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Friday, June 10, 2011

Christ the Groom, the Church the Bride

Marriage was designed by God to bring couples comfort, companionship, mutual joy and pleasure, and often the gift of children.  But have you ever stopped to consider that another reason for marriage is to give us an example of God's love for his Church?

My pastor explained this to us shortly before the wedding.  A wedding is a picture of the relationship between Christ and his bride, the Church.  The bride is presented holy, pure, without blemish (dressed in white!), radiant and beautiful, to the groom.  All eyes are on her, as she represents the body of Christ.  She is her groom's beloved, and they pledge themselves to each other, for life, no matter what.  He promises to love and cherish and protect her; she promises to love, cherish, respect, honor and submit to him.

In the service of Holy Matrimony (as it is written in Lutheran Service Book), the groom promises to "nourish and cherish her as Christ loved His body, the Church, giving Himself up for her."  The bride promises to "submit to him as the Church submits to Christ."

The love and commitment that God desires a married couple to have for each other is fulfilled and made perfect in Christ's love for the Church.  The bride and groom take each other "to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish."  In the 8th chapter of Romans Paul writes, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35, 38, 39).

Christ's love for us is completely unconditional.  As sinful human beings there may be times when our love and commitment to our spouse falters.  God has given us the gift of forgiveness for those times when we fail, and he restores broken trust, broken hearts and broken relationships.  But Christ's love for us will never falter or fail.  There is nothing that we as people can do to escape Christ's love for us.  And the wondrous thing is, Christ give us his unconditional love to share with others.  As husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, children, grandparents, sisters and brothers, we do not have to search within our selves for the strength to love those around us.  That love comes from Christ alone.  It is he who enables us to love others, by the love he has for us.

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