Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A Strait and Narrow Walk Down The Aisle

God "The Groom"

There was a time not to long ago when a lot of the songs being sung in churches on Sunday morning sounded like they should be sung by Barry White in a dim lit room. You know the songs I’m talking about. “I find I’m moving to the rhythm of your Grace, Your fragrance is intoxicating...”. I’ll be honest it kind of creeped me out. Can anyone really be that “in love” with God? Many of us have heard the sermons. The ones stressing the importance of having an “intimate relationship” with God. My brain working the way it does tried to find a formula for this intimacy. If I get on my knees, in a closet, with candles flickering and soft music playing, and I just close my eyes and wait for ”my lover” to come.That’s a great formula if your a disillusioned stalker, but it didn’t feel very spiritual.

As a song writer I can understand the poetic leaps one might take to write such sentiments. We the church are the “bride of Christ” and if you read about the bride in song of Solomon it gets pretty “intimate” and next thing you know congregations are singing “sexy Jesus” songs. But how do we as a people actually get there? Do we need to get there?

First of all let’s establish that the Church/Bride thing is in fact Scriptural. Ephesians, Matthew, and Revelation all cover the subject. The most pragmatic being in Ephesians.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Here’s the interesting part. If you read through this passage it’s mainly descriptive of how we are to receive love from the groom as opposed to prescriptive measures on how give to love the groom. Sounds like we’re getting the better end of the bargain. Marrying up as they say.

Sometimes I wonder if this concept ties into the whole “predestination vs. free will debate” A groom chooses his Bride, he courts her, pursues her, and then asks for her hand. So she’s been “chosen”. But the bride, in many cultures at least, can refuse the proposal. So she’s chosen, but she has a choice. So how then, other than “respecting” the Husband do we return this love? John quotes Jesus saying, “if you love me, keep my commandments.” . And if you remember Jesus, when asked what the greatest commandment was, answered something to the effect of Love God, Love your neighbor. I’m going to do a little pop-corning here, but it kind of seems like Jesus is saying, “If you love me you will love God and Love others.”

Maybe getting intimate with God looks less like a romantic evening alone and more like taking an hour to listen to the stories of others. Showing them patience and compassion. Unpacking the goodness that’s in their unique deposit of God’s Image. I will say this. The presence of God is a real thing. The people who really “get” it, are the one’s who are not afraid of alone time with the groom. I am in no way discounting the importance and necessity of a “1 on 1” relationship with God. I am simply suggesting that the other side of the coin is being in community with other believers and having compassion on the poor, and poor in spirit.

Jesus was pushed on the technicality of the word “neighbor” in Luke 10
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus then tells the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, and ends it by asking a rhetorical question. “Who do you think your neighbor is?” I believe the answer is whoever God puts in your path that needs help. The sick and the dying are everywhere. There is hurt and pain all around. This can make compassion seem overwhelming. But Let me encourage you to 1. Know that you are on a path and 2. Not be afraid to see the need on that path. It is strait and it’s narrow and it’s paved with a love that comes from the Father and returns to the Groom.

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