This morning we read from John’s Revelation how he sees, “the holy city, a New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” John then hears a loud voice coming from the throne that says, “the old order has passed away. Behold, I make all things new.”
Here we are in the middle of May and also right in the thick of wedding season. Brides love to be married during the beautiful days of late spring, and so many of you might have recently been to a wedding or are planning to go to one soon. And we see a fair amount of wedding imagery in this reading from the Book of Revelation. This New Jerusalem is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
For those of you who have not been at a wedding recently in the age of Pinterest and Instagram, let me share with you how prophetic John’s writing really was. The bride frequently does spend the day getting ready. We were recently at a wedding when the ceremony was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. But the bridal party needed to report somewhere at 9:30 in the morning for a sequence of hair and makeup and dress and various other little episodes, all of which were captured for social media. But what if all of that being prepared as a bride adorned for her husband was not for Instagram and Pinterest, but it really was for her husband?
In all truth, the number of husbands who really care deeply about picture taking during makeup and hair is probably very small, but my point is that all of this activity is really not for the husband, is it? It’s for the girls and their moms.
So John was obviously not talking about that kind wedding preparation. He is talking about the bride, the New Jerusalem – which is us, the Church – preparing for our husband, our bridegroom – which is Jesus – who is coming as our spouse.
So let’s think about the day being prepared as a bride for our husband in those terms. Are we getting ready for meeting our husband, our prince? And if we are, is our getting ready more for showing to others or more for him alone?
How do we, the Church, get ready for our Bridegroom, Jesus? Simply by how we live our lives. Our lives are us getting ready to meet our bridegroom, Jesus. Are we living our lives not for Instagram but for him? According to John’s Revelation, we really should be. We should be because He’s coming. And He’s coming to be our spouse.
You might have noticed that everything so far that we’ve spoken about has a feminine quality to it. As yet, I’ve never heard about a day of preparation that involved the groomsmen doing hair and makeup, but perhaps that happens. Usually they’re out playing golf or something like that. In the case of the Church as Bride, however, the feminine terminology applies to everyone, male or female.
Men and women are different in many regards, and the idea that “men are from Mars and women are from Venus” has a lot of truth. I think it is fair to say that the willingness to wait is more of a feminine strength and a feminine gift. That’s not to say men cannot wait. Of course they can. But it is more common to see a woman waiting patiently than a man waiting patiently. It seems to just be something about the wiring.
But as we wait for our Heavenly bridegroom, whether we are male or female, we need to cultivate the gift of waiting. We know he’s coming, but we do not know when. So we wait. And we must prepare ourselves for his coming without knowing exactly when he is coming. For many of us, and perhaps particularly for us men, that kind of indeterminate waiting could really be a cross. If so, then we must joyfully bear that Cross.
We are the Bride, which means we are waiting for our spouse. God wants a spousal relationship with his church. He wants to be the one. He wants to be the only. He wants us to be his and him to be ours forever. He pledges he will never abandon us, and he wants us to pledge to remain equally faithful to him. He promises to cherish us and to shower us with his gifts, and he wants us to be generous with him. He promises to be with us through thick and thin: when it’s a beautiful day in the month of May and when it’s difficult because we’re cold, and tired, and hungry. That’s the essence of a spousal relationship, and that’s what God wants with us. And he wants us to want it with him.
Anyone who’s been married for any length of time knows a spousal relationship is not always easy and smooth. That is why we promise “for better or for worse.” And in this reading today the bride, which is us – the Church – is promised that there will be trials and tribulations. There will be death, and there will be mourning. There will be wailing and pain. But we are also promised that there will be an end to all of that. And let that be an encouragement for each of us.
When we experience death in any form, whether it is a physical death, so that we completely lose somebody, or it is the death of a relationship, so that we lose somebody in a different way, we will mourn that. It’s natural. We really shouldn’t suppress it. We shouldn’t try to escape from those feelings. We should always remember that escaping from bad feelings is one of the big false promises that the Devil offers. But even as we mourn, even as we wail from the pain we experience in this life, let us never let go of the promise: “Behold, I make all things new.”
For the old order has passed away. Jesus Christ has risen from the grave. In doing so, he has conquered death. He conquered death for us, so that our natural death wouldn’t be an eternal death, but a transition to eternal life. Having taken all of our sins upon himself on Good Friday, he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. He will rise triumphantly to his throne in heaven on Ascension Thursday.
Even as he goes to his throne, he will leave someone to defend us: the third person of the Holy Trinity. Jesus – God made man – chose to dwell with us. God dwelt with us when he came as an infant in the manger. And God will choose to dwell with us in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells with us. The Holy Spirit has made his habitation with us. The Holy Spirit will pitch his tent in our camp. He is with us. He is Emmanuel. He is with us to defend us against the snares of the Devil while we live as the bride of Christ. And if we let him, he will rescue us at the end of our lives, so that we can dwell with him forever in heaven.
The former Heaven and the former Earth will pass away, and they will be his people, and God himself will always be with them as their God. Rejoice in the resurrection. There shall be no more death, no more mourning, no more wailing, no more pain; for the old order has passed away. The one who sits on the throne says, “behold I make all things new.”