We left South Bend on Tuesday morning, not as early as we might have liked, but without any earthshattering difficulties. My goal was to get as far as Little Rock before we stopped for the night, and sure enough we did, late in the evening but none the worse for the wear. The drive was long and tedious, but otherwise not difficult. I guess the highlight was seeing gas for $3.45 per gallon in Missouri; though it is a crying shame that such a price should sound so good! Sadly, crossing over the border into Arkansas brought with it a significant jump in the price. Oh, well.
Wednesday, we arrived in Houston early enough to have supper with Zachary and the Theiss family, which made everything seem suddenly less surrealistic. Living 1200 miles north of here has made all the plans and preparations difficult to grasp in any sort of tangible way, but simply being here with Zach & Bekah and interacting in person with her dear family brought it all home. Our time together that first evening was too short, but there were things to be done, and we were tired enough from our two days of driving that anything more would have been too much.
For my part, after helping to get children settled for the evening, I went looking for a place to work on my sermon for the wedding. For Sam & DoRena's wedding this past May, I drafted my sermon at Ruby Tuesday's the night before. This time, I worked things out at T.G.I. Friday's two days ahead. Not as though I hadn't already been thinking things through for the past few weeks, but I gathered my thoughts and put them into writing on Wednesday. That made the next couple of days less stressful and more enjoyable for me.
I got to spend a good deal of the day on Thursday with Zachary, which was a special treat for me. We left around 10:00 a.m. with Nicholai and Frederick to pick up Zach's buddies from South Bend at the Houston Hobby Airport. The airport parking lots were full, so we ended up driving around in circles for half an hour or more, while Billy, Erik and Nathaniel waited for their luggage. Then we all hunted up a place to eat nearby, in order to be on hand when Sam & DoRena arrived at the same airport a few hours later. Finding a place to eat was not so easy, and we ended up getting to know that part of town somewhat better than I would have chosen, but eventually we settled on a decent Mexican restaurant.
By the time we got back to the hotel that afternoon, it wasn't long before we all needed to be heading out for the rehearsal in Tomball. My Mom and Dad were there ahead of us, and my brother-in-law, Rob, had also arrived from Scottsbluff by that point, so it was all starting to feel rather exciting. I talked through the service with the other pastors; the rehearsal itself went smoothly and well; and the rehearsal dinner, provided by some of the ladies from the church, was the best meal we had eaten yet since leaving South Bend. Afterwards, the girls took Bekah out for some bachelorette fun, while the guys, including Zach, gathered in Rob's room for a poker party, which lasted until after midnight. I was sorry not to join them, but was very glad for Nicholai to be part of the gang. He made a handsome groom's man, and I know he was proud to serve that role for his big brother. It reminded me a lot of when my younger brother, Paul, did the same for me at my wedding all those years ago; especially because Nicholai looks so much like Paul, who arrived with his family around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday.
The wedding itself was on Friday, the 8th of August in this Year of Our Lord 2008 (08/08/08). That morning, I ran a few errands and reviewed my sermon. I picked up some groceries from the local Kroger, sandwich fixings and such, in order to feed the big bunch some lunch. But I waited until Zach was available and took him out for lunch, just the two of us, much as I had done with DoRena the day before her wedding. It seemed appropriate that we should go to T.G.I. Friday's, given the occasion and the fact that it actually was Friday, and all the more so since I had drafted my sermon there two nights earlier. That opportunity to share a meal and conversation with my son was one of the most precious highlights of the entire week for me, and I know that I will savor the memory of it as much or more than anything else.
The pace picked up dramatically after lunch, as it was time for everyone to get over to the church for pictures. Zach & Bekah followed Sam & DoRena's lead in having all the posed shots taken prior to the wedding, rather than trying to fit them in after the fact. It worked well, I think, and I was also impressed with the photographer throughout the evening.
The wedding was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. So around 6:00 p.m., the other pastors and I began vesting and preparing ourselves for the service. I had been reviewing my sermon off-and-on all day, and I was feeling pretty comfortable with it. I knew what I wanted to say, and I was confident that I could do so fairly simply and coherently. After my experience with preaching for Sam & DoRena's wedding, I had already determined that I would preach from an outline rather than a full manuscript. As it turned out, I never even looked at my notes, but simply got up and spoke the Word of the Lord to my son and his beautiful bride, both of them sitting right there in front of me.
The entire service was lovely and appropriate. Very different from Sam & DoRena's in some respects; it was Vespers rather than the full Divine Service, and there were fewer choral and ceremonial aspects, but it was reverent and decorous, and all flowed beautifully. A highlight, again, as on the 31st of May, was the singing of Paul Gerhardt's wedding hymn, "O Jesus Christ! How Bright and Fair." I'm hoping that others will follow my children's lead in the use of this grand piece, which so magnificently confesses the Christological theology of holy matrimony.
Having so recently given away my own daughter in marriage, I strongly empathized with Tim as he entrusted his Rebekah to my Zachary. I empathized with him, and I was also deeply moved and humbled by the fact that he was giving his daughter to my son. Few things in life have ever struck me quite so profoundly as that. It touches upon those unique differences between a son and a daughter, which I have found so compelling over this past year. When I have tried to put those differences into words for other people, it has been difficult to do so, and I can tell that no one else is really quite able to grasp what it is that so moves me in this regard. Perhaps it is best identified in the giving of the groom's name to his bride. A daughter is no longer named for her father, but for her husband; whereas a son gives the name he received from his father to his own bride, and to his children in turn. A daughter goes from being under her father's headship, to being under her husband's headship. A son becomes the head of his own family and household, and thus assumes the same office and authority that his father has held over him. Such things become quite serious and specific when it comes right down to giving a daughter away; I felt it when I put DoRena's hand into Sam's in May of this year, and so I could not help but feel for Tim as he put Rebekah's hand into Zach's this past Friday. Only, in this case, another father was handing over his dear and precious daughter to my son. In that moment, I had a poignant sense of the responsibility that rests upon a father to prepare his sons to become husbands. I suspect that mothers may think about that more often as their little boys are growing up, but it is as much or more a father's task to teach his sons to become men, especially in this very way.
Well, the entire service was lovely and a wondrous event. Zachary and Rebekah each made their vows and promises with clear and confident voices, and they both radiated joy and happiness. Seeing my son so tall and strong and handsome, and his bride so poised and beautiful, I could not help but swell with pride and happiness. There is such an unmitigated sense of delight in beholding these things, such that I felt as though I could hardly contain it within myself. I was sorry that I couldn't sit with LaRena and share it more closely with her, since I was in the chancel as the preacher. From that angle, I couldn't see Zach's face as he watched Rebekah walk down the aisle, but I could see his face as he listened intently to my preaching and then with rapt and serious attention to Pastor Teichmiller in the rite of holy matrimony. Let no one doubt the conscientious conviction with which Zach has approached and prepared for this event; the same goes for Rebekah. They may be young and green in lots of ways, but they are neither ignorant nor irreverent as to the seriousness, the significance and the sanctity of marriage. That was clearly obvious throughout their wedding. The only hitch was the one that was fully intended to be tied in the presence of God and a whole mess of witnesses. Let no one ever seek to untie it.
Following the wedding, I should say, the reception was a marvelous celebration. Tim & Debbie sure do know how to throw a party, and everyone had a great time. The decorations were festive and tasteful. The food was excellent, topped off with wedding cheesecake for dessert. The D.J. did a nice job, and the playlist of songs that Bekah and Zach picked were good fun. I had the special treat of dancing with my Oly'anna for quite a few songs, and with my own bride for "Lost in This Moment." The newlyweds stayed and partied with us until after 11:00 p.m. before departing in a cloud of bubbles and driving off into the night for their honeymoon and a lifetime together. For the father of the groom, speaking for myself, it was a satisfying conclusion to a perfect day. I'm going to miss my son, now that he's out from under my roof and building a home and family of his own with his new bride. I'm wishing that we didn't live so far apart. But as I said in my toast on Friday night, I could not be more proud of my son, nor more pleased to have Rebekah as my daughter-in-law. As her Daddy put it, they do have a lot yet to learn about life, but they're going to learn it together. Cheers to that, and to the two of them, with all my love.
Old Lutheran Quote of the Day
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