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Posts Tagged ‘Bride of Christ’

woman walking labyrinth

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear [as in adore] him,     on those whose hope is in his unfailing love . . . [Psalm 33:18]

I’ve written about “unfailing love” several times. This phrase captures so succinctly my heart toward God and my faith in God towards me. It’s a mantra. I am resolute.

It’s always a challenge for me to select source material for each day. People think of me as creative but really I’m more adaptive. Give me a kernel and from that I can often spring forward. Over time, my structured responses have been around the seasons such as Advent and Lent, and once, for three years, I plodded through the New Testament. That was a wonderful time of discovery. But at the closure of these efforts, I flounder. I once tried the same kind of slow journey, section or verse by verse, through the Old Testament, and although there were many fascinating moments and stories, by the time I reached the histories, I missed experiencing the message of grace upon which I thrive.

So, today, after a two day hiatus from posting, I am going to attach myself to a Lectionary. The concept of lectionary comes down through the Judaic principle of “appointed scripture readings” according to a calendar or given days. This practice is referenced in the gospels when Jesus is asked to read the day’s assigned passage in the synagogue [Luke 4] and it was from Isaiah 61, a prophecy of his own coming. Although there are various lectionaries from a variety of denominations, I’m not really concerned about those differences. For now, I’ll reference the Episcopalian one I found online.

Art by Delores Develde

Art by Delores Develde

And so it has happened today, that I find myself back to my Beloved and the unfailing love of God through Christ Jesus. And for this year, I will be His bride, for I need the protection and stability of that love and the confidence that my Lord will collect my tears.

You keep track of all my sorrows.     You have collected all my tears in your bottle.     You have recorded each one in your book. [Psalm 56:8, NIV]

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Once Johnson & Johnson took over the word Pledge, it’s lost some of its power. Despite the fact that children and adults “pledge” allegiance to our flag, sometimes as often as daily, its meaning has been lost. The word is actually in the “vow” family, but that too has lost much of its significance, in an age of quick no-contest divorces. Most folks think of a pledge (perhaps it’s all those non-profits and churches) as a good-natured “I will if I can” kind of thing. But honestly, the definition is much more binding, a legal relationship, a solemn promise. I’m thinking that when we break a pledge, it sets all kinds of sowing/reaping and karma into motion.

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. [Matthew 1:18, NIV]

pledged to marryThe word pledged in this passage is the NIV version of course, most standard translations render mnēsteuō  as “betrothed” and more reader friendly versions translate the Greek word to “engaged.” In our day and age, we treat this relationship equally lightly. Give back the ring, shed many tears, post it on Facebook, remove one’s relationship status, and we’re done.

But in the day of Mary and Joseph, the betrothal was virtually equal to the marriage vow itself. To break a pledge of this type required a formal divorce. And the only way a man could divorce a woman in those times was for the cause of infidelity (a one-sided benefit by the way, since a woman could not divorce a man). Joseph was within his rights to have Mary stoned.

It has been said that the church is the bride of Christ (see Revelation 19-7-9) and upon Christ’s return (whatever that might really mean), a great wedding will take place. So, if the wedding is yet to come, we, who have accepted Christ are actually betrothed or pledged to Christ. Will we take this role lightly then or consider it in its most serious form: a vow, a sacred promise to be faithful?

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Painting by Dorothy J. Ross

Painting by Dorothy J. Ross

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:13-14]

The prize is not death alone. If that was true, then we’d be lining up for the “big shot” (which is what I used to tell my children when our very sick dogs or cats had to be euthanized — probably not the best description). But if death itself was a prize, we would be racing toward it.

No, it’s not any death, it’s a death that is drenched in the Spirit of Christ and when that happens, death is a doorway.

But that’s not the most important part. At least, it can’t be for me. I am already so results oriented, I don’t really want to add another “ending” to which I am “straining” as Paul states. Instead, I want to be present in the process of knowing Christ. This is a way of living that is not dependent on circumstances. It’s a place so secure within that nothing can shake it loose. This place, this Presence, is the source of love and miracles.

It’s not that “last” death but the small dying to self each day so that God, in Spirit, is more. Or, unified, who I am is not lost entirely but married to the One. We are called the bride for a reason. But until then, we are still guests at the wedding, relatives at the ceremony, even witnesses. The prize is in the marriage vows and certificate. The prize is becoming one with the Christ Spirit within.

 

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nose ringThey’re coming back into fashion, nose rings, but not with the same significance they had in ancient Israel. In fact, most circular jewelry spoke of a kind of protection and when Abraham’s servant (never named) gives Rebekah the nose ring and bracelets, she knows this is the beginning of a bridal negotiation.

Genesis 24:21-22
Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka [5.5 grams] and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels [110 grams].

I tried to find some additional information about the significance of the nose ring in that era, but did not have much luck in a cursory search. However, I was surprised to find a bridal engagement ring offered on Ebay. Go figure, what goes around comes around.

In general, jewelry had a different significance in that time. It was easily transportable wealth and much like some contemporary tribes of today, women would wear their wealth both symbolically and intentionally. Jewelry is a sign of success.

But then, that still holds true today except that most of us don’t have the kind of wealth that allows us to wear authentic carat-laden diamonds or other precious stones. Instead, we have created imitations. We want the “look” without the reality.

Am I turning this tendency toward my spiritual life as well? Do I want merely the appearance of relationship with God, with Spirit within? Or do I want the more costly genuine version? Am I willing to make the necessary sacrifices to get it?

Unfortunately, I know my answer is still a wimpy “no.” I’d like to believe I am going in the right direction but I also feel myself holding back. God is offering me solid gold nose rings and I’m balking at how I might look. Plus, if I take the ring, doesn’t that indicate I am accepting the terms?

I am the bride of Christ, as a believer, it’s a unique description. But how often do I really walk that out and wear the complete garment, nose ring and all?

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Lots of different seals crop up in a life, from Easter seals that signify a contribution to a worthy cause to government seals that confirm the truth of a document. Where does this one fit in?

Ephesians 1:13b
Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit . . .

When my husband and I adopted our children, one of the requirements was that every page of our dossier had to have a notary seal, a county seal to confirm the notary seal, and finally a state seal to confirm the notary seal. A bit of redundancy to say the least. (And, somewhat costly I might add. Why the local governments feel it necessary to charge up to $5 for a seal really irks me. Particularly when foreign governments are already gouging prospective adoptive parents.)

But this is a different kind of seal, this Holy Spirit seal. This one speaks to a completion as well as a promise. This seals says I am a believer, a follower of the Christ whose sacrifice I accept as mysteriously having the power to forgive my sins irrespective of time (yesterday, today and forever). The seal also represents the promise of my response to the transaction. I am marked to continue in the faith. I agree to work with the inner Spirit and to allow that Spirit to direct my life.

The Church (that includes me as individual) is referenced as the bride of Christ [Revelation 21:9-10] . This makes perfect sense to me. The seal is a representation of a contract, a marriage, if you will. This marriage is also referred to as “becoming ONE.” [Matthew 19:4-6] In marriages we have both the legal contract (the license or pre-nuptial agreement) and the symbolic seals like the rings, the kiss, the sharing of “bread’ (cake). All of these are visible signs of our promises.

What is the Holy Spirit’s visible sign? How do we recognize the seal . . . in ourselvces or in others?

Some people mistakenly think it’s the wearing of religious icons or jewelry. Some think it’s the show-up rate at a church while others think it’s that 10% tithe.

Personally, I think the mark is within. It’s engraved on the heart and is revealede through the eyes. The more transparent and authentic we are, the more visible the mark of the seal.

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