By Dr. Mike Graves, Scholar in Residence
Twice in the past month or so, Carla has preached on two different parables in the Gospel of Matthew that utilize wedding symbolism. Apparently it’s a good metaphor for conveying spiritual truths in other matters. I have no intention of ever writing a Gospel of my own, but I do have a marriage parable to share.
Several years ago now I was in one of the local branches of our bank, not in the line where I used to cash checks before mobile banking came along. No, I was in the actual office of one of the bank’s real-life officers. There was some sort of paper work we were finalizing, notarizing, the kind of thing even mobile banking apps can’t accomplish. My wife had been in earlier to sign and now I was doing the same. I don’t recall how it came up, but this woman knew I was a minister, and that’s when she brought up marriage. She said she and her boyfriend have been living together for years, have talked about getting married because he was ready, but they just haven’t pulled the triggered yet. I said I didn’t consider that the best metaphor since it sounded more violent than communal, and we both laughed.
Then she asked in all seriousness about what it means to be married, to make such a commitment. She was asking me as minister to weigh in on what I assume her family and friends had been debating for years. I said something to the effect that in my view whether living together is right or wrong isn’t the real issue. She was surprised. I said for me it’s standing up in front of witnesses and in the presence of God to declare one’s intentions, putting one’s name on the line. She knew all about those little yellow stickers that say “sign here,” so this resonated with her. There was a long silence, then our roles reversed. She said, “Ok, I’m ready to do this.” She chuckled, “I think I’m getting married.”
Since parables are riddles comparing one thing to another, here’s the punch line: I feel the same way about joining a church. There is something powerful about standing before God and witnesses and saying, “I will commit to being part of something bigger than myself. I will commit to worshiping with others, praying with others, serving the least in our community and around the world.” Turns out it’s true, there are some things that can’t be done at home with apps.