An Awkward Wedding Question
The Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was watched by millions of people around the world. The pomp and ceremony were amazing. Did you notice how carefully the Bride and Groom planned the most intricate details?
It all happened so fast, but later, Royal watchers reported that there was the empty chair for Princess Diana in the sanctuary, and the page boys wore mini versions of Prince Harry’s uniform. And then there was the bouquet that the bride carried. Prince Harry hand-picked his bride's bouquet himself, containing white roses and forget-me-nots from the private garden at Kensington Palace. After the ceremony, the bouquet was laid at Westminster Abbey's famed grave of the unknown warrior.
And then there was the exquisite Bride’s veil. It contained stunning floral details, with each embroidered flower representing one of the 53 countries in the Commonwealth. It was widely reported that those who sewed the veil, washed their hands every 30 minutes to avoid soiling the garment in any way.
As a minister who has officiated many wedding ceremonies, I was especially interested in the words of the pastor as he administered the sacred vows. Did you listen to the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend and Right Honorable Justin Welby, as he stood before the 600 guests at St. George's Chapel, Windsor?
He addressed the entire congregation and said, “First, I am required to ask anyone present who knows a reason why these persons may not lawfully marry, to declare it now.” Then, the Archbishop says to the couple: “The vows you are about to take are to be made in the presence of God, who is judge of all and knows all the secrets of our hearts; therefore, if either of you knows a reason why you may not lawfully marry, you must declare it now.”
Most American weddings no longer ask these questions. It seems to open the door to someone who would want to cause controversary. But, these are good questions to ask before proceeding to the sacred vows at the altar.
These questions by the Archbishop are rooted in Scripture. In Matthew 5, Jesus was teaching on the righteous moral code for the Kingdom of God. Among other topics, Christ addressed murder, adultery, marriage, and swearing. Then, there is this stunning expectation in verse 23 (KJV), “Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath OUGHT against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”
That would certainly interrupt a wedding, right? What if the groom said, “Oops, I have little unfinished business with an old friend that needs to be rectified before I can say “I do.” Can you imagine Prince Harry leaving Mehgan and the Queen to make a quick phone call? It probably would not happen, but there is lesson here for all of us.
Jesus envisioned a worshipper who had come to the Temple to offer gifts. That would be a sacred time for self-scrutiny and personal reflection. The question is not do we have ought against others, but does anyone have ought against us. What is ought? Ought represents anything that provides grounds for complaint by another against us.
Jesus taught that it is spiritually healthy to occasionally meet with someone with whom you may have had a disagreement, and ask if all is clear between you and them. Most often, all is well. But should there be unresolved ought, act on reconciliation. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:32 (ESV), “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”