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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Life As Rehearsal For A Royal Wedding

Rebekah at the well, painting by Nicholas Poussin
At first glance, last Sunday's lectionary readings seemed like a hodgepodge of texts lacking a common theme. But at our house church we reflected on the following: 1) human beings from the beginning are hardwired by their Creator for relationships; 2) while the most primal and most intimate of these is marriage, the Bible has something far greater in mind than just the creation of biological families; and 3) the Biblical drama ends with people of every nation and tribe and language celebrating a royal wedding that knows no end.

Surprisingly for the patriarchal times in which they were written, the second chapter of the Song of Songs, along with Sunday's Psalm 45 "royal wedding" text, portray conjugal unions as celebrations of love that are mutual, joyful and intimate. This makes marriage a wonderful metaphor for the kind of honeymoon-like and deeply satisfying bonds we form in our experiences of worship, as a people who are completely won over as God's beloved and forever Bride.

The Genesis 24 account of Abraham's servant, who is led to just the right young woman as wife for his son Isaac, has its parallel in the story found in the fourth chapter of John's gospel. In that passage Jesus is both the seeking servant and the royal Messiah. At Jacob's well, he wins over a receptive Samaritan crowd brought to him by an unlikely woman from the town who comes there to draw water. At this ordinary time and place we sense a rumor of a God-blessed wedding, one bringing together God and God's people, a united new God-family that will include even unorthodox Samaritans. And just as Rebekah leaves all to cast her lot with Isaac, who loved her deeply from the moment he met her, so Jesus's disciples everywhere are loved into leaving all behind and casting their lot with him.

It's like a wedding. You "leave" one family and you "cleave" in the formation of a new one. And in Sunday's Matthew 11 text, Jesus is making what sounds like this kind of proposal to would-be disciples, "Come to me, all who are weary and weighed down, and I will give you rest," or as Clarence Jordan translates it, "I will give you zest.'' "Take my yoke on you (that is, companion with me) and learn from me, for I am gentle and gracious of heart, and you will find rest in your inner being." In other words, you will find a place of home.

So whether in our human relationships or in the intimacies of the spirit, we find ourselves enthralled, blessed, joined together in relationships that offer deep joy and great purpose. Life becomes a kind of wedding rehearsal, in which the divinely betrothed learn to live lives of integrity, fidelity and deep passion.
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