Austin and Laura, I want to meditate for a few moment s on the Scripture Lesson from Isaiah 61. In the verses leading up to the ones that were read, Yahweh, speaking through the mouth of the prophet says to the people of Israel in exile that he will one day pour out his Spirit upon one who will preach good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and announce the acceptable year of the Lord. Of course Jesus is this one who is anointed with the Spirit, and he reads this very passage when he begins his ministry in Galilee. And he explicitly insists that what Isaiah the prophet was talking about is coming to fulfillment in him. Later, Jesus makes reference to this when the disciples of John are sent to ask whether he is the Coming One or if they should look for another. Jesus points to his ministry, and sends the disciples back to John with that report. Jesus insists that the Spirit is upon him, and he has been going through Israel enacting this healing, this liberation, and preaching good news to the poor. And Isaiah 61 concludes with what was just read: God declaring that he loves justice and hates robbery, and because this is the case, he will make an everlasting covenant with Israel. The result of this covenant will be that the people of God will be famous throughout the world as God’s people. And this covenant of salvation will be like a glorious wedding, like a bride and groom decked out in ornaments and jewels.
St. John picks up on these same themes in Revelation when he sees the holy city, the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, “as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). Later, one of the angels takes John on a tour of the city and says, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 21:9). And the book ends with the Spirit and the bride speaking as one, calling out “Come!” (Rev. 22:17). The Spirit and the bride call the thirsty to come, to drink the water of life freely. The bride and the Spirit call the thirsty world to come and drink, to quench their thirst in the waters of life. Of course earlier in the chapter we’re also told that on either side of this “pure river of water of life” are trees of life bearing twelve fruits, yielding fruit every month, and the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.
Bound up into the Isaiah passage and this imagery in Revelation is the idea of marriage and healing, or marriage and mercy. God promises in Isaiah to come marry his people, and when he does he will bring healing and mercy and liberation. When John sees the New Jerusalem, the bride of God coming down out of heaven, John sees a bride adorned with the water of life to quench the thirst of the world. John sees the trees of life with their twelve fruits and their leaves for the healing of the nations. When God describes his salvation, his covenant, he says it’s like a marriage, it’s like a wedding.
But this means that we need to learn to reason back the other way as well. When we witness a wedding, we are witnessing a picture of the way God promises to heal the world. We’re celebrating a picture of the way God preaches good news to the poor. We’re here with you today to enact a small portion of the acceptable year of the Lord. This is what proclaiming liberty looks like. This is what good news looks like. This is what the healing of broken hearts looks like. When God describes himself performing these things, he says it’s like a groom all decked out in all his glory; it’s like a bride all adorned, all lovely.
And that being so, the charge to each of you is to be what you are. Be a groom and a bride that continue to portray the healing and mercy and freedom that God has brought to this world in our Lord Jesus. But start by being this for one another. It’s not our custom to anoint men and women when they get married, but you are becoming a king and queen today. And that’s why in some Christian traditions, the bride and groom are literally given crowns or wreathes that symbolize their royal callings. Austin and Laura, you are becoming King and Queen to one another and for one another and all that God gives you. But the exhortation is to cultivate healing and mercy and freedom with one another first. The river of life in Revelation is flowing out of the city, out from the throne of the lamb, out into the world for the healing of the nations. This means that the city, the bride, is already saturated with life. The city has already been healed, the city has already been set free, the city has already been shown mercy. She now has plenty of life to give, healing to bestow, liberty to proclaim, and justice to enact.
Austin, when you get up in the morning tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, remind yourself of Isaiah 61. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord…” And then get busy doing that for your wife. Let your words to her be good news. Let your words be words of healing and encouragement. Proclaim liberty and freedom to her. And continually give her Sabbath rest, continually celebrate the acceptable year of the Lord. Commit yourself to establishing a home that is full of the spirit of Jubilee. Forgiveness must flow from you like the waters of life. And be quick to seek forgiveness teaching your family by example. Assume responsibility for your household; it is a small kingdom, a city that you are being given charge of. So rule in wisdom. Cancel debts, keep no record of wrongs, enact justice, care for the poor, and do not allow bitterness to reside under your roof.
Laura, when you get up tomorrow morning and the next day and the day after that, remember that you are called to do the same. You are called to be a bride saturated with life, producing trees of life for the healing of the nations. But remember that this calling begins with your husband. Let your water of life quench your husband’s thirst. Proclaim good news to him, bestow mercy and healing upon him, cultivate a home that rejoices in the God of salvation, the God of mercy, the God of Jubilee.
Together, you are for us today a picture of what God plans to do with the entire world. You both are dying today. You are dying to your old lives alone, dying to your selves, and being raised up to a new life together as one flesh. You are clothed in wedding garments, and we will feast and celebrate together shortly. In an important sense, you are even a picture of forgiveness in that you are putting your past behind you. You are repenting of your singleness and turning toward one another, and when you kiss in a few moments, it will not only be a kiss of love but most assuredly it will be a kiss of peace. And all of this is a picture of what God is doing in our world. He plans to clothe this world in the garments of salvation. He has put away our sins and forgiven all our debts in the death and resurrection of Jesus. He proclaims liberty to us, and the acceptable year of our Lord Jesus. And in the gospel, the angels continually declare peace on earth, goodwill toward men.
You are this picture of freedom and gladness. You are this image of salvation and mercy and healing and peace. And your calling is to continue in this. Even after you’ve returned the tux and packed up the wedding dress, remember that you have been commissioned by the Holy Spirit to enact mercy and healing and liberty to one another and those around you. You are jubilee today, and your vows are promises to walk in that grace all the days of your life.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!