Posted in wedding

Private ceremony, public place

Not all weddings take place in a church. Today I performed one for Joshua and Jenna at Washington Oaks State Park in Palm Coast, FL. If you’re going to get married on January 3, you might as well do it under a canopy of live oak trees in front of a beautiful rose garden on a slightly-overcast, 80 degree afternoon. The attendance of our small gathering was augmented with other park guests enjoying the walking trails that intersected right where the couple took their vows. It was an intimate moment in full view of anyone who paid park admission.

And both enjoyed the experience. I love seeing the look on the faces of innocent bystanders when they suddenly realize they are part of a wedding. I also love that moment when a couple realizes there are lots of uninvited guests sharing the moment and cheering them on when its time for the kiss.

This isn’t the first time I had a bigger than planned audience. I’ve done ceremonies in a gazebo in back of an elementary school where kids were playing on the playground. I’ve done weddings on the beach, surrounded by sunbathers. I done one at a marina, where we were joined by many boats and boaters. And my favorite was performed in front of dolphins watching from their pool. Usually you don’t realize you have such an audience until the kiss. Then the hoots and hollers say it all.

A number of years ago, I had taken a group of middle school youth to this very park to walk the trails. We wandered right into the middle of a wedding. Some of the kids yelled, “Run!” when the they saw who they assumed was the groom. It was a great moment.

In those moments when I feel ornery, I hope that unexpected guests will crash the wedding, bomb the photos, and shout loud and long during the kiss. It’s fun to pretend you’re all by yourself. It’s even more fun to know that everyone is watching.

Posted in Life, sermon, wedding

Tale as old as time

26168685_384909625292954_3414628934557062156_nWedding message for Kim and Daniel, January 12, 2018. Kim is a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast, hence the references to “tale as old as time.” 

Kim and Daniel, in some ways, it’s hard to believe we are actually here today, to witness you taking your vows and becoming husband and wife. I looked at my calendar and we met for our first premarital counseling session in February of last year. And I know that we had this day booked for your wedding several months before that.

But I guess it’s a good thing you had a lot of time to get ready. Kim, you told me last week that your to do list was still pretty long, even after a whole year to get things done! I’ll bet you were still checking things off your list this morning!

But today, I want to talk about someone who’s been getting for this day even longer than you have. The ultimate “tale as old as time” is the one we find in Genesis chapter 2: “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The idea of marriage is a part of God’s creation of this world. It was his plan from the very beginning. And today, you get to be a part of his plan, too.

I want to talk about that plan for a few moments today. First of all, God said, “It’s not good to be alone.” He created us to be in relationships. From birth we have a relationship with our parents. As families grow, brothers and sisters have relationships. And then the day comes when you leave your families to create a new family. And as your family grows, you will have a relationship with your children and grandchildren and even beyond. Never forget God’s gift of relationships in your life.

Second, you become one flesh. In marriage, God brings two together to become one. Everything you do affects the other. You share joys and sorrows, meals and a home, friends and family, and intimate moments together. Your language will change. Instead of “me” and “you,” you’ll say “we” and “us.” That’s exactly what God had in mind.

The third one is something we heard in the second reading today, from a letter written by a man named Paul. As he talked about husbands and wives, he called that relationship a model of just how much Christ loves his church. That love is even older than the creation of the world. Paul began that letter by writing that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that is, before creation itself (Eph. 1:4).

So you and I were on God’s to-do list from eternity. He always had us in mind. He knew that we would need someone like Jesus, and he was willing to give us his son. He was even willing to let his son die for us. That’s how much he loved you and me, the ultimate “tale as old as time.”

The animated Disney movie came out in 1991. Ha ha!  – tale as old as you! The original French story was published in 1740, a tale older than our nation. But the real “tale as old as time” is that of God’s love for us, his plans for us, and the future he has prepared for us. It’s so great to know that you’ve always been and always will be on God’s to-do list!

Posted in Confirmation Class, Ministry

Maybe we need more discussions.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

I knew it would be quiet. It usually is. Sixth commandment night at confirmation class: “You shall not commit adultery.”

The catechism’s explanation isn’t too risqué: “sexually pure and decent life in what you say and do” and “husband and wife love and honor each other.” But when you get down to the nitty-gritty, there’s plenty of giggles, shock and silence.

Where do we start? Right at the beginning. Male and female, be fruitful and multiply, hold fast, one flesh. God’s gift of sex is a good thing in the context of marriage.

However teacher and students live in a world where countless variations on that theme exist outside the marriage relationship. From pre-marital sex to same sex relationships to rape and incest, the discussion gets very real very quickly. As soon as we jumped in the deep end, one student remarked, “Pastor, you don’t have to talk this. My mom already tried. I told her we had teachers to explain it to us.”

I thought that was pretty interesting. From his point of view, this was a topic to be covered at school, not at home and certainly not at church! Though only a few wanted to admit it, I am sure they had all been exposed to the sexual variations I mentioned. Maybe more. They just didn’t want to talk about it.

Which is probably why we’ve got a lot of the problems we do. Teen pregnancies, chronic STDs, more charges of harassment every day. Maybe a few discussions with our middle schoolers can make a dent. Maybe a few discussions at home, too.


Posted in Grace, Ministry, wedding

The venue wedding

The Treasury on the Plaza, St. Augustine, FL

This post is a sequel to “Will you do my daughter’s wedding?” from August 26, 2017. I promised an update, so here goes…

After a few more email exchanges, I finally figured out what the bride had in mind. It wasn’t that she didn’t want the biblical side of things. She just didn’t want it to be so formal, which is fine at a venue wedding. She suggested a few scripture readings, which I had requested, and we were good to go. I performed the ceremony just a few hours ago, everything went well, and here are a few of my reflections.

It was worth it just to see how happy the couple was. I only met them briefly at last night’s rehearsal, but today, they were both smiling ear-to-ear. They were so excited to have reached this day.

The mother of the bride asked me to use a bible which her grandmother had given her mother at her wedding. They would pass it along to a fourth generation. I thought that was cool. I met the grandmother who had first received that bible today. Her nickname was Crunch. She was the fourth on her bowling team, so when it was her turn in the tenth frame of a close game, it was “crunch time,” and she usually came through.

The father of the bride was a bit uncomfortable about giving up his only daughter to this young man. I can relate. How do you let go of your little girl? It’s not easy. Who could ever live up to your expectations for your daughter’s husband? We hit it off well and had a great conversation.

The wedding planner, Brittney, was just one of so many coordinating the wedding. She had an assistant helping her. The venue had two or three coordinators. There was a sound person, a light person, a photographer with assistant, a videographer, and a few other miscellaneous people dressed in black with gold name badges who had jobs to do. That didn’t include the bartenders, wait staff, photo booth staff and footmen who would reset the room after the ceremony for the reception. It takes a lot of people to make a day like this happen!

I don’t have any pictures from the wedding yet. The new tradition is request that everyone put their phones away to focus on the ceremony. I’ll dig some up online though and add them later. This was one fancy place ($$$$).

And you know what? For the first time in about thirty years, I can honestly say that I am enjoying doing weddings. (What? I thought that was your least favorite thing to do!) I guess I’m getting old and sentimental. It gives me great joy and hope when two become one. I’ll write more about this another day…


Posted in Ministry, Stuff

“Will you do my daughter’s wedding?”

Paster-Orr-CeremonyI will probably get in big trouble for this post. But you know what? It just might be worth it. I’m pretty sure that the parties involved will not see this post. So here goes…

A few weeks ago I got one of those anonymous emails asking, “Would you do our daughter’s wedding in Saint Augustine? We are Lutheran, but we live out of the area.”

Sometimes I simply ignore these requests. But for some reason I was intrigued and replied, “What church do you belong to?”

I heard back from the mother quickly,  “We aren’t actually members right now, but we have attended (she went on to name some South Florida churches)”. Hmm. Interesting. Should I keep the discussion going? What the heck. Let’s see where this goes.

OK. I am available. When and where is the wedding? They replied with a date and a time. OK, I can do it. Let’s set up a phone conversation.

The phone conversation went surprisingly well. Nice folks. We’re three weeks out from the wedding, so we better get to work. I sent a copy of a typical wedding ceremony, asking for their input as to what scripture they would like me to read. I also gave them some suggestions.

About a week later, I hear from the bride-to-be. “I looked at the service. Can you make it less biblical?” Hmm. I replied, “I’m not sure what you mean. I am a Lutheran pastor. Just about everything I do is bible-based and Christ-centered.” She replies, “Some bible is OK. But you didn’t say much about things like the relationship and love and life.”

Here is what I emailed in reply:

I’ve give some thought to your request, but I’m struggling to come up with anything.

I could talk about how love is patient, kind, and enduring. I could say something about how you were created for a relationship like you and your fiancé have. I could explain how we actually find what life is all about when we give it away to someone else. Unfortunately, all those truths are biblical (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Genesis 2:18-24; Luke 9:24).

I’m a pastor. I’ve been charged with preaching the word (the bible) — that’s from 2 Timothy 4:2. Rather than myself, I talk about Jesus (2 Cor. 4:5). I have no doubt that the only way my own marriage has lasted over 33 years is because of God’s gifts of mercy, grace and forgiveness (Eph. 2:8-9). All the things that make my relationship with my wife possible — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — are all the gifts of God’s Spirit for us. This too is biblical (Galatians 5:25-26).

So you see, that’s all I’ve got. I will not offended if you and your fiancé decide to find someone else to officiate at your wedding. However, I will do my best if you would still like me to perform the ceremony. Either way, I pray that you and your future husband will experience the joy and blessing of being husband and wife for many, many years.

So what do you think? Did I reply appropriately? I really believe that mom wanted a pastor to officiate the wedding, but the kids weren’t really into the church thing. It’s been a few days and I haven’t heard back. I’ll let you know what happens…

Posted in Rant

Your church wedding

I had two weddings this past weekend — one on Saturday, one on Sunday. For most pastors, weddings are not in the top ten list of things we like to do. Why?Well, let me count the ways.

My thoughts here are about those things a couple should expect when they come to the pastor and say, “We’d like to get married at the church.” (The following items are based on 24 years of experience in the parish, somewhere between 150 and 200 weddings, and a Lutheran bias when it come to worship and ministry.)

  • A wedding in the church is a worship service, including an invocation, scripture readings, a sermon, prayers and a benediction. We worship the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While you may have always envisioned your wedding beginning with “Here comes the bride” (the Bridal Chorus) and ending with “There goes the bride” (i.e. the Wedding March), you can do so much better than that! There are so many powerful hymns you can choose from that truly honor the God before whom you will take your vows. Give them a chance.
  • We preach the word. We proclaim Christ crucified. When you pick your scriptures for the wedding, why not look beyond 1 Corinthians 13:4-7? Those overused verses about “love” weren’t written about marriage at all. The apostle Paul wrote them to a church divided about who had better teachers and abilities. Why not consider some passages important to you? Like a confirmation verse, or one that helped you grow in your faith. Let the pastor suggest some passages that speak to you and your relationship. You’ll get a much better message that way.
  • Just because it’s “your day” doesn’t mean you get to do anything you want. Remember, when  you step into the church, it’s really not about you, but about God. If you have some really unique (read “bizarre”) things you’d like to do for your wedding, don’t plan a church wedding. Have your ceremony on the beach, in your home, in a backyard or a museum.
  • I probably won’t attend your rehearsal dinner or reception. Why? Unless you are an active member of our congregation, I probably won’t know many people there and it’s not that much fun sitting off in the corner by yourself. Need a prayer before the meal. I’ll gladly write one for someone else to say.
  • Try to  show up on time for both the rehearsal and ceremony. Besides myself, many people have set aside some time to witness your vows and celebrate with you. Unexpected things always come up, but if you arrive a little early, it relieves some of the stress of that day.

In the early days of my ministry, I was honored when someone asked me to do their wedding. I soon grew to dread it when I learned I was basically just being hired to preform a service, along with the photographer and florist. In the past few years, however, I have begun to enjoy it again as I have worked with a number of young couples who had a marvelous faith and relationship with the Lord. I am grateful to them for helping me rediscover some of the joy of performing a wedding ceremony.

Posted in Ministry


Not the Miami football team.  The full time residents of Marineland.  I did a wedding there this past Saturday.  WIth a stunning view of 5-6 foot waves in the background, I stood at the edge of the main dophin tank as Jake and Kali took their vows with about 60 people and 14 dolphins as witnesses.  After the service, trainers were on hand to have pairs of dolphins leap out of the water as a backdrop for pictures of the newly married couple.  Impressive.

I’m glad it had rained the night before.  With the Washington Oaks rose garden too soggy for the wedding, they moved it to Marineland.  Excellent call.

Before the ceremony began, I got to talk with some of the trainers there.  Most had worked there two years or less, but loved the job and living in Florida.  Long hours though:  6 am to 8 pm.  After only a few months, they knew all the dophins by name.  The staff was just as good with me and the other people gathered there as they were with the dolphins.

The bride and her bridesmaids were all varsity volleyball players from Coastal Carolina University.  Yes, they were tall, at least taller than all the groomsmen.  (But not taller than the groom.)

I rate this wedding very close to the Bahamas experience three years ago.