A circle of friends on pilgrimage for the love of God

The Wedding of Heaven and Earth

Rev. Doug Floyd

Pentecost +20
Rev. Doug Floyd
Matthew 22:1-14, Philippians 4:4-13

I received a wedding invitation from a former student this week. Whether conducting a wedding or attending a wedding, I am easily moved to tears. Years ago, when I conducted my brother’s wedding, I was tearing up, which cause him to tear up. Then he couldn’t look at his wife to be for fear he would break down in tears. Weddings represent such intense joy that we experience tears and laughter together.

Our texts today point to the greatest joy of all: the marriage supper of the lamb. The great wedding feast between Jesus and humanity, between heaven and earth. It is the cosmic event that transforms all creation. The Welsh poets understood the great significance of this wedding feast revealed in the Eucharist. All creation is transformed in the light of this sharing in the body and blood of Christ.

For Bobi Jones, an ordinary tea time with his wife and child become hints of the glorious union of Christ and the church. In “Having Our Tea,” he writes,

Stupid, they say, to think of the thing as an ordinance,
And yet all the elements are found to change in our hands.
Because we sit and share them with each other
There’s miracle. There’s a binding of unmerited graces
By the cheese, and through the apples and the milk
A new creation of life is established, a true presence.
And talking to each other, breaking words over food

Saunders Lewis saw all creation as reflecting the union of Christ and the church. In “The Pine”, he writes of the moon,

Behold now the hour of her ascension.

Immediately you shine before her with the lance of your leap

From root to tip under her journey

Shooting to the heart of darkness like the Easter Candle under its flame:

Hush, the night stands about you in the cool chancel

And the bread of heaven crosses the earth with its blessing.

Even as the moon appears to rise above the earth, he sees an image of the host raised up in communion, offered as God’s blessing upon us.

Gwenallt writes of the transforming power of the Eucharist. In his poem, “There was disease”, he begins with a world corrupted by sin and death.

There was disease in the air and things had an unhealthy look to them,
All nature’s colours were edged with an inky stain,
A shepherd on the hillside gathered his sheep and counted,
Counted the sheep stupid with sins, rotten and worm eaten.
It was quiet in the church, and in the quietness fear,
Fear of the altar and the cross, and the east end with its glass
And the chancel so far and strange, the roof over its head so high,
And we down on the ground kneeling like dark and dirty clods.

Nothing is free from the effects of sin: not the air, not the sheep, not the church, and not even the kneeling congregants. Then in the moment lifting the bread as Christ’s body for the world, everything is changed. Gwenallt continues,

Bethlehem came down from heaven into the middle of the communion service,
With its angels and shepherds and its mute unsatisfied animals,
And Mary tidily folding up God’s immortality in his nappy,
And rocking eternity to sleep in his cradle.
He did not fling out our bit of flesh like a rag onto the rubbish dump of Gehenna,
Or throw out our blood like a bottle of used up medicine,
But he raised them from the grip of the worm’s unparalleled three days
As a translucent spiritual body, the perfection of man and God.
There was the sound of trickling water in the chancel, as in the square of an Italian city,
A little stream along the bed of custom and devotion from the wells of heaven
And a ray of sunlight playing around the cross and obliterating the light of the candles,
A spark from the bonfire of his divine humanity.
And outside the mortal darkness of the yew tree in Llanbadarn (lan-bad-arn)
Became a green spring bursting all over into song,
And the sea galloped in to embrace Rheidol (ree-doll) and Ystwyth, (est-with)
And its crests were aflame and all its waves were on fire.

Everything, everywhere is glorified. This is the glory of the wedding feast. All weddings remind us of the great wedding between Christ and Humanity, between Heaven and Earth. This is the glorification of all things in Christ. In our deepest longings, we long for the full revelation of this love affair between God and man. There is no higher joy.

Even when we don’t realize it, our longing is shaped by a deep longing that reverberates all through creation for the Christ and His Bride to be fully revealed. Alexander Schmemann speaks of all creation being transformed in light of the eucharist. Our world becomes sacramental in that the glory of God shines through everything. We become a priestly people offering every action in the world back to God in worship.

All our human loves grow out from the divine love between Christ and humanity in the church. Christ raises us up as lovers who reflect that perfect love in our relations within the church and with the world. Thus, the wedding feast is central to the Christian life. It begins with body and blood of Christ offered for us, but it extends to every aspect of life as we come to see every aspect of existence has been touched by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

It is unimaginable that one could reject this glorious love of God revealed in Christ. It is inconceivable that anyone could treat God’s love as unimportant. Yet that is what we see in today’s parable. Last week, I suggested that Christ was calling the Pharisees to conversion. This week we face the harsh reality that some refused to see or rejoice in the great love of God being revealed in their midst. In the parable today, they kill the servants who invited them to the wedding.

They treat the holy gift of God as something to be trampled underfoot. The swift judgment of God sweeps them away. The hearers of today’s parable are in danger for they have treated that which is holy as unholy. They not only rejected the love of God in Christ, they sought to destroy this love.

In addition to this rejection of God’s love, we have the story of the man who shows up at the wedding without the proper attire. He also makes a mockery of divine love by acting as though his own robes of righteousness were suited for the presence of the king. We come before God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Isaiah says that our own righteousness is as filthy rags.

We come before God empty handed and unclean, trusting Jesus to clothe and present us before the Father as blameless. His Spirit clothes us and leads us to the wedding feast.

So how do we respond to this parable today? First, we grieve for those who would reject the gift of God. We cry out for mercy and grace to open their hearts and eyes. We ask that our own hearts would always be humble and pliable to the work of the Holy Spirit. We were made for this great Eucharist, that is this Great Thanksgiving. We were made to know the love of God in all things and to rejoice in this love.

In Philippians, we see how this divine life and divine joy sustains us in His love even as we face all kinds of trials and difficulties. Even as the people face persecution, Paul prays in Philippians 1:9-11 that their love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that they may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.[1]

They follow in the way of Christ by humbling themselves before one another and offering themselves to serve and love one another. They are a people who like Paul, press on toward the goal for the upward prize of God in Christ Jesus. Even as they trust that God is transforming them from glory to glory, they become a people of joy.

We have known the wedding feast in the great Eucharist and this great and holy joy overshadows every aspect of life. Though our world moves from war to war, we move from prayer to prayer. All our anxieties, all our fears, all our struggles, we offer back to God in prayer. As Paul reminds us, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [2]

Even as we have been grasped by God, we take hold of His loving kindness. As Paul writes, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” [3]

This is what it looks like to be the bridal people, living as emblems of His love and joy in this world.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Php 1:9–11.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Php 4:5–7.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Php 4:8–9.


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