Monday, November 2, 2009

The Wedding Photo - Revelation 21:1-6 All Saints Sunday

Wedding Day Photographs…
both modern day and in the past,
have taken on a unique role just in themselves.

We all know the routine…
the service ends,
the man and the woman become husband and wife,
the congregation gets tired of sitting,
grandmother is ready for her first plate of shrimp,
but before all this can happen,
the photographers need their moment of control.

The photographer may be a professional or a family friend,
but I strongly discourage the later…
I have first hand knowledge this can go bad quickly.

In any case, there are photos to be taken
of the bride and groom,
in just about every possible combination.

Mostly these groupings are arranged right here on the steps…

Sometimes the relatives on both sides
gather around the bride and groom.
Little boys and girls full of fun,
sisters and brothers and cousins.

All of them, representing several generations,
gather in their ranks beside the bride and groom,
most of them smile, the camera clicks,
and this group, at this one moment in time,
is preserved in glorious color
through the miracle we call photography.

There is something wonderful about wedding photos:
being in them, watching them being taken,
looking at them long afterward.

Now, what does this have to do with All Saints Sunday?

Well, after reading our first lesson today
it feels to me like we are sitting here
preparing ourselves to open up the old family album.
And take another long look back
at the saints and sinners of times gone by.

But the trouble is the first earth and first heaven,
are slowly passing away,
we are told by Saint John, the Evangelist.

And the feeling is that something new
is about to take place at the next wedding feast.
Maybe the New Jerusalem IS coming down out of heaven?

But what a very odd, mysterious thing to hear read –
and it’s not just the apocalyptic language,
for me, it is something far more –
so, we need to sort this out.

I now realize what John talks about
is a wedding which has not yet happened.
It is sure to happen,
God promises us this is coming,
the Bride Groom is coming soon…
but it is very true we live in “the already, but not yet.”

So, I can understand this is confusing
for those of us who wait and live here
in a post-modern, seemingly post-institutional world.

But, while we wait, let us imagine this picture,
it is a vast photograph, really…
demanding the widest possible lens.
But it is a familiar picture,
populated by some very familiar faces…

people well known to us,
people we've heard about-
as well as others whose names
we do not yet even know.

So, who is at the center of this wedding photo?
Who is THIS bride and groom?

The groom is Christ.
The bride is the Church.

Those who gather beside them for this photograph
are saints from every age and every land.

This photo has not yet been taken,
because the ranks are not quite complete,
but it is easy to imagine this picture:
because it is a vast crowd, spanning the ages
with Christ and his Bride at the center.

Now, my favorite part of this photo is this --

This will NOT be a wedding captured on the TLC channel
where the napkins, cake, and dress
are all perfectly coordinated.
This one will be random…
Martha Stewart is going to have a rude awakening.

The saints here are a rainbow assembly.

Like -- Louis of France, who wore a crown for Christ,
he stands beside Francis, who wore rags for Christ.

Two teenage girls stand with arms around each other:
one is Agnes, martyr in Third Century Rome;
the other is Rachel Scott, a martyr in 1999
at Columbine High School.

Just beyond them is a copper mine worker from the Congo,
a Korean grandmother,
a Baptist from Birmingham,
a Lutheran from Helsinki:
and all of them with a bit of Jesus shinning in their faces.

All of them Saints of God, “and we mean to be one, too!”

Gaze again, and you will recognize faces from YOUR past.
You can name them…

It is a vast host of people gathered
to celebrate this marriage,
which is about to being --
yet here and there you recognize a face
that delights you,
may even surprise you.
“Who invited THEM?”…

But then I realize the invitation list is a long print out –
and I hear it was written in the Bridegroom's own blood.
Each Name.

Grace shows its full colors in the glory of the Saints.
And that same grace is still at work in us,
You and me who in just a few moments
can hold out our hands
and receive yet another invitation
to that very same wedding.

All because,
“Lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!”

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