Ephesians 5. True Love: the Body & Bride of Christ

Who likes love stories?
What’s the most famous story of true love?
In the West, maybe Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet.
In China there are stories like the Butterfly Lovers and Madame White Snake[1]


The Romance of God and Israel

Today we’re going to hear the greatest love story in the world.
It’s a romance that runs right through the Bible. [2]

The guy is God.
In the first part of the Bible,
The girl is the people of Israel. [3]
Their relationship was up and down.
Sometimes they were close like a couple on honeymoon.
God said to Israel,

I remember how faithful you were to me when you were young.
You loved me as if you were my bride.  Jeremiah 2:2

It seemed like true love,
But then Israel rejected God and followed false gods.
The Bible says God was
Angry and heartbroken.[4]
But God is faithful, when we’re faithless.
His love never fails.

So God talked about a time
When he would bring his people back, [5]
And restore their marriage forever.

As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:5

For centuries, God still seemed far away.
Israel kept waiting for this promise
Until the time of Jesus.

Two weeks ago Mike had a grapevine
To show Jesus’ first miracle in the gospel of John.
At a wedding feast in Cana,[6]
Jesus turned water into wine. (John 2)
He shared in the joy of marriage.

In the next chapter,
John the Baptist calls Jesus the bridegroom.  (John 3:29)

As we’ve seen in John,
Jesus is God in human flesh (John 1:14).
So if Jesus is the Bridegroom, [7]
That means God has come to win back his bride!
God’s promise is coming true!
His love story continues!


The Body and the Trinity

Today we’ll pick up the story
In the letter of Paul to the Ephesians. [8] [9]
Now the guy is Jesus.
The girl is the church.
Paul calls her the “Body of Christ”. [10]
Here’s how Paul explains it:

Each of us has one body with many parts. And the parts do not all have the same purpose.  So also we are many persons, but in Christ we are one body. And each part of the body belongs to all the other parts.           Romans 12:4-5

I have hands and feet, eyes and ears,
A heart pumping blood and a stomach digesting breakfast.
Different parts, different purposes, but I need them all
They’re all part of my body. (1 Corinthians 12)

Paul says this is like the church.[11]
There are pastors like Mike and musicians like Eva.
Some cook food in the kitchen, some do PowerPoint, some love to pray.
Different people, different personalities, different gifts,
But all part of the church.
United by God’s love in one Body. [12]

Now, Christians believe God is Trinity:
God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit.
Three persons so perfectly united in love they are one.

Does that sound a bit like the Body of Christ?
Three persons in one.  Many people as one.
Look around you.
When we work together as one community in love, [13]
Global is a reflection of God’s perfect communion of love!
We are a living picture of the Trinity. [14]
Isn’t that amazing! [15]

Now back to the romance of Christ and his Church.
It’s in Paul’s teaching about marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33). [16]


Marriage: Submission and Sacrament

21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Saviour of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.

Is anyone offended?
“Wives submit to your husbands in everything”? [17]
Does Paul mean be a doormat?  Be a slave?

Firstly, over all these commands is verse 21: “submit to one another”. [18]
That goes for everyone – including husbands to wives!

Serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:13)  [19]

Honour each other above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

“Each other”, “one another”.
These words come over and over in Paul.
That’s what it means to live in the body of Christ. [20]
Living for each other.
It’s like a sort of graceful giving dance.

Secondly, in Paul’s time,
Women were mostly lower in society.
Many leading men said husbands should rule over their wives. [21]
A few told husbands to love their wives.
No-one I know was as radical as this:

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.30 And we are members of his body.

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Paul says the closest human relationship,
The union between husband and wife,
Is an illustration, a sign, of an even closer relationship: [22]
The union of Jesus and his Church. [23]

Paul says it’s a great mystery.[24]
Let’s push the mystery further.
In marriage two people are joined as one.
Does that remind you of three Persons who are One? [25]

Paul just quoted Genesis, and it gives a hint:

God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us…
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”            Genesis 1:26-27

Could man and woman together be an image or picture of God?
Pope Francis said to couples:

The real ‘wedding gift’ is this: Your marriage is a reflection of the Holy Trinity, and with the grace of Christ, you are a living icon of God and His love.

How many couples are here?
Your relationship should give us a glimpse
Of the love between God the Father and Son and Spirit! [26]
Your marriage is a mirror of the Trinity!
Is that cool?  Scary?
Have you ever thought of that?


Marriage and Martyrdom

So marriage has two deeper meanings.
It gives a glimpse of the Trinity.
It shows Jesus’ love for the church.
Let’s look at how Paul describes Christ’s marriage,
And see the signs of true love.[27]

If you’re not married, don’t stop listening!
This is not just for couples.
The same concepts apply to all our relationships.

Firstly, true love is self-giving and self-sacrificial. [28]

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave up his life for her (5:25)  [29]

We must be ready to say,
As Jesus did when he went to the cross,
“Because I love you, let’s do what you want, not what I want.” (Luke 22:42)

Love is not self-seeking.  It does not demand its own way. (1 Corinthians 13:5)

When’s the last time you loved someone like that?

At Orthodox weddings in Russia and Greece
The couple wear crowns of gold or silver, leaves or flowers.
These are a sign of joy and royalty:
They are king and queen!
The crowns are also a sign of martyrdom:
Dying for something bigger than yourself.
For the marriage to work,
For their unity to grow,
Both partners often need to give things up,
And sacrifice their own desires. [30]

If the body of Christ is going to grow,
We all may have to do the same.


Love’s Beauty Treatment

Secondly, true love makes the loved one beautiful.

Did you ever fall in love and think:
“He’s the perfect guy, gorgeous, without a fault!”
“She’s the most beautiful girl in the world!”
“He, or she, is divine!”
Love is blind:
Of course they’re just human, like everyone else. [31]

But in a way, that vision of love is true.
You are seeing that girl as Christ sees his bride:
“Glorious, without a spot or wrinkle or any blemish, holy and without fault.” (3:27) [32]

Look around you.
What do you see?
Lots of spots and wrinkles. [33]
If we’re honest, our lives are often a mess.
But Jesus sees the church as we will be, when his beauty treatment is complete,
On our wedding day.

When you’re in love you catch a glimpse of that glory – in one person.[34]
The challenge is to see it in everyone.

That’s hard because we’re not there yet.
Jesus is still preparing his bride. [35]
He began the beauty treatment by dying on the cross [36]
To wash off the dirt in our lives:

The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.  1 John 1:7  [37]

He continues the treatment through his Spirit inside us.
And through the school of relationships.

Pastor Mike told me marriage is like a mirror.
It shows me the spots and wrinkles inside me, [38]
The ugly things that God wants to wash away,
So I can shine for him. [39]

If you’re married or dating, is this happening?
Are you helping your girl become beautiful inside? [40]
That includes protecting her purity – hands off before marriage.
Are you helping your guy grow more godly?
Teaching him to love Jesus more?
If you don’t have a partner, do you have friends
To hold up the mirror to your character,
And help you grow more like Christ?

Sometimes that will hurt.
God’s beauty treatment is hard,
And it lasts for life.

But it will be worth it!
When our stains and wrinkles have been washed and ironed away,
We’ll be a bride in shining white clothes. [41]
On our wedding day, Christ will say: [42]

You are altogether beautiful, my love;
there is no flaw in you.       Song of Songs 4:7


Marriage in the Body of Christ

Thirdly, true love provides and protects.

Husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies… No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it.  (5:28-29)

Of course, Paul means healthy people,
Not those who struggle with body image.
Here’s a new spin on “love your neighbour as yourself”.
“Love your neighbour as your body!”
I should be as sensitive to other’s needs
As I am to my own body.
Giving it the food it needs to grow.
Protecting it from pain.
In marriage and in the Body of Christ.
As Paul wrote,

All the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honoured, all the parts are glad. 1 Corinthians 12:25-6

True love shares pain and joy.
Because true love joins us as one.
We’ve seen this on three levels.

  1. Marriage: the union of a man and a woman.
  2. The Body of Christ: the community of the church.
  3. The Trinity: the perfect communion of God the Father, Son and Spirit

As we’ve seen, the first two, here on earth, should reflect the third.
Trinity is a communion of love and life;
It pours out, giving life to others.
You could call the Trinity a sort of dance,
Inviting us all to join in.[43]

The church should be like that.
Not just happy songs on Sunday.
Christ’s life and love should flow out to bless the world around. [44]

Some couples are so focused on each other
They forget everyone else.
That’s not true love.
A Christian couple should serve others
More effectively together than the two would on their own. [45]
We can see that in Mike and Lin, or Gordon and Barbara:
All of us are blessed by the way they give and share their lives.
Flowing out of their love for each other and their love of Jesus.

Marriage is tough, or so I’m told.
Couples shouldn’t face it alone.
A Christian marriage should be
Surrounded and supported and strengthened
By the love of the Body of Christ. [46]

But even more than that.
A Christian marriage isn’t only two people, but three.
The love of man and wife
Must be rooted in love of God.

There’s a Catholic town in Europe
Where they say there’s no divorce. [47]
At every wedding the couple brings a cross.
When they take their vows, they together hold the cross.
When the priest says “kiss the bride”, both first kiss the cross.
And in their home they place that cross
At the center of their new life.
What a godly custom!
That’s the secret to a marriage that lasts.
First giving our hearts to Christ.

A word for those who are single like me.
Yes, in a way you and I are missing out.
We don’t know the love of marriage.
When I see parents with their kids, sometimes I feel sad.

But the Body of Christ is our family.
We’re still part of a community that reflects the Trinity’s love.

And because I’m single, I have freedom.
I spend 2/3 of my year in India and Indonesia.
I see the body of Christ in different countries – and that’s a very rich thing.
I have friends with families who say they envy me!

And here’s my biggest message for singles.
Remember that human marriage, good as it is,
Points to a deeper relationship:
The union of Christ with his church.
The love and joy of the best human marriage
Can’t compare to the joy we will have
On the day we are married to him.
We won’t miss out on that!
And we can enjoy a glimpse of that joy now.


United Forever

True love is self-giving and self-sacrificial.
True love makes the loved one beautiful.
True love provides and protects.

Finally, true love is eternally faithful.

In a wedding we give rings. [48]
The unbroken circle is a sign of unbreakable union for life. [49]
From the day he married and Mum put it on his finger,
My Dad never took off his wedding ring.
He wore it until the day he was buried.
I’m proud of that heritage of faithfulness.
It reflects God’s faithful love for us.

The whole Bible tells the story of God’s true love.
In the beginning, God made us and loved us.
Then he had a long romance with Israel.
It was up and down.
So God entered his world in Jesus
To embrace his people more closely.
He brought us together in one Body, the Church, his Bride.
He wore a wedding crown of thorns
And gave up his life to wash us clean.
He’s now working to make us beautiful.

One day God will lift the veil from our eyes,
The way a bridegroom unveils his new wife,
And we’ll see him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).

This is the greatest love story in the world!
It will last forever. [50]
Because his love is stronger than death.  (Song of Songs 8:6)

When we’ve been wed ten thousand years,
Pure Bride and shining Son.
We’ve no less days to sing His praise
Because our hearts are one.

I pray that you may have power,
together with all God’s people,
to understand Christ’s love.
May you know
how wide,
how long,
how high,
how deep
it is.
May you experience
the love of Christ,
although it’s too big
for our understanding.
Ephesians 3:18-19


Questions

How would you define “true love”?
True love is self-giving and self-sacrificial
– how often do you love like this?
True love makes the loved one beautiful
– do your closest friendships do this?
What’s one big challenge in your marriage or singleness?
How can marriage and church show us the Trinity?
What’s your biggest experience of God’s love?

Featured image by pasja1000 on Pixabay


[1] In most love stories, something comes between the lovers: Their families, another guy, black magic.  Maybe one travels overseas to study English in NZ!
There are two types of ending.

  1. The couple overcome this problem and are married happily ever after.
  2. Lovers like Romeo and Juliet are united forever in death.

Which do you like better?  Which one is true love?  Today’s love story combines both!
[2] In Marriage: Human Reality and Saving Mystery (1965) Edward Schillebeeckx describes salvation history as a marriage drama.
[3] The relationship started around 1500 BC when the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt.  God rescued them like a knight in shining armour.  He was their hero and Israel fell in love with him.  Rabbis described the Sinai covenant as a marriage covenant, with Moses as mediator. (like Paul in 2 Cor 11:2)
[4] The whole book of Hosea shows this, as well as other prophets:
I am your husband…. For a brief moment I left you.  But because I love you so much, I will bring you back. For a moment I turned my face away from you.  I was very angry with you, but I will show you my loving concern.  My faithful love will continue forever.           (Isaiah 54:5-8)
[5]I will win her back once again.  I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there… I will make you my wife forever.  (Hosea 2:14-20)
[6] Some believe John structures the days of Jesus’ first and last weeks so the wedding at Cana parallels the crucifixion (both on the last day of the week), making Calvary the marriage of Christ to his Bride.  Extending Paul’s Adam Christology, some early church fathers described the church as the second Eve, born from Christ’s side when he died and was pierced on the cross, as the first Eve was formed from a rib taken from Adam’s side while he was in a deep “death-like” sleep.  Augustine said “Christ died so the church might be born.”  I’ve read that Hosea uses words for God and Israel, Ish and Ishah, which are in Gen 2:23
[7] Jesus is the bridegroom Mark 1:18-20 and several parables feature wedding banquets.  In John 4, Jesus meets a woman at a well and asks her for a drink – echoing an Old Testament motif of a man meeting his future wife.
[8] Unity is probably the biggest theme of Ephesians.  Paul thought about all the divisions in the world.  First our separation from God (2:1-10). Then the fighting between different races and religions (2:11-22).  All our broken relationships.  All our failures to love.  And Paul saw God’s great plan: “It will all come about when history has been completed.  God will bring together all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Ephesians 1:10, maybe the key theme verse in the book)
[9] Eugene Peterson’s Introduction to Ephesians in The Message puts it like this:
Ephesians joins together what has been torn apart in our sin-wrecked world…  Once our attention is called to it, we notice these fractures all over the place. There is hardly a bone in our bodies that has escaped injury, hardly a relationship in city or job, school or church, family or country, that isn’t out of joint or limping in pain…  Jesus, the Messiah, is eternally and tirelessly bringing everything and everyone together… the energy of reconciliation is the dynamo at the heart of the universe.
[10] The great unifier of the ancient world was Alexander the Great, who “brought together into one body all men everywhere” (Plutarch), and then the Roman emperors: peace and unity enforced by military victory, versus Christ’s self-sacrificial love.
[11] And it’s bigger than just Global, or the Baptist Tabernacle.  Church with a capital C for Paul means all those who love God throughout all time.  From every culture and country, from every century of history!  Millions and billions of people, all one in the Body of Christ.
[12] Some Rabbis taught that Adam’s body contained the whole human race.  Three pictures of the Church’s unity in Ephesians are building (or temple), body and bride.
[13] By this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35).
[14] Eg After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity by Miroslav Volf (1988).  In his high-priestly prayer in John, Jesus illustrates his followers’ unity by his unity with the Father (John 17:21).
[15] The first half of Ephesians paints the grand vision of all things united in Christ.  In the second half, Paul gets practical.  If we are the Body of Christ, what should our relationships look like?  How should we live?  Paul’s biggest answer is “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us.”  (Ephesians 5:2).  More than “love your neighbour as yourself”.  But love your neighbour as Jesus loved you when he died for you on the cross.
[16] Schillebeeckx describes Eph 5:22-30 as a commentary on 5:2 in terms of marriage.
[17] While Paul is more negative about marriage in 1 Corinthians, in 1 Cor 7:3-5 he is very carefully egalitarian, balancing every command to husbands with the same to their wives.
[18] Submit is hypotasso, sometimes used of military submission to superiors, and occurs in Eph 1:22 where God puts all things under Christ’s feet.  This is actually the final of a series of participles following from a command: “Don’t be drunk with wine… but be filled with the Spirit, singing psalms and hymns, singing and making melody to the Lord, giving thanks to God, being subject to one another” – so it seems our mutual submission is part of Spirit-inspired worship!  (Wine and the Spirit are contrasted as on the day of Pentecost.)  “The Spirit-filled life imagined by Paul is one of deep joy that bubbles to the surface where it runs over blessing others.” (Lynn Cohick, 2010)
[19] Galatians 5:13 – literally “through love become slaves to one another”.  Romans 12:10 – or “outdo each other in showing honour”.  Most importantly, in Philippians 2 Paul shows our unity in Christ must lead to unity with each other.
Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had: Though he was God, he gave up his privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and died a criminal’s death on a cross.  (Philippians 2:3-8)
[20] 1 Cor 15:28 shows God submitting all things under the Son, who is then submitted to God.
[21] Most similar household codes (lists of relationship instructions like these) at the time only addressed husbands, fathers, masters, because wives, children, slaves were viewed as their property.  By contrast, Paul speaks directly to wives, children, slaves, treating them as people, and warns the socially dominant husbands, fathers, masters against abusing their authority.  He was more egalitarian than many writers, though some neo-Pythagorean philosophers, for example, told husbands to love their wives and not rule over them harshly.  But as I understand it, views like this of Aristotle were more dominant: “It is part of household science to rule over wife and children… for the male is by nature better fitted to command than the female.”  Jewish Josephus wrote, “The woman is in all things inferior to the man.  Let her accordingly be submissive, not for her humiliation, but that she may be directed; for the authority has been given by God to the man.”  Another debate is whether Paul’s words are descriptive – that’s just how things are in society – or prescriptive – God’s plan for marriage is hierarchical.
Furthermore, some believe that Christians were being accused of disrupting society, so, as might be in line with his instructions to honour secular authority (Rom 13), Paul is telling believers to submit to social norms and not flaunt their equality in Christ (Gal 3:28), and so to avoid unnecessary persecution.
There’s also a debate whether “head” means rule and authority, or source of life, growth and nourishment for the body, as perhaps in Eph 4:15-16, Col 2:19.
So does God’s plan for marriage include some sort of hierarchy, a certain humble headship of the husband?  Bible-believing Christians debate this, and I’m not married so I don’t know!  But I am confident that mutual self-giving Christ-like submission is key to a strong lasting marriage.
[22] A sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible spiritual grace, like baptism or communion, the Lord’s Supper.  The Latin Vulgate used “sacramentum” for mystery here – one reason the Catholic Church calls marriage a sacrament.  And maybe partly why the Catholic Church rejects divorce: if marriage is a fully fledged sacrament of Christ’s union with the church, divorce becomes almost blasphemous: Christ can never divorce his Bride.
[23] So John Stott suggests that marriage should be placed under the doctrine of atonement.  Commentators argue whether Paul is primarily interested in human marriage as a picture of Christ and the church, or vice versa.  I’d tend to think he’s more excited about theology and unity in the body of Christ – perhaps the dominant theme of Ephesians – than marriage, which he seems to view as a second-rate option anyway in 1 Cor 7.  The question parallels interpretations of the Song of Songs in the Old Testament: is it first and foremost a celebration of human sexual-romantic love, or a mystical allegory of God’s love for Israel (for Jews) or Christ’s love for the Church (for Christians), or God’s romance with the individual soul (for mystics of many persuasions).
[24] Paul also cites the one flesh text (Gen 2:24) to show his abhorrence of sexual immorality in the body of Christ (1 Cor 6:15-17).
[25] Pope John Paul said, “The divine ‘we’ constitutes the eternal model of the human ‘we’ which is formed by man and woman.”  So the imago Dei includes man and woman together.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says “the Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit”.  The Holy Spirit has been described as the bond of love or “the substantial kiss” between Father and Son.  Read Marriage is a Mirror (of the Trinity), Marriage: An Image of the Holy Trinity, or Why marriage brings you closer to God (and explains the Trinity) – this presents “the life of the divine Trinity as the ‘ideal’ of a Christian marriage and Christian marriage as the ‘true and living icon’ of the life and love of the divine Trinity” – in its perichoretic union.
[26] Extending the imago Dei from just the individual “When you see your brother or sister, you see God” (Clement of Alexandria).  Orthodox theologian Nicolas Fedorov said strikingly, “the doctrine of the Trinity is our social program”.  God the Trinity has been described as an eternal exchange of life-giving love.
[27] In this passage, Christ is the model for husbands.  In Ephesians 3:14, God the Father is the model of all human fatherhood.
[28] See John 15:13, 1 John 4:10
[29] Paul used the same Greek words as 5:25 when he told us all to love each other “as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (5:2).  Cf “Christ loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20)
[30] New Testament scholars Borg & Crossan suggest Paul meant that in a time of persecution husbands should literally be ready to be arrested and killed in place of their wives.
[31] The church is often “in rags and tatters, stained and ugly, despised and persecuted” (John Stott, 1979)
[32] The same words “holy and blameless” are in 1:14.  The word “blameless” or “unblemished” is used of pure sacrificial lambs in Numbers 6:16, and Christ’s perfect sacrifice in Hebrews 9:14 and 1 Peter 1:19: a lamb without defect or blemish.
[33] A Jewish Midrash on “I am black but beautiful” (Song of Songs 1:5) said “Israel is black every day of the week, but beautiful on the Sabbath; black every day of the year, but beautiful on the Day of Atonement; black in this world, but beautiful in the world to come.”
[34] The insight comes from the great theologian of romantic love Charles Williams, one of the Inklings along with CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien.  Williams was inspired by the Italian poet Dante, whose love for Beatrice led him in imagination to the Beatific Vision of God.
[35] Aquinas said, “The immaculate Bridegroom will not be wed to a soiled bride”.
[36] The washing symbol here probably refers to baptism, also maybe to the Jewish bridal bath, or pagan washing in a stream sacred to a god before marriage.  Cf Ruth 3:3, God washing Israel in Ezekiel 16.9.  “I will sprinkle pure water on you.  I will make you completely pure and clean… I will give you new hearts that obey me.  I will put my Spirit in you.”  (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
[37] “He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5).  “Our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.”  (Heb 10:22)  And cleansed by his Word – “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3)  “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:10)
[38] Psychologist M Scott Peck wrote in The Road Less Travelled, “I define love thus: The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” So he writes of marriage:
Loving spouses must repeatedly confront each other if the marriage relationship is to serve the function of promoting the spiritual growth of the partners.  No marriage can be judged truly successful unless husband and wife are each other’s best critics.
[39] In his sermon The Consuming Fire George Macdonald said,
Love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. Where loveliness is incomplete, and love cannot love its fill of loving, it spends itself to make more lovely, that it may love more…  so even human love, in proportion to its divinity, will go on creating the beautiful for its own outpouring…  Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love’s kind, must be destroyed.
[40] See 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
[41] The word for “glorious” or “resplendent” occurs in Luke 7:25 to describe the fine clothing of the royal court.  Cf the description of the wedding of the lamb in Revelation 19:6-9, 21:2, 9-17, a royal wedding in Psalm 45:10-15, and God’s marriage to Israel in Ezekiel 16.
I married you and took good care of you…  I bathed you with water.  I put a beautiful dress on you and decorated you with jewellery.  I put rings on your nose and ears and a beautiful crown on your head.  You became a queen. You were so beautiful that your fame spread among the nations. The glory I had given you made your beauty perfect.  (Ezekiel 16:8-14)
[42] Normally the best man or Jewish “friend of the bridegroom” would present the bride to the groom, like John the Baptist (John 3:29) or Paul said, “I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.” (2 Cor 11:2)
[43] A recent book on this is The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr (2016).  It’s said that anything said about the Trinity is untrue, and every attempted definition has been condemned as heretical at some stage!  See the cartoon of a confused curate trying to preach on the Trinity here.
[44] As William Temple said, “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members”.
[45] I love the dedication in Richard Foster’s book Prayer (1992):
To Eugene and Jean Coffin, My Pastors.
As a child I heard Eugene and Jean quip about being a pair of jeans.  They spoke more than they knew.  For over fifty years now they have had a compassionate ministry that is inseparable and wears well.
[46] “Our unity in Christ in his body enfolds and supports our unity as husband and wife.”  (Mark Roberts, 2016)
[47]  Siroki-Brijeg in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  During the wedding the priest announces, “You have found your Cross! It is a Cross to love, to carry with you, a Cross that is not to be thrown off, but rather cherished.”  It’s detailed in “Marriage Crucifix” here.  Read of a couple who adopted this in their wedding here.
[48] In Ephesians 1:14 the Holy Spirit is called an arrabon – a pledge, deposit or down-payment, guaranteeing future payment in full.  In Modern Greek the word means an engagement ring.
[49] In Orthodox weddings, the couple drink together from a wine glass, symbolising their life shared together, and recalling the marriage of Cana.
[50] Every lover longs for love to last forever.  Many sing, “I have loved you for a thousand years. I’ll love you for a thousand more.”  It’s one of New Zealand’s favourite wedding songs.  Sadly some marriages don’t even last for a thousand days, unlike the 10,000 years of Amazing Grace.