God is Flexible, Bridezilla Not So Much

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wild winds were blowing last Friday night. I was driving over the mountain from a wedding reception at a vineyard south of Charlottesville. At the Afton exit, cars were stopping to the side. The wind was blowing really hard. I turned my radio off, and I could feel my car getting pushed in the direction of the wind. So I got off at that exit. But after a short distance, there was tree blocking the road. All the other cars ahead of me were turning around. I turned around as well, returned to the interstate, and drove down the mountain. I drove slow in the strong blowing wind. At the next exit, everything looked fine, except that the cars past the exit were slowing down. I was unable to see that far. I drove into a neighborhood. But after a few turns, there was another tree on the street blocking oncoming traffic. Then sirens. A fire-truck and a police cruiser drove past me, lights flashing, horns blaring. I was calm, but anticipating unknown dangers. As I rounded another corner I noticed everyone’s lights were out, no streetlights, no traffic lights, just cars trying to get somewhere else. I was afraid of what I would find when I got home. But I won’t know until I get there. And I can’t simply not go home. I’m also trying to think ahead. Where are the flashlights? Where are the matches, the candles? How long before the power comes back on? But I have a homily to write. So I put some thoughts together and type furiously on the laptop (battery was charged) hoping this monkey will miraculously produce the complete works of William Shakespeare.

It soon occurred to me that the wedding Friday and the rehearsal the day before also required a few adjustments on my part. The rehearsal was scheduled for 4:30pm Thursday because the rehearsal dinner was taking place in downtown Charlottesville. Everyone was coming in from out of town. I arrived a half hour early and opened the church. The first person showed up ten minutes late. It was the groom. He was profusely apologetic, telling me everyone was on their way. I smiled. It was no big deal. Then he left and didn’t return for the next twenty minutes. I was keeping calm. It wasn’t like I had other plans. Then slowly a few other people arrived. They all had their excuses. Phone reception was spotty. The GPS sent them all over town. They hit all the stoplights. Nobody was willing to admit they got started late. Somebody even blamed the choice of venue. “No one expects to travel a half hour between the church and the hotel.” We finally begin the rehearsal, an hour behind schedule. Then someone has the nerve to ask if we could shorten the rehearsal because they didn’t want to be late for the dinner. I smiled a lot those two days. “We’ll be done in enough time to get to the restaurant.” And as we were wrapping up, I made a few announcements. “We begin the wedding promptly at 4pm tomorrow. All I need for the wedding to take place is the bride, the groom, two witnesses and myself. If you want to be part of this wedding, you will be here on time.” They asked me, “What time should we be here?” Jokingly I said, “To be safe, you should be here at noon.” They laughed. I shouldn’t have been kidding.

The wedding day arrived, I came to the church an hour early. The musicians were rehearsing. I saw some of the bridal party finishing their decorating. It seemed all was going well. Fifteen minutes before we are supposed to start, the maid of honor came to see me. “We’re going to start a little late. The flowers have not arrived.” “How late is a little late?” I asked. “Twenty, maybe thirty minutes.” “Oh no, we won’t.” I say. “We can have a wedding without flowers.” I put on my vestments. And I stood at the door in 97 degrees for ten minutes. At this point I was not so calm. I went back to where the bridal party was getting ready. “Let’s go.” “We’ll need another ten minutes,” they tell me. “If you don’t come out now, you might have to get someone else to do the wedding.” At fifteen minutes past the time we were supposed to start, I send the parents and grandparents down the aisle. Now I have never started a wedding that late before. A bride once asked for ten minutes more. I told her that if we weren’t going to start on time I was announcing to the people gathered in church that the wedding was being postponed to next week. She wasn’t happy. But we started on time. I have met bridezilla, and I lived to tell. And she is no match for priestzilla.

God likes to make plans, too. And when things get in the way of God’s plans, God adjusts his plans. Can you imagine the plans he had when he created the Garden of Eden, and set our first parents to live in that earthly paradise? And did things turn out as planned? Not exactly. But God adjusted. Human beings have a way of messing things up. Eventually God sent his son Jesus to intervene in human history to stop the downward spiral that began with our first parent’s disobedience. That was when death came into the world. The book of Wisdom tells us that God did not make death. God is the source of life, and all other blessings that come with the gift of life. How would God create something evil to destroy the good he had made? Rather, death is a consequence of sin, which is contrary to God. Sin and death are in fact the absence of God. And with death came a host of other evils, pain and suffering, the tediousness of human labor, selfishness, arrogance, and even more sin.

But Jesus showed us by his ministry of reconciliation and compassion that God does not desire our suffering or alienation. Rather, he reached out to the sick and those in distress, and extended healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. Such is our God who has great plans for us indeed, who is able to adjust to changing circumstances, especially those caused by our selfishness and sin.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminded his listeners about the goodness that God shows those he loves. It is our responsibility, we who are so richly blessed, to share from our abundance with those in need. Paul was referring to another community of Christians who were experiencing financial difficulty. God who is rich made himself poor, so that we might be rich. So we ought to follow his example, helping those in need when we have an abundance, knowing others will help us when we are in need. And we are a truly generous nation, helping those in dire need, even people with whom we are at odds, even people we are at war with.

God is always willing to adjust when we mess with his divine plan. And he desires always our healing, our reconciliation, and our peace. So we ought not be troubled when our plans are frustrated. Instead, we do the best we can, always reaching out to those in need, sharing generously from our abundance. “Do not be afraid. Just have faith,” he told the synagogue official. Truly, if we trust God who has always proven his love and care for us, we need never fear. And if we trust God, we should never ignore our neighbor in need. It is our way of showing our gratitude. God would do nothing less. Neither should we.