Summary: The Church is called the Bride of Christ, so how do we make sure that we are an attractive bride?
The Church, a Beautiful Bride
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 guests 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 bride’s 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 its 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 the 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 Voluntaire”, 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 over thirty years of pastoral ministry I have performed dozens of 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 makeup 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 aisle 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.
The church has long been recognised as the bride of Christ. Paul writes to the church in Corinth and tells them 2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.
And we are told in Ephesians 5:25-27 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.
And we know that the one person the bride wants to be beautiful for on that special day is her groom, but she wants the spectators to know how much she loves her man and so she is looking her very best for the congregation as well.
In the same way that all eyes are on the bride when she walks down the aisle it often seems that the eyes of the world are on the church. And like every bride the church should be most concerned about how she is seen by her groom. But we need to show the world how important that is to us. If a bride showed up wearing old tattered clothes and hadn’t washed her hair in a week and smelled bad what would that say to the groom and to their friends? Oh she could say “It’s what’s inside that counts” or “Don’t judge me”. But her appearance would be sending a very clear message to the groom and to everyone else.