21 May 2014

Marriage and Perichoresis

Recently, I was blessed to share a gospel message at the wedding of two beloved friends, Jerry and Michelle Woods. I talked about marriage, the centrality of Christ, and perichoresis.  If you are saying "peri-what?", read what I shared.

Jerry and Michelle asked me if I would be willing to share a few words with you today.  I am so thankful to be given this privilege.  I have known these two for some time and I deeply love them both. 

The best thing I know about Jerry and Michelle is their deep love for God and their desire to serve and know him more. If you have spent any time around them, you have hopefully seen this love as well.  In fact, today is not primarily about Jerry and its not primarily about Michelle, it is about bringing God glory through this relationship. I suspect those words may be shocking to some of you, but I know these two will agree. I hope you could hear the centrality of God in the “opening” hymn we just sang together.  Christ is their center, their vision.

 Today, Jerry and Michelle desire to give themselves to one another for life in this marriage. And they desire to express their love for God and one another through this act of worship. But, they also hope that you all will get a glimpse of this beautiful God who is their center and to whom they have both dedicated themselves. 

They asked me to talk about how God reveals himself to us through the marriage between a man and a woman. I pray that wherever you might be spiritually that here today you may understand the God of the Bible better and be drawn to Him through the picture of the marriage relationship.

Ephesians 5, the passage that Daniel just read, helps us to see why marriages reflect God and his love for the church. This chapter is about human marriage but it is also about the marriage between Christ and his church.

But before we get into it, we need to understand that our God is relational. The Father, Son, and Spirit have always existed in perfect relationship with one another. Their relationship has always shown perfect love, peace, mutual submission, intimacy, cherishing, and commitment. For the benefit of my friend Jerry, because he and I have talked about theology many times, I am going to use the word perichoresis. The Trinity is a perichoretic relationship.  Perichoresis refers to the divine dance between the Father, Son, and Spirit, the way in which they are part of one another, interpenetrate one another, and move together perfectly as three in one. This is a mystery, but it starts us on the way of understanding how our God is eternally and perfectly relational.   

Yet, God also desires relationship with you; He wants to dance with each of us too and he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to make a way for us to join in the dance. In our natural state, we all stand outside the party and there is nothing we can do to enter the dance on our own.  We are wallflowers, but God is inviting us to dance, Jesus is offering us his hand.

We just heard the reading of Ephesians 5, which paints for us a beautiful picture of Jesus’s love for his church, which the Bible calls His bride. Jesus love for His bride is perfect. He poured himself out completely, he came to earth as a man, and died a brutal death because of his love for his bride.

Christ cherishes his bride, the church. He loves her so much that he did exactly what was required to draw her back into relationship. 

He purifies his bride. It says that he cleanses her so that he might present her in splendor.  One interpretation says it this way, “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives.”

Christ sacrifices, and he cherishes, and he purifies and he loves all out.  Finally, we learn this, “’Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Christ holds fast to his bride.  In other words, he will never, never, never, never leave her.  Christ will never leave his church. God says, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  Never.

In turn, the bride submits to the husband. In other words, she is devoted to him.  She shines a light on his character and goodness. She treats him with respect. She loves him and is joined to him.  You see, those who make up the church submit to Christ, they are devoted to him. I once had a conversation with a young woman who was about to be married and she was excitedly telling me about how their marriage would be 50/50.  I responded by saying, “You give 100 percent and don’t worry about how much he gives.” Christ, who is our model for marriage, gave 100 percent.

Hear the gospel message: every one here is invited to the wedding feast. Jesus, the perfect bridegroom says to each of us, “I’ve made all of the arrangements, I’ve done everything necessary, I’ve paid the price in full. I've removed the veil. Come and let’s dance”.

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