A Spring Wedding

July 3, 2011
to Des Moines UMC
Scripture:  Genesis 24:34–38, 42–49, 58–67

Dr. Phil has had many episodes on the topic of Bridezillas. There is even a show called Bridezillas on t.v. I would venture to say that a lot of money has been made off of this term 'Bridezilla.' But what exactly is a bridezilla? Here's a story from a bride who calls herself 'Lady C.'

My family says I was a bridezilla til the time I got on the stage and said my vows.

I couldn't help it though. Things needed to be just right for the once in a lifetime event I'll have. And it was almost perfect 🙂

The wedding was supposed to start at 4:00, but my Mom left the flowers at the reception hall, so someone had to drive there and bring them back, and the wedding didn't start until after 4:30. I wouldn't walk down the aisle with fake flowers and I wouldn't let my bridal party do it either.

I had to have specific food at the reception. The caterer said she doesn't make that, and I said, "Well you do now." And guess what...she did, and it was good!

I had to have something different than a cheasy limo, so I had my Mom rent out Classic Cars for each couple in the Bridal Party to be escorted in. And that turned out really nice! (Source:  Answers.Yahoo.com)

Of course, that is from the bride's point of view. I am guessing that her mom, when sent to rent out those classic cars, had another thought in her head! Some women have worked to reclaim the term bridezilla and make it a positive. Here's the re-definition:

Today’s Bridezilla is continually redefining herself as a confident woman who knows what she wants and goes after it. If something goes wrong she doesn’t break into a million pieces and revert to toddler-hood, she simply finds the next best route to getting back on track. Bridezillas of today are strong, intelligent women who are not only well-versed in the arts of fashion, beauty and pop culture, but they also have a clear image of who they are and how their wedding will reflect themselves and their brand new husband.  (Source:  Bridezilla.com)

A Bridezilla seems to be a woman who knows what she wants and is not afraid to go and get it. A creative, courageous, unconventional woman. I think that there must be something of the Bridezilla in Rebekah.

The story of Rebekah and Isaac is an alteration of a story type called the betrothal type scene. Back in the day, the betrothal type scene usually went something like this:

A man goes to a well in a foreign land,
He finds a woman at a well,
He offers to "water her flock,"
They return to her family to tell the good news,
And they have a wedding feast.

This type of story was told both in Biblical literature and in ancient literature of the time.

Today, what I would perhaps compare it to is a movie. All we have to see is the sun glistening off of a gun with a hand poised to draw and a background of sandy desert ground. We know what is. A spaghetti western! You don't have to see the entire movie to know what will happen. There is a good guy-the sheriff, a bad guy-in a black hat, a maiden in distress, and the eventual triumph of good over evil. The betrothal at the well is Ancient Israel's equivalent to a spaghetti western. And like good westerns, the fun comes when things don't go quite as expected.

Let me give you an example how one little change can foreshadow an entire story line. In another meeting at the well between Jacob and Rachel, the well is blocked. This perfectly foreshadows Rachel's fertility problems.

I suppose I would summarize this by saying that whenever you read about a maiden and water-drawing, your eyebrows should twitch! It is a compact way of communicating a lot of information.

…And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.”

That almost sounds like the words out a wedding doesn't it? Will you take this man? … I will.

The servant leaves Isaac for a foreign land. He waits carefully by the well for the local girls to come out and draw water. The first girl to arrive is Rebekah. She draws water for the stranger. He gives her jewelry. They go to her home, tell the good news, and have a feast.

So, what are the significant departures from the type scene? Isaac is not present. He sends a surrogate. Actually, he doesn't even do the sending. Abraham does. And Rebekah draws the water and waters the servant's camels. The woman is not supposed to be doing the water drawing! In this well-played betrothal scene, we can see almost a reversal of roles between Rebekah and Isaac. Rebekah draws water and then travels back to Isaac's home. Isaac then finds out what his father and the servant have plotted. He receives Rebekah and loves her.

We learn from this betrothal scene that Isaac is passive and Rebekah is a woman of action. And it foreshadows what happens later as Rebekah takes charge of the inheritance that was to be passed to Esau and ensures that Jacob gets the family inheritance.

What are we supposed to learn from this variation of the wedding at the spring—or this Spring Wedding?

Perhaps, that in order to accomplish something grand, like founding a nation, it takes a little creative, assertive, unconventional behavior. Rebekah certainly exhibited all three of these traits in her life with Isaac. And it is through Rebekah's actions that God's promise to Israel is fulfilled. Rebekah is a foundational character in the continuing covenant between God and Israel.

What if we use this template of unconventional creativity as a model of how to create not just a great nation, but a great church? What is it going to take to create a great church? Courage, creativity, and unconventional behavior.

I was talking to Rosalie about things that this church is doing that she was excited about. That required courage. She listed three things. One, that Des Moines was reaching out to the marginalized in this community. When I looked on the website, I could easily locate the programs for this community that include a food bank, preschool, AA, and other programs. And, I can tell you, I have spent a few nights in this church with Chrysalis and I know that it takes courage to invite people into your church that you do not have a relationship with. That is courage. Also, Rosalie mentioned that you are a reconciling congregation. I believe that this is incredibly important and one way that the community of Christ will survive. This takes courage. Rosalie mentioned one last thing and that was the public concerts as a way to do fundraising. Doing something new and in a different way always takes courage.

I believe that our churches are moving towards more courageous ways of being in the world, but I'm not sure we have quite tackled unconventional yet. Remember, Rebekah took some outrageous steps to found a nation. I think maybe one of the next things we have got to figure out is this social networking thing. That is email, websites, blogs, facebook, and twitter. How many of y'all do email? Facebook? Twitter?

Recently, I worked a Torch which is kind of like Chrysalis except it is for teenagers who are affected by incarceration. My son also worked the weekend. By the time we got home, all those kids were hooked up on Facebook. This is vastly different from the days when we would go to camp and trade addresses and hope that our friends would write to us.

In Florida at Gulf Breeze UMC they created their own version of Facebook just so they could communicate with each other. Here's what Rev. Kale reports…

As soon as he drops off the kids at school, his focus shifts from the family to-do list to the Sunday sermon. He thinks about his message all week long, and he wants his congregation to do the same. With technology, this is now easily done.

Rev. Kale sits down at his kitchen table, opens his laptop, and signs on to the Gulf Breeze Network, the private social network of his church. He talks into his webcam and asks. “Have you ever just wanted to start over? Have you ever wanted to restart part of your life?”

The message is less than two minutes. Kale uploads his message, closes his laptop, and goes back to his to-do list. On a Friday morning, in less than five minutes and from the comfort of his home, he’s engaged his congregation.

He goes on…

“I used to have one hour a week on Sundays with my congregation,” he said. “Now I engage the congregation 24 hours a day seven days a week. That’s amazing.”

There are 600 church members within that network and there has been 76,000 page views over the last three months. That is enormous. Kale knows how to be unconventional. (Source:  UM Communications)

And there is Rev. Carter of Providence UMC in Charlotte who is tweeting two Psalms a day throughout the summer. It seems they have the same problem we do. In the summer time, everybody leaves! Their goal is simply to stay in touch and to keep a connection with people even though they may not be right there.  (Source:  Interpreter Magazine, "What Would Jesus Tweet")

But we, most of us in the church, are still struggling with what these technologies and communication tools can do to help build and not disintegrate our communities. I have a friend, Sarah, who is an MBA student at Seattle University. She is taking a class this summer called "Social Media Marketing." I have to wonder why there isn't a Social Media Theology class! Anyway, I think we have to borrow from the business field and see what they are learning about social media that we can steal! Perhaps that is a little creative and unconventional.

Her class has just read a book called Socialnomics by Erik Qualman.   (Source:  SUMarketing 591 Blog)  Here's a quote: "Blogs are free like puppies, not free like beer." He means that it is a way of life, something you have to take care of. He says, "social media is a way of life, this life, right now." If that is true, we need to find a way to use it to reach out and help people become disciples of Christ. In Socialnomics, it points out three significant things that social media does. I wonder if any of this will sound familiar….

One. Take an inventory of our lives. Social media gives a real-life inventory of what is being said on an ongoing basis. Begging the ever present question, "What am I doing with my life?" Now Qualman is talking about businesses and how businesses are running and being perceived. But "What am I doing with my life?" is possibly one of the quintessential questions of concern to the body of Christ! What am I doing with my life? How am I being more loving? How am I connecting with the imprisoned? the thirsty? the hungry? Using social media, you get daily input. You just have to know what to measure.

Two. Social media helps leverage existing human capital, products, or solutions. That is a really cold, business-y way of saying that social media helps us use structures that already exist to communicate our message. It is a very low-cost, user friendly method of reaching people. And that can be people within the church or outside the church. I'll use myself as an example. On my Facebook page, I can create groups. I have created groups for the next Kairos Torch. One for the music team, one for the leadership team, etc. These teams can talk back and forth, post links to songs, etc. That's an example of within the church usage. Outside the church, I have a blog. My blog consists mostly of poetry of a spiritual nature. However, the readers of my blog are really not Christian. On a good day, however, I'll reach over 300 people world-wide with a poem that contains a message inspired by the love of God. That is all free!

And the last lesson from Qualman. Enhancing the user's experience is paramount to success. OK. We have been far ahead of Qualman on this one. Enhancing worship experience is a primary goal of most churches. But the question is, how do we take that same ethic of great worship and make it happen on our websites? Our Facebook page? Our blogs and tweets? In a crazy world of information, if we are out there in the social media sphere, we better make sure it is an experience that carries grace. That is where creativity and unconventional behavior will need to be developed. Perhaps we need more Rebekahs in our churches! Or just a bridezilla or two!

Social media is just one example of an unconventional church. I have heard of Recovery church, church in coffee shops, and other places. Unconventional church is being done. It just seems to be quiet. Or maybe, as soon as the unconventional idea takes off, it just isn't unconventional any more! Hey, there was a time when having your altar at the front of the church was considered unconventional! But we can do it. You can do it. You have made some courageous and creative choices already.

When I was talking with Rosalie, one of the traits she used to describe Des Moines was tenacity. That no matter what happens, there is a sense of the possibilities and the desire to keep moving forward in the spirit of Christ.

Courageous, Creative, and Unconventional.

Hey, I don't hang out here very often (at Des Moines UMC) so I really don't know the answers.  However, I can ask this question. I wonder, where you see yourself in the story?

Shalom and Amen.

One comment

  1. Becca Givens said on July 4, 2011
    I enjoyed reading this ... thank you for taking the time to write and share it! Happy 4th and Happy week!

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