Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Groom, A Bride

I love love love the picture of the body of Christ, as the bride of Christ.  Last Sunday, during a moment of worship called communion, a song was played.  The song swept me away to a different time and a different place where I was given a vivid picture of this reality.  (The term "body of Christ" is what God calls the Church and consists of all those who have put their trust in Jesus as the sacrifice for their sin.  Communion is a symbolic time where us followers of Christ eat a piece of bread to represent His broken body and drink a small cup of juice to represent His blood shed for our sin.)

It was many years ago that my sister was getting married and had asked me to be her matron of honor, but I had one problem.  At the time of her wedding I would be six months pregnant with my daughter Ivy.   I don't think it bothered my sister at all, but it made me a little self-conscious.  I had never been to a wedding where a bridesmaid was so very obviously full with child.  I have always had this image of beautiful thin young women as bridesmaids to complement the beauty of the bride.  And here I was, being asked to walk down an aisle, all eyes staring at my bulging belly.

For one thing, it did a number on my pride that I didn't feel as attractive as I wanted to be, but mostly it brought home to me the beauty of this song which has a double meaning.  It is speaking not only of Jesus, but also of believers in our function as the body of Christ.  As we become His hands and feet, caring for one another and working together to get His message out, we are beautiful.  The song was sung at my sister's wedding while they took the communion sacraments as bride and groom.  And it was absolutely beautiful, searing the image of the words onto my heart.  I've never seen this done at any wedding before or since. 

How beautiful the hands that served,
the wine and the bread
And the sons of the earth.
How beautiful the feet that walked
The long dusty roads
And the hills to the cross
How beautiful...
How beautiful is the body of Christ.

How beautiful the heart that bled
that took all my sin
And bore it instead.
How beautiful the tender eyes
That chose to forgive
And never despise
How beautiful...
How beautiful is the body of Christ.

And as he laid down His life
We offer this sacrifice
that we will live just as He died.
Willing to pay the price.
Willing to pay the price.

How beautiful the radiant Bride
who waits for her Groom
With his light in her eyes.
How beautiful when humble hearts give
The fruit of pure lives
So that others may live.
How beautiful...
How beautiful is the body of Christ...
(by Twila Paris)

It was Jewish custom at the time of Christ for the groom to offer his prospective bride a cup of wine.  If she took and drank from it, she accepted his hand in marriage.  Likewise, Jesus offers us the cup of "the new covenant in His blood" as a marriage proposal to His bride, the Church.  (1 Cor. 11:25)  And as I think of the precious oneness we have in Christ through our worship of Him, I am blown away with the wonder of His presence and what a glorious offer He has given.  The physical body of Jesus was marred so badly that He was beyond recognition as He gave His life . . . and that was not a pretty sight.  (Isa. 53) Yet it is beautiful because with His death He purchased our life.

At six months pregnant I did not feel like my body was very attractive, but knew that the wedding was not about me, but rather the bride and groom.  Yet, to think that God deems us beautiful as His Church amazes me for we are flawed, all our failings laid out in the open before Him, yet full of the fruit of the Spirit, God is honored and deems that beautiful. 

As my sister stood in glorious white before the altar with her groom, and the song mentioned above was played, my heart was caught up in the worship of my Savior.  What a picture of our relationship with Him.  How precious the intimacy and how beautiful is the body of Christ.

Then when our pastor had us turn to the book of Ruth last Sunday I was amazed.  Really?  That book?  Whoa.  I feel I'm being immersed in this little book of the Bible for a reason.  I'm all eyes and ears, for surely God must have something He wants me see if He's giving it to me once again.  But one thing I've seen already is that God desires our worship for this is what we are made for, to draw near to His heart under the shadow of His wings.

A few years ago when I first began my study on the book of Ruth, this was the point at which I found myself literally on my face at the feet of Jesus in worship, when Boaz covers Ruth with the corner of his cloak.   The tears were streaming down my face as I later sat down at the computer, trying to write it all down because I didn't want to miss any part of it.   I finally realized the depth of God's acceptance of me, how close He desires to be, and the complete fullness of the cross of Christ to cover me.  And how well this little book of Ruth fits into the song that was played last Sunday.  How beautiful, is the body of Christ.  How beautiful is His presence over us, in us, and through us.  

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