Tag Archives: Ceremony

Blood and Covenant

Blood and Covenant (CaD Gen 9) Wayfarer

“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you…”
Genesis 9:8-9 (NIV)

As my maternal grandparents entered the home stretch of their earthly journeys, they faced difficult financial circumstances that led to a difficult decision. My grandfather’s medical needs were draining their savings which was threatening the financial security of my grandmother, who would most certainly survive my grandfather, possibly for years to come. A social worker suggested that one solution would be for my grandparents to legally divorce so that their finances would be legally split, allowing my grandmother to retain their savings under her name while my grandfather’s needs would be provided for by the State.

I was quite a young man at the time, and I have a vivid memory of my grandmother asking me what she should do. I remember it because it was the first time that I’d considered both the legality, spirituality, and the tradition of marriage. That led me to realize, perhaps for the first time, that while the institutions of both church and state are involved in the process of a couple getting married, there is absolutely no detailed prescription for marriage in the Bible other than addressing it as a basic, assumed relational construct of human familial relationship and cultural systems. So far in our chapter-a-day journey of Genesis the husband and wife relationship has been assumed but no where has there been discussion of ceremony, process, or particulars other than a man and woman leaving their respective homes and becoming “one flesh.”

So, the relational agreement between husband and wife is assumed and its process is not specifically prescribed in the Great Story. What the Great Story does address is the agreement(s) between God and humanity. In the ancient times they were called “covenants.” Once again, since we’re in the beginning of the Great Story, we are going to keep running into firsts, and in today’s chapter we come across the first “covenant” between God and humanity since expulsion from the Garden. God initiates and makes the covenant never to destroy all earthly life by natural catastrophe.

Just before this covenant, God establishes the sacredness of human life, and it is metaphorically established in blood, or “lifeblood.” The ancients recognized that when blood poured out of a person, they died. They made connection between blood and life.

So in today’s chapter God establishes the sacredness of “life,” “blood,” and “covenant.” And just as I mentioned that the flood was an earthly foreshadowing of what would be the spiritual sacrament of baptism, today’s events are an earthly foreshadowing of the spiritual metaphor in the sacrament of Communion:

Then [Jesus] took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:27-29 (NIV)

In the quiet this morning, I am once again awed by the connected themes of the Great Story from the very beginning. God is proactive, from the very beginning, in initiating a committed (a.k.a. covenant) relationship with humanity that will bring life in contrast to the death which came through disobedience and the breaking of relationship. And, God is still doing it as I remember each time I choose to step up and partake of the bread and cup as Jesus prescribed for his followers.

As for my grandparents, they chose not to take the social worker’s suggestion. My family helped to find other alternatives for them. That said, I told my grandmother that I did not believe a legal divorce on paper from the State of Iowa could ever nullify the spiritual bond of covenant and spiritual oneness or the chord of three strands woven between them and God. I believe that still. Matters of Spirit are deeper and more eternal than the reach of any human legal system on earth.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Top Five Things I Hate About Weddings

Wendy and I are attending three weddings this month. I hate to be a curmudgeon, but I must confess that I really don’t like most weddings I attend. (If I attended your wedding, please don’t take this personally. I’m sure I truly enjoyed myself at your wedding!) I have officiated a lot of weddings and, like most of us, have attended a ton. Typically, I don’t look forward to the experience.

Here are the top five things I typically lament about weddings:

  1. The real meaning of the occasion is typically minimized. Most of the weddings I attend are all about window dressing and very little about the heart of the occasion. I have officiated and attended way too many ceremonies with hungover couples and wedding parties for whom the real significance of the moment is completely lost.
  2. The ceremony is usually too long. I tell people that the perfect wedding was about 23 minutes long. That’s long enough to simply and clearly communicate the meaning of the occasion and make your vows, but it doesn’t belabor the moment for your guests. I’ve been to way too many weddings that drone on for over an hour.
  3. No one knows what’s going on. While there is usually a plan with regard to getting from wedding to reception and how things are going to transpire, guests are often left in the dark as to what that plan actually is. Because the couple, their family, and the wedding party are all busy after the ceremony congratulating each other, wedding guests are often left wondering what they are supposed to do and where they are supposed to go. This creates anxiety, impatience, and frustration among the throng, which is not conducive to kicking off a good reception.
  4. The guests are kept waiting (at worst, without provision). The worst weddings are those in which the bride and groom take photos after the ceremony and before the reception, and have no plan for taking care of their guests. The worst we ever experienced was a reception held at a venue about 20 minutes from the church. After making the commute to the reception venue, we were left waiting in the reception hall almost two hours with no food or drink served while the wedding party took pictures and went for a limousine joy ride. Then, when the wedding party did arrive, we were made to endure long speeches and powerpoint slideshows of the bride and groom before being allowed to eat. And, the food wasn’t worth waiting for.
  5. The dance is lame. Great weddings are generally made great by having a great dance at the reception complete with a mix of music (from all eras) that allows for romantic slow dancing, communal line dancing, and shake-your-booty improvisational dancing. Too many weddings do not give enough thought to the DJ, the mix of music, and providing a fun space and atmosphere that will make people want to get on the floor and trip the light fandango.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Sello de lacre en sobre, escudo Heraldico de l...
Sello de lacre en sobre, escudo Heraldico de la Familia Fonseca Padilla, Jalisco; México. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm.
Song of Solomon 8:6a (NLT)

I have in my desk a stick of sealing wax and seal press with the initial “V” on it. I purchased it many years ago and still pull it out from time to time when I am writing a special letter of some kind. It’s a funky little detail that makes a letter or card stand out. You light the wax stick and let the wax drip onto the back of the envelope where the letter is sealed. Once you have a little blob of melted wax built up on the envelope you use the press to squish the wax. When it dries, the initial is embossed in the wax and it creates a special second seal on the letter which the reader must break to open the letter.

Our culture has long forgotten the importance that seals played in ancient times. Kings, officials, and noblemen had their own unique seal which they used to seal letters and documents. It became a public sign of ownership for the person to whom that document belonged. When you saw the seal, you knew who you were messing with. Seals are sometimes known as “sigils” which etymologists trace back to the Hebrew word segula which referred to an item of spiritual effect. In ancient folklore, it was believed that a person poured a part of themselves into the design of their unique seal. An individual’s seal wasn’t just a symbol of a particular person, it was spiritually a part of them.

In light of this understanding of the ancient meaning of seals and sigils, I loved the above verse from the lyrics of Solomon’s song. Sung by the young woman in the duet, she asks Solomon to metaphorically place her as a seal over her heart and upon his arm. There are two layers of meaning here. The heart is the most private chamber of our thoughts, feelings, desires, dreams and intentions. By being placed as a seal over his heart, the young would lay claim to Solomon’s most intimate being. She alone would have access to Solomon’s heart. In Solomon’s day, the arm was often the only part of the man who was publicly seen by others other than his face. The arm is also a symbol of a man’s strength. By being placed as a seal on his arm, the young woman was laying public claim to Solomon and his strength.

God’s Message has scant descriptors of marriage. It does not prescribe a particular method or ceremony for marriage, but seems to allow room for cultures and history to develop a veritable plethora of customs around the marriage ceremony. What God’s Message does simply say is that a man and woman leave their respective parents, unite themselves, and become “one flesh.” When we knit ourselves together in spirit, soul mind and body we place our spouse as a seal over us.

Choose well the person whose seal you place over your heart and life.