Sunday, 3 July 2011

Wedding Address for Mr & Mrs Riches

The following is based on one of their readings: Revelation 21:1-4. For those interested it's my first ever address with a chiastic structure!

A. Great joy
So Tom has got his girl, Hannah has got her guy. The pursuit which Tom began, two and a half years ago at the dawn of 2009 has finally paid off! Hannah played hard to get, treating him mean to keep him keen, but Tom persevered and won her heart and the rest, as we say, is history, for here we are! And the boy did good! :-)

Both Tom and Hannah have worked diligently towards this day and waited patiently for it. Moreover, they're not keeping their joy to themselves, they're sharing it with us. We're caught up into this great celebration. No celebration among family and friends is complete without food and drink, and so in a little while we will feast together and complete our joy. Tom and Hannah will then leave their friends and family and go on finally to complete their joy later tonight, but we won’t go into that. Children, if you don’t know what I mean, ask your parents.

B. The veil has been lifted
Now the observant ones amongst us will notice that Hannah is wearing a veil, and that when she arrived, Dad lifted that veil from over her face.

Veils are coverings. Veils cover things that you’re not allowed to see (Ex.26:33). Veils speak of prohibition. They say a big NO!! Do not touch, do not taste, do not smell and do not look upon for if you do, you act at best foolishly and at worst, wickedly. The veil Hannah is wearing today is symbolic of the barrier that has been between her and Tom. That whilst they have loved each other greatly, love has not yet been allowed to have its greatest expression.

There is a time and a place for everything and God makes everything beautiful in its time (Ecc.3:11). Now, that veil has been lifted and love may have its fullest expression - to use a bible phrase, (Gen.29:23) Tom can now go in to his beloved Hannah without fear of guilt or regret and with great joy.

C. Preparations that were made
Love may now have its fullest expression because all the right preparations have been made. Just as a doctor is not allowed to enjoy earning a doctor’s salary until all the necessary exams have been passed, so too in God’s world, man and woman are not allowed to enjoy the intimacy of being husband and wife until all the preparations have been made. And for Tom and Hannah, the preparations have been made.

In many cultures across the world, (including the Bible's) the man must pay a dowry to the bride’s family to win her. If you live in South Sudan where I was last year, a man will pay for his wife with cows and the number of cows paid depends on the social standing of the families making the transaction. In white British culture, this kind of dowry payment has all but died out. The closest any hopeful bridegroom gets to a dowry payment is giving a nervous, sweaty-palmed handshake to his potential father-in-law as he stumbles his way through asking permission for the daughter’s hand in marriage.

Now that permission has been granted the two have made themselves ready. Tom has scrubbed up ok and Hannah looks both beautiful and radiant in the dress she has prepared. Moreover, Reading’s Love Nest directory has a new entry: 4...(not posted on internet for security reasons). There, they have prepared a place where they will live out these awesome vows they have declared today, until death finally separates them.

D. Marriage is not an end in itself. It is a prophetic echo of the great marriage
Now why do I say all this? I say it because, as the reading we had from Revelation 21 makes clear; God has created (the theatre of) marriage so that we can understand something of how he wants to be united to his people for ever. Human marriage between a man and a woman is one of the great prophetic echoes of God. These prophetic echoes are not only to be understood in the mind, but felt in the heart and experienced in the body.

Through being children of loving parents, Tom and Hannah have known, felt and experienced an echo of the love the Father who is in Heaven. Today as they step into each others’ arms, they step into another echo of God, the love that Christ has for his church.

C1. Preparations are being made
Just as Tom and Hannah have made their preparations, Jesus Christ – the eternal Son of God has made his Dowry payment. He did not give a herd of cows to be united to his bride the church, he gave something infinitely greater, his very own life as he bled and died on a cross 2000 years ago.

God the Father, thrilled with his Son’s love called him out from death up to his side in Heaven and gave to his victorious Son the Holy Spirit whom the Son has now lavished upon the church so that she can prepare herself to be with him forever (Ac.2:33). She is making herself ready by gathering a people out of all the families of the earth who love Christ, the great bridegroom and his Father, brightest and best.

And in Rev 21, we see that the Love Nest of the Son of God is finally made ready. Christ has vanquished and exiled his enemies. There is now perfect peace. Tom and Hannah's love nest will be nothing compared to what the New Creation will be like, the place where Christ and his church will dwell together, in the house of their great Heavenly Father (Jn.14:2)

B1. The veil will be lifted
Just as Dad lifted Hannah’s veil today so that Tom may go in to her. So too we see here in Revelation 21, that the great veil has been lifted.Where do I get that from? From verse 1 where it says there was no more sea.

Back at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 1:6, on day 2 of creation, God separated Heaven and Earth, with a veil, he put up a partition, a separation, and he hid himself from view. God gave this veil the title sea (in Rev.21:1), in Genesis 1 it was called “waters above.” We modern people have re-named it space.

A veil was necessary between God and man because carbon-based life forms like you and me, made of dust, cannot look at God and live. To be able to look upon God without dying, you have to be transformed and made like him.

That process of transformation was begun at the cross, when the spiritual barrier of sin was done away with. Symbolised by the fact that when Jesus died, the veil in the Jerusalem temple that denied access to God was torn in two. We could now look at God with the eyes of faith through believing and obeying the words of Jesus.

That transformation will be finally completed as Revelation 21 shows us when the physical veil of space is removed and those who have waited patiently for Christ will have him revealed to their physical eyes. No longer will there be any coverings, limits or prohibitions. No longer will there be any need of faith. Christ and his bride will enjoy intimacy and love together forever. Then it truly will be as the Lord’s Prayer states: the same on the earth as it is in Heaven for the two will have been united as one.

A1. Greater joy
The pain and tears that flowed from being part of a world that was bound by disorder (sin), disappointment, distress, disease, decay and death, is no more. The Church, once persecuted and afflicted for her devotion to her bridegroom, once faint and weary from the experience of separation from her true love, (Song of Songs 5:8) and forbidden the fullest expression of that love, is now overtaken with joy and fully revived as she gazes into her lover’s eyes. He quietens her heart with his love (Zeph 3:17) and nourishes her at the banqueting table of his delights (Song of Songs 2:4) where she will be with him for ever.

Tom and Hannah, may I urge you as best I know how, to do everything in your power that you can to make this your marriage one that both joyfully anticipates and faithfully reflects the great marriage of Heaven and Earth of Christ and his Church.

Friends and family of Tom and Hannah. You, like me received an invitation to this wedding, which you happily accepted and for which you made the necessary arrangements to be here. You, like me, have witnessed this great occasion and felt something of the joy.

But we all have a greater invitation, to a greater wedding. I know that many in this room are making preparations for it already. Are you? Will you be there sharing in the joy of that great day when Heaven and earth become one, when Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united to their people or will you be exiled from that union into outer darkness forever? That wedding day will come quicker than you expect. The inviting hand of Christ is extended to you today; in as much as it is down to you, do everything you can to grab hold of it.

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