Wednesday, 13 July 2016

My daughter's wedding, God, The Hobbit, and heaven.

 The marriage of Yasna Hawksley and Glyn Reynolds
St Peter and St Paul's Church, Godalming, July 26th, 2014, noon
Reception at Aldro School, Shackleford

The Wedding

'The flowers. What if the caterer didn't bring the flowers?'

That was the worry I woke up with at about five in the morning on the day of my daughter's wedding.

There had been so much preparation: venue searching, clothes shopping, caterers, spread sheets, TTD lists, time charts, seating plans, rehearsals.

So much could go wrong. Not just the flowers.

The English weather could crumple up into grey skies, cold winds and spitting rain; the bride, groom, best man, vicar, organist, photographer could turn pale with sickness; M25 traffic jams could hold up the caterers and guests; much worse, a stray word could hit a random raw family nerve setting off unkind words and bitter moods.

Nothing went wrong.

The sky was blue; the sun shone; the church bells rang. Every guest (nearly 200) came and was healthy and happy; the caterers transformed a school hall into a beautiful wedding salon and for hours food and drink flowed from their mobile kitchen; the speeches had emotion; the first dance impressed; the surprises (Iranians dancing costumes; a flash mob of 'One Day More') enthralled; both the Persian music and the band got everyone onto the dance floor.

When the band stopped playing at five to eleven most of the guests had been with us for over eleven hours. They didn't want to go. There were chants of 'One More Song'. The encore was 'Hey Jude' and in a lovely flow of spontaneity everyone put their arms over each others' shoulders, formed a huge circle, and into the middle came Mr and Mrs Reynolds. They had the first dance; they had the last dance. We then all made an arch, and so they left; first through a tunnel of joined hands, and then, outside the hall, along a corridor of candles.

Nothing went wrong.

And so much joy. It erupted in the church with the proclamation of the covenant sealed; onto the dance hall even before the food arrived when we, the family, just got up and danced; and you saw it all around the room as people ate, and drank and talked and danced.

God

The joy takes us to God: 'In my presence there is fullness of joy' (Psalm 16:11). He was there. We felt His smile. The water of an ordinary school hall, ordinary food, and ordinary people, all of us with warts, becoming wedding wine, making us a little tipsy.

As soon as the decision was taken for the marriage to happen in church, He had given signs that He was going to be more than a guest: He was going to be a host. So, unexpectedly, He paid the bill for the actual wine. The budget was itemised on a spreadsheet, and against wine was the estimate of £500; in the column entitled, 'Paid by', a question mark.
About two months before the wedding a card came through the post for Mojdeh (my wife). The sender, who insisted on remaining anonymous and of course had no idea about our estimates, wrote that the enclosed was from the vine-dresser (I am the vine, my Father is the vine-dresser), the One who gives wine. The amount: £500. Yasna, the keeper of the spreadsheet, put God in the 'Paid by' column.

A few weeks later the surprise was much greater. Mojdeh wrote a large cheque out for the caterer. It would be unseemly to write the figure, but there were 182 guests for the main meal, and a further fifty came in the evening. The caterers also decorated the hall and the tables. As she handed over the cheque Mojdeh said to the caterer, 'Mr Javid, this is the largest cheque I've ever written in my life'. She dated the cheque 'July 15th' and asked him not to cash it earlier.

On July 14th there was a staff meeting where Mojdeh and I work. We knew this important meeting was going to be about the future of the charity, a very important matter. It never crossed our minds that we would be on the agenda. But we were.

The director, took time to acknowledge that this year marked our twentieth with the charity. He wanted to honour us. This was kind. Then he came and gave us two envelopes, inside were two cheques. This was completely unexpected. They added up to the exact amount Mojdeh had given to the caterer.

When at the wedding we told the director about this, he paused and then smiled. He added a further detail. He said an amount had been agreed, but when he came to write the cheques, another figure came into his heart, and that's what he put.

Very gratefully we received this gift from God, the invited host of our daughter's wedding.

And very gratefully we, with everyone else, received all the joy that flowed into our hearts all through the day.

The Hobbit

The day after the wedding we had a garden party for close friends and family. It was a very relaxed time. Again the sun shone, food and drink flowed, we all enjoyed re-living the wedding together. There was present opening. I was moved to see the generosity of the family to Yasna and Glyn. A beautiful carpet from Mojdeh's mother; a hand made bed cover from her cousin; a framed poster full of memorable places from Bahram; a specially commissioned gold bracelet with musical instruments from my brother and his wife. The instruments in honour of my nephew Christopher, disabled, but so energetic for music.

There were games – table tennis, and as evening drew in 'Kingdoms' a favourite of my niece Aazar. It took an hour. Lots of banter and laughter.

There was the kissing arch. Mojdeh was determined we should get fairy lights over the arch in the middle of the garden. So I got them up, they twinkled and so the arch became the perfect place for a romantic kiss. All the couples came for the photo shoot. More banter and laughter.

The evening ended with music around the piano. I started off with a tribute to Mojdeh, the anchor of our family. It was an adaptation of the Joan Baaz song, 'Sweeter For Me'. There was another rendition of 'One Day More'.  Glyn played for us for a robust, 'Do You Hear The People Sing.' Baz took over for 'Perfect Day' and 'Life On Mars'. Roger came for 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', and 'Don't Stop Me Now'.

Eventually under a summer night sky the good-byes.

After we had waved off my cousin Alison and her family – they said they'd be singing Les Mis all the way back to Barnes – Baz and I walked back across the green. Baz said the week-end was how he imagined 'The Hobbit' to be.

A wedding and the Hobbit, a curious connection, but very true. In 'The Shire', the hobbits sit around in their villages, smoking their pipes, enjoying each other's company, celebrating being together. That was what we had spent the week-end doing. The joy of the week-end was the wedding, the solemn vows; the joy was the presence of God, the water turning into wine. And there was also this Hobbit joy; just being together in friendship – playing games, singing songs.

Heaven

Frodo had to leave The Shire to deal with the evil of the ring. But he returns. We too have to leave our Shire; not that we can deal with the evil, but like Frodo we must join the One who did. And then we too will return, not to a sky of clouds floating in an unfamiliar country, the mistaken image of heaven; but to our Shire, our renewed earth with familiar rhythms. There will be work (Luke 19), there will be rest (Hebrews 4), and there will   be celebration. There are plenty of signs in the Gospels. Jesus at the wedding in Cana ( I am certain He danced), Jesus feeding the five thousand, Jesus with the resurrection party in Bethany after Lazarus has been raised from the dead, Jesus telling his disciples that after Good Friday he will be drinking the fruit of the vine again with them. And of course the marriage of the Lamb in Revelation.

In heaven there is going to be a party: eating and drinking and dancing, sitting around playing games with family and friends.

Our wedding week-end was – we trust – a great send off for our Yasna and Glyn into married life.

But it was also more. It was a time when the borders between heaven and earth thinned a little, God's will in heaven happening on earth; a special day pointing to when heaven joins earth forever. 

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