Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Wedding Banquet

Plans for the wedding have continued to happen. We continue to look at the guest list and review names and are trying to make room for everyone we would like to invite…which is tremendously difficult at this point because we are limited to 200 people at our venue (which we don’t want to forsake because of beauty, convenience, and price).

As someone who likes everyone to be included, thinking of who we might exclude is a high anxiety process for me. It seriously stresses me out and makes me a bit of a cranky pants.

Tonight my dad and I walked the dogs and picked up fast food. As we walked, we ran into a number of the homeless I see and know and work with each week at the church. They know me by name and excitedly greeted me and introduced me to their companions. As we walked I began to wonder how many of them I should include in the wedding list.

In some ways, I was ashamed to ask the question. I mean, if they were regular Joes who worked and had a home and came to church each Sunday, I doubt I’d ask whether or not they should be included (as long as we’re including church people in general). Allen is just as much a regular as Linda, so should there be any distinction?

Part of me cringes because I have seen “good church people” up and move on Sunday morning when Alean sits next to them in the pew, and I would hate for him to be rebuked or rejected in a similar way at my wedding celebration. If he were there, he’d be just as much an invited guest as anyone else. Why should he be known or treated any differently? (I am sure that he would get a hair cut, take a shower, and even get a nice outfit to wear to the celebration).

But I am still hesitant, for whatever reason. Not as much about Allen specifically, he’s there every Sunday and has been since I invited him for the first time last July, but what about the others? What about the woman who shows up high on crack? Or the men who sit and drink on the church premises? What about those who come for Sunday hot breakfast and maybe even Sunday school, but don’t darken the door of the sanctuary? What about them? Are they not members of our body? Appendages in the eyes of many, but part of the body nonetheless…

In many ways, I know many of these people better than other church members. I see them throughout the week, hear their stories, their laments, tend to their needs in ways I don’t for others (either because I am not asked, or their needs are not as apparent).

In a related conversation, my dad suggested we think about wedding plans as if we were inviting Christ. He thought we should even consider setting a place for Christ at a table. I like the idea. We might even do it. And then I pause and think, “Isn’t giving a seat to Allen the same as offering that seat to Christ?”

Asking the question challenges my notions of inclusivity and hospitality. How open am I really if I still make distinctions between people based on economics or social status? Am I really being Christ-like? Should I show more grace? More inclusivity? Less judgment? Less fear of what others will say?

I realize I am in no way simplifying my wedding craziness. Maybe you can help? Maybe you have wisdom or courage or grace to offer…


Tennessee Methodist Man said...


I think that offering a place at these table would be a profound statement and a preaching moment for all who are gathered. It would take courage, faith, and a lot of love, but what you do to the least of these you also do to Christ. So I guess your Dad is right. I will be praying for you in this decision.

In grace


johnsue said...

I agree with Rob totally and would encourage you to extend the list to youth and others you've worked with b/c a wedding can be a very powerful witness. (I felt ours was.) I had invited some of the "help" staff from my college dorm to our wedding and none of them responded or came. I think that compassion needs to include understanding the cost of a "wedding gift", haircut, clothes, time, increased possible anxiety (and habits to deal with b/c of that anxiety)due to being invited and wanting/not wanting to participate and/or be judged b/c of the participation. Realistically, is the price tag of one guest better spent by investing more time and money one on one with the marginalized individual ie: shopping, eating, getting a pedicure together? (I invited my college parking attendant, "garbage man", the guy from the local drive thru market and the dorm maid to my wedding, but reflecting I never offered to take him/her to lunch or a movie together. For today's "homeless" perhaps it is better to spend $25.oo+ on groceries than a wedding dinner. When seating and spaces at the wedding are limited and there is already stress over whether or not to include a former colleague, a college friend, a hometown parishoner or a distant relative, then trying to add folks who have been a part of your life for only a short time seems to add unnecessary stress for all involved. Is this the "easy" route... to eliminate invitations for the "questionable"? What about the person who feels left out and thinks he/she "should" have been included for whatever reason and then finds out that the "local homeless guy" was invited? Is A's involvement in your life more important than say, Mr. B. who was your first grade teacher, is your parents' neighbor and was invited to your sister's wedding?
Or what about your parents' close friend, who really has barely met you, but is deeply involved in your parents'lives? Remember those included in the scriptural wedding banquet were included b/c the others did not come. I know it is a great deal to consider and that you are compassionate, inclusive, and an incredible woman...I pray for your discernment and wish there was an "easy button" for the solution. I already have more thoughts and know that we will have many conversations (which I look forward to)...I miss you already and only left your house yesterday. Here's to the journey! Love, hugs,and blessings, Mom