Those images are still etched in my head-the picture of Christ, His eyes sunken with the weight of what is yet to come, His head pierced with thorns encircling his brow, and His own bride behind Him. Her arms are crossed and her head is down. She is clothed in a white garment that covers her and makes her beautiful-the kind of beauty that is not found within this world and the kind of beauty that is holy and pure because of Christ. And there's another picture: the bride, with her arms still crossed and her eyes gazing at her Husband, slain and wounded on the cross, His body hanging in suspension and coming down to meet her, looking at her with eyes filled with love and mercy.
Those sounds are still ringing in my ears-the sounds of hymns that deliver such sweet Gospel, the sounds that carry the words of Christ's bride, "Zion hears the watchmen singing / And all her heart with joy is springing; / She wakes, she rises from her gloom," sounds that sprout forth from the faith she has been given, these sounds that blossom in such beautiful harmony and soaring melody. And there's yet another sound, the sound of the Bridegroom himself, who "comes down all glorious, / The strong in grace, in truth victorious," the sound of grace in the midst of suffering, triumph in the midst of war, and love in the midst of sin that fights everyday to remove this love found in Christ.
The picture of the church is a glorious one. God's holiness, as manifest before Moses in the burning bush and in the temple before Isaiah, is full of perfection, power, and loving-kindness. It was made manifest in human form, in the person of Jesus Christ, to bring forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to a world wounded with suffering and stricken with sin and death. God's holiness comes from heaven to earth where He has promised: in His Word, His life-giving Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins, His Holy Absolution, Baptism, and the preaching of the Gospel for sinners.
Sinners. That means all of us, poor and miserable, beating our breasts in utter depravity and crying out, "Lord, have mercy on me." That means all of us, who "daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment." We have been ashamed of our nakedness since the time we were stripped of our perfectness in the Garden of Eden.
The Church. That means all of us, too, washed and cleansed in the waters of Holy Baptism, fed by the Word made flesh, and filled with the words of the sweet Gospel melody that says, "You are saved by Christ alone. He bought you with His blood. You are His Own to live under Him in His kingdom."
The picture of the Church is a glorious one, because she is adorned with salvation. Her jewels sparkle with the light of Christ's truth, her garments flowing with the eternal blessing of life and salvation, her robe adorning her body with righteousness as she shares in the union with God, the Three in One-this "mystic, sweet communion" in which she delights and rejoices in hope for the eternal life that is to come.
This picture is a mere glimpse and a foretaste of the fuller picture that is to come on the Last Day when the Lord will come again in triumph to bring His bride, the church, to a more perfect home in heaven. The pictures and sounds we experience here on earth that connect us to the true picture of Christ and the Church are mere fragments of the bigger picture of perfectness that we will experience when God will "take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven." There, the picture, given to us by faith, of those bright jewels and white garments of righteousness will find its place with all the saints surrounding God's throne of salvation. There, the sounds carried to us by words and music of glorious truth and splendor will find a place amidst the faithful warriors, triumphant soldiers, and saints of Christ whose "gleaming robes of white" shine bright within this sweet land of paradise the blest.
Here on earth, the sinful flesh needs Christ. It needs to be reminded of the image of Christ and the Church, over and over again. Such blessed imagery fills our eyes and ears with this glimpse of heaven, while our souls are forgiven time and time again by the Gospel. Here on earth, as long as suffering and sin continues, the church will always remain, because Christ will never leave us nor forsake us. He is with us every step of the way on our journey to heaven, as a true Bridegroom leads His bride, reminding her of the eternal joys yet to come when He will "wipe away every tear from her eyes" and present her as His Own to live with Him in heaven forever.?
Bethany Woelmer is a member of St. John's Lutheran in Topeka, KS.
Created: January 19th, 2016