Months of anticipation and planning are coming to an end. Decorations, tuxedos, rehearsals, flowers, wedding parties, showers, flowers, ring-bearers and little girls dropping petals…it’s all come together. She has spent the whole morning getting ready for this moment, a moment for which it seems like she has spent her whole life getting ready. The setting couldn’t be more perfect… candles, old stone church, white all over… everyone is sharply dressed, even the pastor, everything is perfect. But all of that fades when she enters.
I am often the first to see her when she appears at the back of the church. Everyone stands. Even if the pastor doesn’t invite them, they stand because they want to see. Heads twist sidewards with every row she passes. That’s the way it is with the bride. She remains hidden until the playing of the four measure fanfare of the Wedding March. But when she enters, she is center stage. Row by row, people turn to face the center aisle. They hold their breath without even knowing it. They cry, they smile, some of them beam. They all rejoice. In 22 years years I’ve done hundreds of weddings and every bride has been beautiful. She is the heart of the wedding…in her everyone sees hopes and dreams, and new tomorrows…
In Ephesians 5:31-32, Paul writes,
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I am referring to Christ and the church.
Don’t miss it. In the midst of practical instruction on Spirit-filled marriages is this nugget of gold. Perhaps one of the most profound things Paul says about church. The Church is the Bride of Christ. Ponder that. Jesus gave his life to start a movement that would turn heads, capture the eyes of the world, and be the center of attention. He envisioned a people who would embody innocence and hope and love. A people who model faith in a world filled with despair and cynicism. A people who would turn heads.
But do we? In many communities the church is ineffective or worse simply irrelevant. I wonder if it’s because we have forgotten that Jesus can’t take his eyes off us. That we are the center of his attention. That we stand beside a partner who has vowed to love us no matter what, for better or for us. That we stand beside a partner who is all powerful and all knowing and all loving.
I’m starting a new blog series today, “Why iPray.” Ever since my first year as a pastor I have been interested in prayer. I have bought and read every book I could find on prayer and the ones I couldn’t find I borrowed. I’ve gone to seminars on prayer, I’ve talked to people who prayed. I’ve preached on prayer. I’ve led concerts of prayer. I’ve gone to prayer retreats. I’ve always known in my heart that somehow it was the key; that if I wanted to do-church, God’s way, I would have to do prayer. I knew that without prayer, we can pretend to do church, but we would never really turn heads as the bride of Christ without prayer. So iPray. Not as often as I should, but I do.