By Joel Hess –
In my earlier days as a pastor in the beautiful hills of south eastern Ohio, a colleague mentioned his frustration when people stood up for the bride during a wedding ceremony, “I was taught that we only stand up for Christ.”
At the moment I agreed with the fellow. I am stricken with a default thoughtless sieg heil to contra cultural manifestos. And having already tucked a couple of weddings in my belt, I had become aggravated by the whole bridezilla deal anyways. Oooh, and those mothers’ of the brides; redecorating the altar, pushing back the crucifix as if her daughter’s wedding was the biggest thing since Jackie O. went Greek. I know, I know, it’s a big day for the couple. And it should be. Hopefully the only day…but for the rest of us, it’s one of a million weddings we will attend. So show me the Powers Irish and give me a table. We drink to remember, not to forget.
But this past Sunday I was surprised by a revelation; a literal vision from heaven. I officiated a wedding at our wonderful local ski resort. The service was on the ground floor of the wood cabin-y lodge. At the end of the wedding area was a large wide staircase that ascended to the dining area. The bridal party descended the staircase before coming down the aisle to their places.
As I stood with the bridal party and next to the groom, “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” filled the room, and the bride, dressed in an exquisite pure white gown, descended the steps with her father.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Rev. 21:1-2)
Aha, I beheld the marvelous vision given to me; this exquisite woman decorated with robes perfectly white. Aha! This is what we look like to God – today by faith – tomorrow with our own resurrected eyes. We are dazzling; washed in baptism, water and word, blood of the lamb, spirit of the living God. And it was, then, no coincidence that I was privileged to bestow white tunics upon two young adults in holy baptism! Paul says,
“Just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
In Ephesians, chapter 5, Paul momentarily seems to get lost in his exploration of marriage. He began giving advice about marriage only to end adoring Jesus and the church. What came first; marriage or Jesus and the church? Which one exemplifies the other? Regardless, it is clear we should see marriage as a living metaphor for the church and Jesus! Or is it more?
So rise complacent fool! Why wait for a bronze cross to pass by? Give applause when that bride descends the aisle and passes by. Not because it is her day. But because every wedding is a re-enactment of THE Day! Until there is no last day! Like communion, we proclaim His death until He comes. So we rise at every wedding until She comes!
Rise my friend and adore what YOU look like in God’s eyes! What the church looks like. It is a truth we see by faith as we confess in the creed, “I believe in the holy Christian church!” What this mish mash bunch of scallywags? Indeed! Believe!
And when in doubt, cast your eyes upon the bride descending down the aisle and get a glimpse of heavenly reality!
Rise now and rise then! Until He comes again!