Turns out the United Kingdom isn't the only country that can turn out elaborate fairy-tale royal weddings.
This morning, in Bhutan, the small Asian country sandwiched between India and China, King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck married his commoner bride, Jetsun Pema, in a ceremony that drew inevitable comparisons to the wedding of England's Prince William and his commoner bride, Kate Middleton.
Like this spring's extravaganza, the so-called Dragon King's wedding captivated the country, and was filled with the ornate ceremony and symbolism, all the pomp and circumstance, of royal festivity.
Yet, in many ways, this is a different kind of monarchy. As Bhutan slowly moves its way into the contemporary global community, including democratic reform and economic growth, the country's leaders have been careful to retain its culture and image as a pristine "Shangri La." One of the more famous ways it has done so is the monarchy's formulation of the Gross National Happiness as an alternative measure to gross domestic product (GDP) as an indicator of economic growth.
Moreover, the current king has defied the elitism of his position. He lives in a cottage in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan, and is known to invite his subjects to tea. He also spends months touring the villages of Bhutan, walking among villagers. No wonder he is known as the "people's king."
But, as I watched the CBS News report on the wedding this morning, I was thunderstruck by one final contrast.
Evidently, instead of inviting foreign dignitaries, heads of state, or celebrities to the royal wedding, the king and future queen invited thousands of villagers to attend the reception. And they mingled, hand-in-hand, among the crowd.
Hard to imagine that happening at Westminster Abbey. Or at the Kardashian Fairytale Wedding brought to you by E!.
But the reason I even mention it is in light of the serendipity of this past Sunday's Gospel reading from the common Christian lectionary, Matthew 22:1-14. The reading tells the parable of "a king who gave a wedding feast for his son." The king invites all the foreign dignitaries, heads of state, and celebrities—all those who should expect to be invited to royal company. But, one by one, they each refuse the invitation. So, the king makes a bold declaration:
"The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find." And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. (22:8-10)
The king invites to the feast, literally, "street people." And declares them to be the only "worthy" guests. The shock value of the parable revolves around the fact that this is something a king simply would not do.
But every once in awhile, even in a place as remote as Bhutan, a parable becomes reality.