This past Sunday my family and I were blessed to attend our niece’s wedding. The ceremony was beautiful: Stephanie and Chris recited their vows under a trellis beneath century old willows beside a still pond; she wore her grandmother’s wedding dress and he wore a simple grey tuxedo; the sun shone brightly upon the newlyweds. The reception was equally special: more than a hundred of family and friends celebrated the blessed union in a wonderfully appointed barn with authentic barbeque (including a roasted pig), cheesecake, a hot chocolate bar, an open bar, energetic dancing and lively music. It was a great time, fitting of such a great couple.
As I reflect on the weekend, I have been thinking about the number of instances that weddings are mentioned in the gospels. Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding when he turned water into wine (or, if your orthopraxy is more conservative, the greatest vintage of diluted and only-slightly fermented grape juice ever tasted). Jesus told one parable about the wedding of a king’s son (reminding his hearers that those who attend must be properly dressed) and another about awaiting bridesmaids (focusing on the priority of the bridegroom’s arrival). Jesus taught using an illustration involving the seats of honor at a wedding (and how we are expected to demonstrate humility).
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. Revelation 21:2 (NIV)
What is it about weddings that figure so prominently in God’s descriptions of the church? While the answer to this question is broad, allow me to share three thoughts I have regarding this matter.
- First, weddings are about joyful celebration. Have you ever gone to a wedding and remarked afterward, “Man, that was depressing!”? Probably not, because weddings are joyous occasions. There is often smiling, dancing, toasting and merriment. If a tear is shed, it is one rooted in happiness. We take pictures to capture the first of many moments of contentment and joy for the bride and groom. Weddings are joyous occasions.
- Second, weddings are about identity. Weddings produce a union, a couple, a husband-and-wife. They precipitate name changes, address changes and family changes. Your immediate family suddenly shrinks and your extended family is doubled. Weddings are identifying moments.
- Third, weddings are about commitment. It is the time when vows are recited and promises are made. The union created with the two ‘I do’s is expected to last a lifetime, through the good times and the bad. It is when one gives wholly to the other. Weddings are bond building.
So, weddings serve as an ideal picture of our relationship with God – a moment that produces an eternal commitment of connected identity surrounded in joy. That is what every believer in the saving work of Christ has gained. Like a wedding, this relationship is not based on merit or effort, but love. Like a wedding, this union is reciprocal – both giving their all and receiving all in return. Like a wedding, it changes how we interact with the world around us completely. I cannot think of anything that is more joyful than that.