Summary: A look at our task of making the Church an attractive bride for Christ
It was a quiet Saturday morning as the guests began to filter into the little church. Friends of the couple had been there for hours making sure everything was just perfect. The guest were a diverse bunch, some were friends of hers, and others were friends of his. They both had family there as well as friends that they shared. They were all there from the very old to the very young to celebrate with the couple. It was a special day, perhaps the most special day in their lives and all those who loved them had come to make it even more special.
Each of the pew markers had been painstakingly created by the brides aunt, her mother’s sister. Tiny lace doilies starched to stiff perfection with burgundy bows holding petite ceramic bells in place. Each one an individual expression of love. The floral arrangements on the platform had been done by the groom’s mother, four baskets overflowing with flowers from the garden which filled their back yard. Each bloom chosen for it’s beauty, each one placed with the love that she had given her son through all his years growing up.
The music had been chosen with an ear to tradition, and with careful attention given to things special to the couple. The medley of love songs floated over the gathering crowd. On the eleventh hour the bride groom and his entourage stepped on to the platform. Fiddling with their hands and looking handsome and awkward in their rented tux’s, they wait with baited breath. With a barely discernible nod the pastor signals he organist who begins to play "Ode to Joy".
Through the doors in the rear of the sanctuary step the first of the brides maids and she makes her way down the isle, consciously thinking of the instructions received the night before at the rehearsal. Step, wait, step, wait, step wait. Half way down the aisle she is followed by yet another pretty young lady in a matching dress. Step by step they proceed, being joined by another bride’s maid, the flower girl, and then the bride’s best friend, now serving as her maid of honour. The beautiful young ladies join the handsome young men at the platform and the organist finishes with Beethoven.
The trumpet breaks the still air with a flourish and signals the beginning of the "Trumpet Voluntare", the crowd stands as one and even over the sound of brass you can hear a collective intake of breath as the bride steps into the sanctuary.
In the Talmud, the Jewish book of wisdom, the Rabbis tell us "On their wedding day all brides are beautiful". They’re right. In my Fifteen years of pastoral ministry I have performed over forty weddings, and never once have I ever seen an ugly bride. It just doesn’t happen.
On the wedding day the bride has made sure that her make up is perfect, she’s gone out and had two hours of intense work done on her hair and make-up. The dress she is wearing was chosen after hours and hours of soul searching questions, and fears that it just wouldn’t say the right thing. The flowers in her bouquet were selected to perfectly compliment everything from her eyes to her hair to the shade of nail polish she is wearing. Nothing is left to chance. Absolutely nothing. She is going to be radiant when she walks down the isle and people are going to gasp, and talk about how they have never seen a more beautiful bride. When her groom looks at her walking toward him, there will be no doubt at all in his mind that he is the luckiest man alive.
Now without wanting to sound unkind, I have seen those same ladies before and after the wedding and you just couldn’t believe that it was the same person. No make up, hair frazzled, old dowdy clothes and a look on their face that could peel paint. How come? Because on that, the most important day of her life she has chosen to do everything that she can possibly do to enhance her natural beauty. She isn’t wearing a mask, doesn’t get somebody else to stand in for her. She is what she is. All she has done, has been to show herself in the best possible light. Nothing wrong with that, no deceit, no trickery, everything is completely above board. And I know I’m being sexist. Yes I know that very few men ever again match the care they took in their appearance on that day, but that’s literary licence.
The church has long been recognised as the bride of Christ. And we are told in Ephesians 5:27 that she will be presented to Christ, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, holy and blameless. On her wedding day the church is will be the most beautiful bride that anyone has ever seen. Everything will be perfect. Nothing will be out of place, and the entire universe will gasp as she walks down the aisle toward her bridegroom Jesus Christ. And as he hears the fanfare and watches her approach he will know that all of his sacrifice and the price that he paid on the cross was worth it, because she is the most beautiful bride that every was or ever will be.