Many years ago I went to a friend's wedding, I knew that he and his fiancée where from different Christian backgrounds but I was not sure of the details. Anyway, he told me before the wedding that the families had argued about where to get married and in the end his family won.
So when I turned up to the wedding and saw the back rows of the church filled with smiling people, I turned to my friend, the groom, and commented about how happy the bride's family looked. "They are the choir", he replied.
Sure enough the people slightly further forward were standing stone-faced, glancing around with sour expressions and generally looking like they did not want to be in that church. When the groom's family turned up and together with his friends - we balanced out the bride's family numbers.
Just as I was sitting down in the pew, wondering how anyone could attempt to reach joyful communication with the Divine on furniture that was hurting my backside, in walks the vicar. The vicar, it turns out, is a woman. My smile from earlier returned and I looked over to see the mood of the bride's family has darkened further. Apparently the happy couple had chosen not to share this detail before the wedding.
When the vicar in her speech started talking about an orthodox Jewish wedding, how it is held under an open canopy (chuppah) to invite the wider community to participate and support the newly joined couple - well, I burst out laughing.
The rest of the wedding went well and in the end pretty much everyone had a good time.
The reason I mention the above incident is that I was reminded about it by a recent story from a Rabbi. The story he tells is of a vicar doing his rounds in the village.
When the vicar comes to visit Greg, he discovers that Greg is upset about his missing bike. He suspects that it has been stolen and he is feeling down. The vicar assures him that during his Sunday sermon, he'll be sure to say the right thing to reunite Greg with his bike.
Sure enough when Sunday comes around the vicar talks about the Ten Commandments in his sermon. When he gets to the part about "Thou shalt not steal", he gives it his all and puts the fear of God in to his community.
Later that week the vicar is doing his rounds again and comes across Greg and his bike. Pleased at the result the vicar says: "Well, it looks like my sermon really had an effect."
"Uh," Greg replies. "Kind of of. You see vicar, when you got to the bit about 'Thou shalt not commit adultry'... I remembered where I'd left my bike."
That's Not What I Meant
Anyway, all of that is a preamble to say two things:
- Sometimes the things we say have unintended consequences.
- There is a new forum in town: The Great Work Forum