Sometime in 2008, a young couple approached me asking that I officiate at their wedding. Her name was J-Leigh, his was David, and theirs was truly an international affair. They had met while students at Hillsong College in Australia, but had converged on the land down under from different parts of the globe: she from Watertown, Wisconsin (hence the Edgewood connection), and He from Norway.
They both loved the Lord Jesus and wanted to make their two lives…one, but their wedding venue was what made things interesting. They hoped I would marry them on a beach in Norway. No problem, I said, because that next summer I actually had plans to be in that neck of the woods: along with my family, I was going on sabbatical to Europe, courtesy of a generous grant from the Lilly Foundation. Somehow or another, we would make things work.
Their plans changed when due to visa restrictions, they found that they needed to wed before she could even move to Norway, and so we conducted a wedding ceremony in January at Edgewood. A few things stood out about that glorious weekend – it was made wonderfully special by the contingent of David’s family which came from his country. It was precious for my sweet daughter Annie who was honored to be their flower girl. And finally, the couple’s first kiss was saved for the altar, and I will never forget that during the recessional, the newlyweds stopped halfway down the aisle and started to make out again. Ah…young love.
Keeping the Dream Alive
The dream of a wedding ceremony on a Norwegian beach was not to die, though, and we made plans to recreate the joy in July of 2009.
So, when the time came, our family flew into Norway from Scotland (airplane views were breathtaking) where we had been hiding out for the previous 2 months, and we spent the better part of a week living with David’s family, the Haalands, and seeing what is surely in contention for one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
A Complication Arises
Then, as the day grew close, the do-it-again bride and groom approached me with a somewhat dire problem: David’s brother Leif Rune had lost his tux. Now, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that all good weddings have something go wrong, but this was a wedding problem that I had never encountered before. Nevertheless, David and J-Leigh had a plan to make it all work out: They wouldn’t have Leif Rune as a groomsman; instead he would simply wear a suit and read Scripture. Ah, but there was already a Scripture reader. No problem, one of us suggested, their first Scripture reader, a Hillsong connection from Switzerland named Saimn, was supposed to read the passage in English. After Saimn was finished, we would have Leif Rune read the same portion in Norwegian.
I sat down at the kitchen table the day before to go over things with Leif Rune. I had Saimn planning to read the classic passage, 1 John 4:16 – 19 (“…God is love…we love because he first loved us”) and I went over it with Leif Rune. There was a language problem: of course, the young man’s English was much better than my Norwegian…but then again, that’s not saying much.
“So you’ll read 1st John 4, verses 16 – 19,” I said.
“The first book of John?” He questioned.
“That’s right,” I said, “First John.”
“Okay,” Leif Rune said, “First John.”
The Day Arrives
The day dawned…gorgeous…beautiful. The bride was a vision. The groom was beaming. All was set. And the ceremony went without a hitch…mostly. I suppose it was a little windy (If memory serves, we used a sock to cover the microphone), and then there was that Scripture reading. Saimn read first in English, and then Leif Rune in Norwegian…as was the plan. And I vaguely noticed that as Leif Rune read, a small commotion took place amongst the wedding guests…the Norwegian wedding guests.
I found out why on the beach after the ceremony. There on that beautiful beach in Norway, as this wonderful couple tied the knot for the second time, the groom’s brother Leif Rune read…not from 1 John, but rather from the first book of John you get to when you read the Bible, and the Norwegian guests thought it passing strange, and maybe a little funny, that for this particular couple, they heard this…
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” John 4:16-19 (ESV)