It’s good to see all the weddings, put on hold because of COVID-19, finally taking place. So many were postponed not once but several times due to changing restrictions. Brides were ready, had the dress, the venue, the guest list, but then felt they had to wait. The church, often referred to in scripture as the Bride of Christ has had to wait a very long time; she’s still waiting, not because of COVID-19, but because she isn’t ready – she’s still preparing and being prepared.
Waiting is hard. Keeping clean, staying pure is not easy.
Some years ago my husband Julyan was best man at a wedding. The groom’s parents had travelled up from England and were with us for a light lunch before the ceremony. Our kids thought it would be fun to introduce this English couple to our ‘other national drink’, and they hurried to the corner shop and back with a bottle of Irn Bru.
We were sitting around the table. I unscrewed the top and orange fizz squirted forth and sprayed the two white wedding shirts hanging on the back of the living room door! I whisked them to the bathroom, washed off the stains and spent the next hour drying them with the hairdryer.
I’m so glad it wasn’t the bridal gown hanging on the back of the door. A dirty bride is unthinkable.
Cleansing and Anointing
Jesus has washed us through his Word (Ephesians 5:26). The gospel message has made us clean. During the last supper Jesus told his disciples they didn’t need another bath, but they did have to keep washing their feet. Yes, Jesus has made us clean, but we get very grubby through daily living.
It could be an age thing, because this is happening to me more and more. I think I’m clean till I go out into daylight, look down at myself, and then I see a spot or stain I didn’t notice before. In a similar way it’s when I come into the light of the Word of God and among his people that I see it – the bad attitude, the thoughtless word, the prompting I’ve ignored.
As we wait for our heavenly bridegroom, the great wedding and the consummation of our relationship, I find Esther’s wedding preparation helpful. In the book of Esther we read she went through a period of cleansing followed by a period of anointing before her marriage to the king (Esther 2:10). Sometimes I would like the anointing of the Holy Spirit without the cleansing, but in my experience true spiritual growth issues from a deeper embracing of the Cross. Allowing it to work repentance and forgiveness in us keeps us clean, and then we won’t run out of oil like the foolish virgins in Jesus’ parable, who were not ready when the bridegroom came (Matthew 25:1-13).
God has covered us in the righteousness of Christ, but that should work out in our day to day living. It matters how we live. When we forgive instead of taking offence, bless instead of blame, give generously instead of hoarding, turn away from immorality instead of indulging, share our faith instead of hiding it, these little choices for righteousness become glorious garments of pure, bright linen to adorn the bride forever (Revelation 19:8).
Aah! I’m so glad the fine linen is given by God – he can do the ironing! Julyan has a linen suit and I just refuse to iron it. It creases so easily – if I try to iron one wrinkle out, I manage to make two more. My own wrinkles have come with age, and even my best deeds that Christ has created me for and prepared beforehand (Ephesians 2:10) can be very wrinkly. There are old habits, old sinful thought patterns that make a fold of self seeking here, a crease of self pity there…..
When Christ returns for the wedding banquet there will be lots of hallelujahs. Our God will be seen to reign. Sin will be gone forever and even the church will be purified – no more spots, stains or wrinkles. When we see Jesus, our bridegroom, as he is, we will be ready.