Summary: Our faithfulness carried out in our service to Jesus Christ as we love and serve one another is the perfect complement to the victory of our Lord, and it is as beautiful to him as his victory is to us.
A few years ago when I was back in Minnesota visiting my god-children, who as many of you know are Episcopal , I was enchanted to be awakened one Sunday morning by the sound of three angelic voices marching through the house singing “This is the feast of victory for our God!” I think it was the morning the middle child Philip was first serving as an acolyte and they were all very excited. Ted had been officiating since he was ten, since he’s so tall everyone always thinks he’s at least two years older than he really is, so Philip had had to wait four years instead of the two years that is the actual difference in their ages to be old enough.
At any rate, the victory theme is repeated every day before communion in Episcopal churches across the country. And I wondered why it’s not a theme that we use around the communion table more often in the Presbyterian tradition. So I looked it up. The terms “victory” and “feast” are never put together in the New
Testament, particularly not with the Lord’s supper. Even in the parables which sort of hint at the great banquet which the angel now announces are wedding feasts or a great banquets.
But in this chapter of Revelation the wedding banquet comes right along with the final victory that Jesus wins over the forces of evil. In order for the marriage to be consummated all the obstacles to the union have to be done away with.
It’s a classic theme. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, something dreadful happens - misunderstandings, plots, jealous rivals - the variations on that part of the theme are endless. Anyway the lovers are separated. The bride-to-be has a choice: to accept the end of the affair, and settle for second best, or to insist on hoping beyond all reasonable expectations that her love will be restored to her. If she
chooses to remain loyal, she has to stand firm under the nagging of her family and friends; she has to resist the temptation of accepting an offers from one of her less desirable suitors, just because they’re there and she is, after all, not getting any younger. The lover fights his way back to his bride, escaping from slavery or prison, or recovering from amnesia, or perhaps earning the fortune that her father requires before they’re finally united. At any rate when they finally get together, both have clearly won victories, although they have been fighting rather different battles, and of course he’s never really been tempted to be unfaithful.
The saints have all been watching this celestial drama from their ringside seats, cheering and booing at all the appropriate places. And some of the time it has seemed to drag on rather a bit too long. But at last the final act has arrived. The long awaited chords signaling the arrival of the bride sound. And the whole crowd lets loose with a standing ovation!
John heard “the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power to our God...” And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, "Amen. Hallelujah!" And from the throne came a voice saying, "Praise
our God, all you his servants, and all who fear him, small and great." Then [he] heard what seemed to be... the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunder peals, crying out, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.”” [v. 1, 4-6]
Now ... what does all this mean?
Well, Jesus, of course, is the bridegroom. And the father arranged the marriage at the beginning of time, although the bride didn’t meet the groom until she was old enough. Oh - yes, the bride. Who is the bride? It’s the people of God. The church is often referred to as the Bride of Christ, but the relationship really began back in Old Testament times. God tells Jeremiah to call the people back, saying, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness ...” [Jer 2:2] And the prophet Hosea, who married an adulterous wife at the Lord’s command to illustrate the pain of Israel’s unfaithfulness, foretells the day that John now tells us about: “And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in
mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD.” [Hos 2:19-20]
But it wasn’t until Christ came, of course, that the bride met the bridegroom face to face. And even then, with true love unmistakably crackling between the star-crossed pair, it was only the gift of the Holy Spirit that has made her able to resist all the pressures to settle for counterfeit relationships instead of holding out for the real thing. And so for the last two thousand years, the people of God, the church, the Bride of Christ, has been waiting in the dressing room for the big