Today I’m writing in an anniversary card. The card is for Ruth. It’s Ruth and my 32nd. Thirty-two years of marriage. As I pause and just look at that number it seems impossible. Subtract thirty-two from 2016 and you can figure out what year we were married. We aren’t doing anything major for this anniversary because we are saving celebration money (birthday, Christmas, anniversary) so we can purchase an item we want at home. So I have flowers and a card. I’ll take her out for a nice dinner too.
I so remember that day. It was an afternoon wedding in the chapel on our college campus. We got married there so most of our friends could attend. I remember that I was supposed to feel so weird, it being my wedding day and all. But I didn’t feel weird. I felt excited. Ruth and I had dated for a while, then broke up, and then dated again. Now we were getting married! I remember the colors of blue and white, the cake created by the head chef from our college kitchen staff, the free tux I had on because my groomsmen all rented from the same shop, driving away in Ruth’s parents motorhome for a two week honeymoon on wheels. It was the beginning of a journey like no other!
No matter if you’re married or single, as a follower of Jesus, you have a future wedding to be a part of. A wedding in heaven. The grandest of them all. The imagery given to us from the Bible is that we play the part of the bride. All of the followers of Jesus, from every tribe of people and from every generation, are grouped together and called the ‘bride of Jesus’.
In the ancient marriage process the groom starts off by approaching the bride and doing whatever is necessary to gain her hand. He woos her, gets permission from her father, offers the dowry, and signs the marriage covenant. After these are accomplished the marriage is secure, all that is needed is the planning of the ceremony and the preparation of the couple’s future living arrangements, both of which are the groom’s responsibility. The bride spends this time, usually about one year, preparing herself and her bridesmaids for the big day.
The groom takes these months and prepares a home for himself and his soon to be bride. For Ruth and I, it was a two bedroom apartment in San Diego. Nothing fancy, but a place of our own. No more dorm living or cafeteria food. In the ancient days the groom usually added an addition on to his parent’s house. The new couple initially lived with his folks. Aren’t we glad we don’t follow this custom today!
When the groom had prepared the home and the ceremony he, unannounced, either went to get his bride or sent his best man to fetch her to the ceremony. The bride lived in a state of constant readiness and excitement, waiting for her groom. In John 14 Jesus told His disciples that, after loving on them for three plus years, He was leaving to prepare a place for them and that He would return and receive them to Himself so that they would be with Him forever. This is a description of the traditional wedding process; wooing, engagement, preparation, ceremony. Our groom has wooed us through His life, miracles, and teaching. He has paid the dowry of the cross. He has received permission from our heavenly Father. He is now off preparing a place for us. He has been gone a long time. He must be preparing quite the place!
But one day Jesus is going to show up here unannounced and take His bride to the great wedding in heaven, where all of us as believers will become His beautiful bride and be united with Him forever. What a ceremony and celebration that will be.
Then on that date every year after we will celebrate our spiritual anniversary with our God. All our earthly issues will be done away with and forgotten. All that we will experience will be joy and unbelievable happiness. I wonder if we will exchange cards and gifts.
So if life is harder than you expected it to be; or if your earthly marriage is strained; or if your living arrangements are below your desire, just remember, one day the best groom ever will take us all to the best house ever and throw the best celebration ever. And you will be an honored participant. Let this dream help you experience joy today.
I better finish getting Ruth’s card and flowers ready. I want to surprise her.
I love being your Pastor. See you on Sunday.