Wineskins Archive

January 9, 2014

Sundays: Funeral Dirge or Wedding March? (Oct – 1992)

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by Cindy Blanton Zahodnik
October, 1992

6A few years ago I became captivated by a fresh insight to the meaning of worship assemblies. Prior to that time, I had compared going to church with going to a funeral. There, within a beautiful, padded, stained glass coffin made of brick, I felt like a dead body all decked out in its Sunday best. Without the lifeblood of Jesus and his love, I felt no power, no vision, andno ability to reproduce. In a real sense, I was “all dressed up with no place to go!” Going to church was a somber, joyless occasion. One could usually count on some supportive fellowship, though. As lifeless as it seemed, the assembly was well attended, but I think the saints came to pay their respects rather than to celebrate a feast.

We shouldn’t be surprised that more recently a ho-hum attitude has discouraged some people from even “making an appearance” on Sundays. Perhaps our routine religious service has slowly suffocated our expression of worship and praise. Many have failed to grasp the real meaning and purpose of the Body coming together.

I am often asked to lead women in worship, and I ache for understanding and wisdom of how to renew our worship together. I pray to be rekindled in my own personal worship, to offer wholehearted worship to God in spirit and in love, so as not to become a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

God sent me a pivotal experience. I happened to see the 25th wedding anniversary of Barbara Mandrell and her husband, Ken, which was televised on The Nashville Network. They had a full-fledged wedding ceremony to reaffirm and recommit their marriage vows of 25 years. The occasion was complete with engraved invitations, ushers, candles, flowers, music, minister, tuxedos, and a breath-taking wedding gown. I was moved to see their eyes still bright with love and excitement as they gazed deeply at each other. Ken recited 1 Corinthians 13 to Barbara; then tears filled my eyes as I listened to their vows of love and adoration. I felt such joy watching them at the reception, as they cut the wedding cake and delighted in feeding each other the traditional first piece, followed with the sharing of the wedding toast. I found my heart restating my own wedding vows and felt my marriage had been enhanced by having shared in their experience.

I became intrigued with the idea: What if my husband, Matt, and I renewed our vows? Where would we have the ceremony? What words and scriptures would we use in recommiting our love to each other? What would we wear and what music would we choose?

Some things I would do the same as I did almost 10 years before. I would want to wear the same simple but elegant candlelight ivory dress, for it was the dress my mother wore on her wedding day. It was also worn by both of my sisters, and both of my mother’s married sisters and their married daughters – a wonderful family tradition, rich in heritage. I realized too that some things wouldn’t be as important as they were before, such as place, colors, candles and flowers.

Renewed marriage vows! My mind couldn’t stop exploring that idea. Then somehow I seemed to feel God’s Spirit within me saying, “Cindy, you are the bride of Christ. Renew your vow of love to him. Sing him your songs of love and praise. Read over and over again his vows and promises to you and rewrite them on your heart.”

I got excited thinking of worship in terms of a wedding ceremony.

Coming to her groom, the bride of Christ is presented in a pure white gown of righteousness that he bought for her with his blood.

The Holy Spirit serves as wedding consultant, directing the flow and continuity, while angels serve as attendants.

It is a joyous, beautiful occasion, full of hope and promise. There are songs of love and adoration, songs that retell the story of Jesus’ love for his bride. Some songs are old, some are new, all are heartfelt.

The communion is a precious feast shared between the bride and groom, sealing their covenant of love and commitment to each other.

The bride puts on the name of her groom. His ministry becomes hers, and she is receved by his father, our God, as a daughter of his royal family.

And heaven is the forever honeymoon … when the bride removes the veil and sees her groom face to face. She forever leaves her worldly home to live in the mansion he has lovingly prepared for her. In painful contrast to many marriages, they will live happily ever after!

These thoughts helped me see how diverse worship can be, how we can embrace expressions of worship that are different from our accustomed ones. Though certain expressions of praise may not be my own choice and may make me a little uncomfortable, they are spirit motivated and genuinely from the heart. I ought not speculate about the sincerity of other worshippers and the validity of their worship methods. For instance, Matt and I chose each element and song for our wedding ceremony. But neither of us verbally sang one song at our wedding. We had a small choir, several solos, some taped songs that I had prerecorded; we even had congregational singing. However, I don’t believe anyone present questioned our commitment or the sincerity of our hearts because we didn’t do our own singing that day.

Furthermore, I have been to countless weddings, with no two being exactly alike. Each has been a unique expression of love, full of meaning and purpose for the bride and groom. I have never felt offended or compelled to get up and leave a wedding because I didn’t like a particular song the couple selected, or because I didn’t personally care for the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses, or because they added some nontraditional element into their ceremony. In fact, I can say that almost without exception, I came away from each wedding experience in some way blessed, or inspired, and recommited to my own marriage.

So, I look forward to Sundays, anxious to meet my groom, feast with him, and renew my vow of love to him in prayer and song. I also anticipate being blessed and inspired by the other unique testimonies of love for the groom.

It is easier to arise on Sunday morning, knowing I am going to a wedding rather than a funeral!Wineskins Magazine

Cindy Blanton Zahodnik

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