Are we ready to get married?
I love a good wedding, and if I may be so bold, I think I do them pretty well. Over the years I have led weddings on beaches and in gardens, in hotels, in our beautiful Anglican churches, and in other special venues such as the Unfinished Church and the gorgeous Haydon Chapel in Bermuda. What I enjoy about weddings, apart from witnessing such hope and love, is when the couple genuinely invites God into their marriage, because God honours this, and as the couple draw closer to God they draw closer to each other — a beautiful thing indeed.
Something magical happens when two people unite (and I do not just mean in the bedroom). There is something about the mutual giving of self to the other that creates a special bond as each person offers the words, “With my body I honour you,
all that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you.”
In the light of the nature of marriage, perhaps it is only natural that the writers of the Bible describe the relationship between God’s Son and us, his church, using the metaphor of marriage, where Jesus is the bridegroom and we are the bride. This metaphor has its roots in the self-giving, sacrificial nature of marriage.
A marriage is different to other relationships because in a marriage we voluntarily choose to no longer be ‘our own’ but belong to someone else — not in the sense of ownership, but in the sense of a life freely given to the other.
God, as a community of Father, Son, and Spirit, delights in Jesus Christ giving himself to us, surrendering all for us, to claim us as his beloved bride. Jesus, the bridegroom, freely gave his body to us, gave all that he was to us, and shared everything with us. For those who do not yet know him, he stands, ready, waiting for us to come to him, to take his hand and accept his offer of love. To those that already know him, and have accepted the gift of his love, we await the great heavenly wedding banquet. For those yet to know him, the invitation is to don the white robes God has prepared for us that signify our purity and holiness in the light of his love, and for those who already know him, our ‘fine, bright, and pure’ clothes represent our acts of righteousness as we bear witness to God’s love.
The clothes we wear during the marriage ceremony represent the offer of pure, self-giving love from one to another. The ‘going away’ clothes worn to the wedding supper represent the new life embraced together — and the acts of kindness, quality time, gifts, precious words, and intimacy shared.
Our Sunday Worship, as we gather, is often called a service, but it is more than that, it is a celebration of the marriage between us and God. We spend time in God’s presence, we sing songs of praise and surrender, we recognise when we have not honoured our vows as we should and seek forgiveness, we bring our gifts to bear, and commit to lives lived in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
At the end of every wedding I lead, I invite the congregation to stand and introduce the newly married couple to the congregation. The music plays and the family and friends burst into applause and cheer as the couple make their way along an aisle through the crowd. A marriage is something to be celebrated, and in the same way, in the Book of Revelation, John describes the multitude that roars like a waterfall or peals like thunder crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.”
As Christians, without ignoring or diminishing the reality of our own failings and difficulties, we have a great deal to celebrate. Together, in all our wonderful forms — our sexualities, our genders, our races, and our ages — we are the bride of Christ, and honoured guests at the wedding supper of the King. As the angel said to John in his vision, recorded in the Book of Revelation, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper!”
I suppose that I am blessed in that I attend many more weddings than most people. I count it an honour and a privilege to lead a couple to unite in the presence of God, and it is a regular reminder to me of the love of God and how God’s son has given himself to us. If you have not yet got ‘hitched’ to Jesus, then perhaps ponder this invitation from him to you: “With my body I honour you, all that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you, within the love of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”