A while ago a young woman asked me if I would preside at a marriage renewal ceremony on the eve of her and her husband’s 15th anniversary. Their relationship actually began several years ago when she fled her toxic family for the stability and love of her, now, husband’s family.
I’m a sucker for gooshy, romantic occasions like this so I said yes. I conducted my usual interviews with the couple and found out about how they met, what they liked about each other, and what they did for enjoyment. I always look for a metaphor to hang the ideas on.
The ceremony was conducted on a California beach. It was windy and cold, so there was an economy of words. Nevertheless I quoted some of their favorite love lyrics and ended with Paul’s eloquence about what it means to be a loving person. Most people today have not heard his wise words.
Nor had they.
I thought the ceremony had gone well. They smiled and kissed. She mouthed the words “I love you” and looked totally blissful. He seemed aloof.
I was sadly reminded, soon after that, of how much our world needs the utterly unique Gospel. That good news is in short supply was visible in her tears as she showed up later to get a package I had for her. The romantic weekend wasn’t.
The marriage renewal, it turns out, is a metaphor for the state of our world.
Which brings me to church planting and its resemblance to triage. It feels like I’m on a battlefield and laying all around me is the carnage of human failure and ignorance. Playing church doesn’t offer anything satisfying or attractive for these who hold together with their hands the gaping wounds of their lives.
These wounds are caused by loneliness created by serial relationship failures, the guilt and shame of addiction, the pain of abuses of every kind, and emptiness caused by absence of meaning. The role of the church planter should be to carry a bag of relief and to offer hope to those who have given up hope.
Jesus’ reprise of Isaiah 61 makes perfect sense in light of the conditions of our world. “…the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor….to comfort the brokenhearted….and proclaiming of release to the captives…” A church plant that doesn’t enter into that work is just “playing church.”
I don’t know what will happen to the “marriage renewal couple.” I hope that that an appetite for hearing more about the love that Paul declared will open up future opportunities.
That’s why I’m here.