope. When walking down the aisle, the excitement felt by the pallbearers should be the same as that felt by the bride.
I have never planned a wedding. Neither have I a planned a funeral. I pray I get the participate in the former before the latter. However, if that is not the case, will I face them both with the same hope-filled anticipation?
Just some food for thought.