Scroll down to the bottom for a small group study based on this post.
Our Mission is Marriage
Marriage occupies an important place in biblical theology:
Marriage from its origins was meant to model the relationship between Christ and the Church. In Genesis 1:26 we read how it is man and woman together who image God. Marriage is a good gift from God to man and woman. Even when that image is marred by sin in Genesis 3, God promises redemption through the seed of the woman. And despite man and woman being cursed and banished from the garden, notice that God lets man and woman keep the gift of marriage in their banishment.
Have you ever wondered why?
Heading for a Wedding
We find our answer at the other end of our Bible in the book of Revelation which is Apostle John’s vision representing the church in its fullness. As the book closes in chapters 21-22, it crescendos into a glorious vision of the redemption God promised in Genesis 3.
The book has rich imagery, and in Revelation 21:9 the angel promises to show John “the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” In other words, when God finally gathers his church—the redeemed ones—it will be for marriage.
Commenting of this Paul Barnett writes:
“Here is an astonishing teaching. The New Heaven and New Earth is the New Jerusalem, which is the Bride of Christ, both of which depict the gathered community of the redeemed ones. The new creation is the church, the church of the end time.”
For this, reason God allowed marriage to continue after the fall: the church is the bride of Christ, and preparing for our marriage is our mission. Notice how Paul’s instructions on marriage (Ephesians 5:22-6:9; Colossians 3:18-4:1) fall within a wider basis of instructions for the whole church. This also explains why human marriage is highly regarded within the church—it points beyond itself. One of the ways we can live this mission out is to live as a church as we are called to live in marriage: in sacrificial love and service toward God, the church, and the world.
Individualism, Our Great Foe
A significant threat to healthy marriage today as God intended is the individualism so prominent in our culture. By definition, marriage is bringing together two different people, distinct by gender, personality, experiences, sometimes even culture. A worldview of self-centeredness is obviously going to cause problems, born out in the tragic fact that nearly half of all Western marriages end in divorce. Christian statistics are not much better.
In contrast to the culture in which we live, the Bible shows that the individual is important but not central. Remember that in God’s design for marriage, man and woman together are described as God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:27). It is from them that the earth is to be filled, and through them that God’s rule will be mediated. Self-focused individualism, therefore, is fundamentally at odds with God’s design for the church.
Jesus, the Perfect Groom
Where Adam the first groom and head of humanity failed to be selfless, Christ the new Adam and head of a new humanity succeeded. Ephesians 5:25 tells us that ―Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Further, in Colossians 1:15, Paul writes of Jesus is the image of the invisible God—language which echoes Genesis 1:26-28. He then proceeds to describe Jesus as the head of the body, the church. In Christ, we are the community that God intended to image forth his glory.
UCC, One More Year Closer to the Big Day
Having had the privilege of officiating many weddings as a pastor, one thing I know for sure is that nobody leaves their wedding preparation to chance. As I reflect on this past year at UCC, I am challenged by the question:
Have we become more ready, expectant, hungry for the great wedding feast that Christ has prepared for his Church (Revelation 19:6-9)?
After all, the big day is one year closer and could be closer than any of us think (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Here are some question we should ask ourselves:
- Has the preaching consistently drawn our attention away from ourselves to Christ, the perfect Groom?
- Has our singing drawn us to “rejoice and exult and give him the glory” as the multitude at the wedding feast?
- Has our community challenged us to die to self and sacrificially love Christ’s precious Bride?
- Have our pastors and elders humbly shepherded us toward greater holiness as we prepare to be clothed in “fine linen, bright and pure”?
- Have our team leaders modeled the servant attitude of those preparing for the banquet?
- Do our ministries reflect our corporate reality of a Bride eagerly expecting her Groom?
Only God knows for sure. But it seems our church is indeed more expectant of the coming wedding feast, and this year has been particularly sweet. Here are some healthy signs:
- We have called and installed more servant-hearted elders.
- We have revamped and implemented membership in UCC Helsinki.
- We have financial stability and increased in regular giving.
- We have been caring for one another and standing with one another in suffering.
- We have been sacrificial serving on Sundays and throughout the week.
- We have consistently come to the Lord in prayer.
The mission is marriage, and our ministry year has sought to better prepare us for the coming wedding banquet. We are grateful for the labor and sacrifice all of you at UCC have contributed to these preparations.
For now, we press on, growing in anticipation and hungering for the consummation and fulfillment of all of God's promises.
Small group Study
As we recently had our annual general meeting (AGM) and we close in on the summer season, we are using this week's study to reflect on the past year of ministry and the life of the church. We encourage your group to read through the blog post and reflect on some of the questions above before coming together as a small group.
- Start by reading Revelation 19:6-9. If your group has read the above blog post, begin by discussing your thoughts on the idea of the church's "mission as marriage."
- Consider the different aspects of preparing for an "earthly" wedding and what this could tell us about how we should wait for Jesus' return.
- Discuss the ways in which your small group has grown together spiritually over the past season. What are some ways you could encourage each other and spur each other on?
- Has your Sunday service attendance and involvement in church life been a priority, or could you grow in your sacrificial love for Christ's Bride? Reflect on how you have stewarded your time, finances, and other resources.
- Discuss your personal devotions and Bible reading. Have you been consistent with them? Have you found them a joy and source of spiritual nourishment, or a duty to be checked of the list?
- Spend time in prayer for these various areas as you reflect on the last year. Pray for the church as a whole, the leaders, your small group, and your own soul as you look to the coming year and the coming wedding feast!