I love the Princess Bride. So many great characters with so many quotable lines. I mean, who could forget Vizzini’s “Inconceivable!” or Inigo Montoya’s, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You kill my father…prepare to die.” And of course, the heart-stopping Wesley’s, “As you wish.” Ahhh, my heart goes pitter-pat just thinking about it.

And of course, there’s the infamous clergyman and his, “Mawwiage…mawwiage is wot bwings us here together today.”

And in some sense, mawwiage is what brings us together this Sunday for our annual meeting.

What’s that, you say? What does marriage have to do with a church meeting to hear ministry reports and to adopt a fiscal year budget?

In my first call, I performed quite a number of weddings. The couples who came to me were a mixture of older, second-marriage couples and young couples fresh out of college and ready to, “start their lives together.” But in the end, they all had one thing in common…

They were all already cohabitating. Younger or older, first marriage or second – all the couples were already living together for a variety of reasons that we don’t need to go into here. And so, given they were already sharing a bedroom…sharing a home…sharing a LIFE together, given this, I started every first session of pre-marital counseling with this question, “Why marriage?”

Why marriage? What was different in marriage than in cohabitating? Why marriage?

And in each case, the answer inevitably came down to this: marriage made it a lot more difficult for one of them to simply decide to get up and leave one day. In other words, marriage took away the easy “back door option” when someone might decide things were getting tough.

Formal membership in our church is similar to this idea of marriage. It means that you are willing to be in it with the other person and give the relationship everything you’ve got through anything that comes. It means that you commit to engaging in life together – sharing the weight and responsibility of decision-making, cheering each other on when you accomplish good things and comforting each other when things aren’t going the way you thought they would. It’s a commitment to a SHARED life – where the “two become one” and there is no yours or mine but only ours. It’s a commitment to stick it out for the long haul as best as you absolutely can in all things, such that it’s difficult to just walk away, ghost, or exercise the “back door option.”

And such is the work of our congregational meeting. It is engagement in a shared life, a commitment to “together” vs apart…to being “one” vs the many. It’s a commitment to show up, be present, PARTICIPATE in this shared life and not disappear or exit through the back door and leave the hard work of life to everyone else.