I am at a venue on a horse farm in West Virginia to witness my nephew’s wedding. It’s a perfect day: brilliant white clouds floating in an azure sky. The air is warm, not hot. Horses meander in fields behind rail fences.
And the decorations are lovely. I stop and take photos before the guests arrive, noticing how even a simple flower in a vase adds elegance to a table.
Since the bride and groom are committed believers, the ceremony is bathed in Scripture. There are many references to how a wedding is a picture of Jesus’s love for the church, his bride. As Paul describes, the Bridegroom’s desire is:
to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Eph. 5:27)
It strikes me anew that every wedding is a rehearsal for this ultimate uniting that awaits us. The gleaming white of the bride’s dress speaks of the radiant purity that He will bestow on his people. All the surrounding loveliness points toward this vision of perfection. The bride is adorned with, enveloped by, and emanates beauty.
When I view the church at any time in history, I see plenty of imperfections. Then I turn the lens toward myself and wonder how I could ever be without stain or blemish. Sadly, I am so consistently inconsistent. And adding more wrinkles every year.
As the ceremony progresses, I keep glancing at the bower. With its flowing fabric and floral accents set against the dark-grained wood, it’s a powerful reminder that the beauty of holiness is wrapped all around the hard reality of the cross. Just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Eph. 5:25). His death is the only way we could ever be holy.
My favorite moment comes right before the announcement of the new couple. The bride, in anticipation of the words, of the new identity she was to assume, began to visibly tremble and lightly bounce with joy.
I smile. Could there ever be a simpler, more appealing demonstration of how we should feel about what awaits believers? Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. (Rev. 19:7)
Part of that preparation is to so feed upon the truth of the coming reality – fueled by the imagery God gives us specifically designed to help us in that process – that we can learn to anticipate.
The chairs are set. The decorations are up. The work of the cross is done.
The stage is set for us to take his name. To fully assume our new identity.
I can’t wait. How about you?
Jesus, it’s hard to wrap our heads around this metaphor. Even Paul calls it a mystery. But help us to grow in our understanding of how wonderful, miraculous and beautiful this coming bond with you will be.
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