CALL TO WORSHIP
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10).
Let us confess our sins to God:
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed – by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have failed to prepare ourselves for Christ’s promised return. We have adorned ourselves with sin, instead of with your holiness.
We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son, our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us. Clothe us with his righteousness, that we might walk in your will and delight in your ways, to the glory of your name.
- Ephesians 5:21-33 – Wives and Husbands
- Psalm 67 – May God Be Gracious to Us and Bless Us
- Revelation 19:6-10 – The Marriage Supper of the Lamb
- Matthew 25:1-13 – The Parable of the Ten Virgins
What makes a great wedding?
Is it the fragrance and color of the flower arrangements? The particular grandeur of the venue?
Is it the number and camaraderie of the guests? Or the quality and sound of the music?
Is it the menu at the reception? Or perhaps the selection at the (hopefully open) bar?
I hope it’s not the quality of the sermon!
But, really, what makes a wedding great?
Surely (gestures toward bride and groom) these two have something to do with it.
Is it, perhaps, their physical appearance? His rugged handsomeness? Her stunning beauty?
What about their relationship? Is the wedding great because of the intensity of their love for one another? Their glorious dreams for the future? The optimism of this moment between them?
What is it that makes a wedding great?
I guess, if most of us had to pick, we’d say that a wedding is great if the bride is happy. Right? I mean, even if the weather stinks, the singers are off-key, and the sermon is just absolutely awful – if the bride is happy, everything is OK. Right?
Which is a great reminder that weddings are about people, not performances.
However, I’m here today to tell you all that, sure, you can have a good wedding if the bride is happy.
But, if you want a really great wedding – if you want a really great marriage – then it’s really all about the groom.
Great weddings, might I even say heavenly weddings, are all about the groom.
Now, either you’re not listening or I’ve probably upset you!
Really? Has the preacher lost his mind? Is he some sort of chauvinist pig?
This is the bride’s big day! That’s why her outfit is more impressive! That’s why we all stand when the bride walks down the aisle!
Are we really going to take this moment away from her and say that it’s all about this handsome chump here?
Heavenly weddings are all about the groom, but you (gestures to the groom) better not use this sermon as an excuse for anything resembling male chauvinism!
Because, for one thing, I’m an egalitarian!
And, for another, I’m not talking about you (gestures to groom), her (to bride) bridegroom, but rather to Christ, our (gestures to everyone) bridegroom.
Great weddings, and great marriages, are all about Christ, our Bridegroom.
Take a glance at the Bible readings on your order of service everyone.
Did you catch the names on the wedding invite in Revelation 19? We’re not invited there to this wedding, of this woman to this man, but the wedding of the Church to Christ himself!
This is the same marriage Paul speaks of in Ephesians 5. In both passages, the Groom, Christ, takes center stage.
You see, in the ancient Jewish culture out of which the Bible came, weddings were done a bit differently.
Modern weddings often center around the arrival of the bride to her groom, but these ancient Jewish weddings really hinged on the arrival of the groom to his bride.
First, what would happen is the groom would pay the bride’s father her bride price.
After this, the couple was betrothed – legally joined together, although not physically, for they still were not fully married.
Instead, they went their separate ways. He went to prepare their future living quarters as an addition to his father’s household. She went back to her father’s household to prepare herself – including the preparation of her beautiful wedding dress.
After the groom had completed their home, he would gather his friends to go and get his bride. She and her companions would have a ballpark idea of when he would come, but the exact hour was a surprise. So, the bridal party had to stay ready.
This is the scene we read in Matthew 25, where things went wrong. Five members of the bridal party were ready for the bridegroom to arrive, but the other five were not ready to join the evening’s lamp-lit procession.
Ideally, the bride and all her friends and family would be awake and ready to join the groom on the journey back to his father’s household and their new living quarters. Once there, the real party began!
Which, by the way, if things have sounded real intense up to this point, let me assure you: these people knew how to party! The wedding celebration would go on for days and days, launching the couple into their new life together.
Now, why in the world am I telling you all this? I mean, first I steal the bride’s thunder, and then I give you a Jewish history lesson?!
Here’s why (looks directly at bride and groom): your wedding, and your marriage to each other, finds its true meaning and glory as a part of Christ’s Bride – the Church – preparing herself for the Bridegroom’s return.
Great weddings and marriages are all about the Bridegroom.
What does that mean for you? Well, as we read in Ephesians 5, it means you are to love each other sacrificially and humbly.
After all, our Bridegroom died for us. He cleanses us from sin. And he sets us apart as his holy people. Will your marriage be an image of this kind of love for each other?
Look around the room, you two.
Now look at each other.
I think it’s safe to say that you will each bring the other more joy than anyone else in this room. However, I think it’s also safe to say that you will cause each other more pain than anyone else in this room.
Because you are sinners.
You each, like us all, have fallen short of the glory of God. And marriage is about to make you especially aware of your spouse’s sinful flaws!
Thankfully, though, that’s not the end of the story. Thankfully, your marriage can point beyond itself, and therefore be truly heavenly.
For you both have been bought by the very blood of Christ – a steep bride price if there ever was one!
You have both been betrothed to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who is preparing a place for you both in his Father’s household.
And you are therefore both called to prepare your wedding garments through holy living – especially in how you love one another as husband as wife.
Should you love each other as Christ loves his Bride, your marriage will be a powerful witness – through both laughter and tears – to a world which desperately needs the Bridegroom. It desperately needs the Bridegroom to return and wipe away every tear, to right every wrong, and to make everything new.
Do you know what that’s going to be like?
It’s going to be like a wedding banquet.
In Revelation 21(:2-4), John writes:
“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Now, we can anticipate that joy and celebration at the reception later today!
But we also get a glimpse of what’s coming when we partake of the Lord’s Supper.
Just as God has not left the two of your alone, but has blessed you with each other’s companionship, Jesus has not left his Church on her own, but promises to be with her in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine.
Therefore, every time someone comes into contact with you as a Christ-centered couple, I pray they are reminded of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
And every time the two of you, and all of you, partake of the Lord’s Supper, I pray you’ll remember that heavenly weddings, and the very best marriages, are all about the Bridegroom.