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Revelation’s Fourth Beautiful Beatitude
Revelation 19:9


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost—August 22, 2010

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

We continue our sermon series on “Revelation’s Seven Beautiful Beatitudes” as listed on the back of the bulletin.  This morning we consider “Revelation’s Fourth Beautiful Beatitude” from today’s Epistle Reading, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”

One of the most popular television programs right now is “Say Yes to the Dress.” This show on The Learning Channel follows the drama of brides selecting their wedding dresses at an exclusive New York boutique. 

What hardly anyone realizes today is that the traditional white wedding dress actually has a Biblical origin, and a strongly symbolic Biblical imagery.  Later in the book of Revelation, John has a vision of the Bride of Christ:  “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” 

Paul explains this imagery in Ephesians: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

That’s what it takes to get into heaven: “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”  By ourselves, none of us is worthy to be the Bride of Christ.  “For all have sinned,” Paul says in Romans, “and fall short of the glory of God.” 

We come into this world with the ugly stain of original sin, as David says in Psalm 51, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”  Then, throughout our lives, we add to the stain of original sin with the actual sins that we commit, as Jesus said, “A bad tree bears bad fruit. . .  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

Imagine if the saleslady on “Say Yes to the Dress” brought to the bride an old, dirty, tattered dress, stained and soiled.  It would be rejected immediately, and thrown out.  That is what we all deserve because of our sins, as Jesus said in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet: “When the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. . . Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

But, the Good News is, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”  The traditional white wedding dress first of all symbolizes the cleansing from sin that we receive from Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism: “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”

In Baptism, your old, dirty, tattered soul, stained and soiled by original sin and actual sins, was washed and made white and worthy for the heavenly wedding by Christ the Bridegroom himself.  As Paul says 1st Corinthians, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”  Every groom considers his bride the most beautiful woman in the world.  The traditional white wedding dress also symbolizes how the heavenly Bridegroom sees you.  In his sight you are, “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”  As Paul says in Colossians, “Once you were alienated from God . . .  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death, to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”

In olden days there was a beautiful continuity of this symbolism throughout a Christian’s life.  The righteousness of Christ covering over sins was symbolized by a white gown worn at Baptism; a white robe worn at Confirmation; for a female, a white dress worn at her wedding; and in death a white funeral pall traditionally covered the casket.  All of those white garments, from birth to death, throughout the Christian’s life, were all symbolic of the spiritual garment bestowed by Christ, the robe of his own righteousness.  As Revelation says of the blessed in heaven, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

It is traditional for the bride’s family to buy her wedding dress.  But, for the heavenly wedding, Christ the Bridegroom himself has purchased the dress for his Bride, the Church.  As Revelation also says, “The wedding of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.  Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

On “Say Yes to the Dress” the prices they pay for their wedding dresses are extremely high.  That great expense paid for many wedding dresses is also symbolic, of the ultimate price paid by Christ the Bridegroom for you.  As Martin Luther says in the Small Catechism,  “[He] has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.”

After a wedding it is customary for the wedding dress to be packed up and put away, carefully preserved like a museum piece.  That is an important difference with the spiritual wedding dress of Christ’s own righteousness and holiness that he has given you.  Your rebirth, your new self, your faith in Christ and the righteousness he bestows, are not to be packed away, but worn every day and displayed throughout your life, like wearing your wedding dress every day of your marriage.  As Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

The old, traditional wedding ceremony says, “Marriage is a picture of the very communion betwixt Christ and his Bride, the Church.”  The next time you see a bride walking down the aisle in her beautiful white dress, perfectly pressed and radiant, remember that is how God spiritually sees the Bride of Christ, his Church.  That is how God spiritually sees you, his beloved, washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, radiant with the righteousness of Christ, “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” Here today in Holy Communion the Lamb invites you to a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come, to strengthen you in the true faith unto life everlasting.

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”  Why does the Lord depict the joys of heaven like a wedding?  Probably because for many people there is no single occasion more joyous and happy in our lives than our wedding day.  Depicting the joys of heaven like a wedding is God’s way of saying: that’s the kind of happiness you will have with me, not just for a day, but for eternity.

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”  Are you invited?  Will you be let in to the eternal wedding feast?  Of course you will be.  For the Lamb of God is your beloved bridegroom, who takes away all your sins.  He has made you worthy for heaven by clothing you in his own pure, perfect righteousness.  He has made you a part of his Church, which is the Bride of Christ.  And how can a Bride not be invited to her own wedding?

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”

Amen.

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