Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.


Monday, June 14, 2010

A Song for the Best Man

For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, 
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, 

and her salvation as a burning torch.
The nations shall see your righteousness, 

and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name 

that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the 

and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken, 

and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, 
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,

and your land Married; 
for the 
Lord delights in you, 

and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman, 

so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, 
so shall your God rejoice over you.

-- Isaiah 62:1-9

This weekend Jama and I had the privilege of attending the wedding of Jama's goddaughter, Abbie and her now husband Alex.  It was a gala affair, as all weddings are, and we rejoiced at seeing this young woman so thoroughly happy.  

I have been on a sort of odyssey these past six months, and in an effort to make sense out of what has been happening, I've decided to spend the next few weeks reviewing the texts God gave me along the way.  Most of this material comes from the Book of Common Prayer, as I began to follow the Lectionary quite closely back in late January for fear that I would be preaching my own agenda to the congregation rather than what the Lord wanted to say.  

I will tell you all at the outset that there is no way I could have coordinated these texts as you are about to see them.   I only want to say that I take it as a profound grace that the Lord had them arranged this way.   You won't hear me talking about the events of the past six months as I write.  As with all intense times in our lives, we always get to a point where we feel like we've talked the intensity to death.  I'm doing this to review these Scriptures and remind myself of the things the Lord has shown me and let him speak to me even more deeply through them.

Isaiah 62:1-9  is a song that God wants to put in the mouth of one of the attendants at a weddding.  Israel is the bride and God is her groom.  Nothing could be more clearly laid out than this.  At weddings today the Best Man stands next to the Groom and waits with him as the Bride walks down the aisle.  But in the wedding scene here in Isaiah, the Best Man needs to take a different position.  He needs to stand next to the Bride and speak truth into her ear so as to remind her of what is going on.  

In the rather sweet Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore movie 50 First Dates, Barrymore has had an injury that makes it so that every morning when she wakes up it is like she never lived the day before.  No accumulation of memories is possible.  Israel is this kind of Bride.  She so easily forgets God's intentions for her that someone has to keep whispering in her ear the plans God has for her; otherwise she will not remain long enough to be married.  

But there is opposition.  I envision that as the Best Man moves from the place everyone expects him to occupy to a place next to the Bride that the guests and attendants at the wedding are all grumbling, "That's not where you belong!"  "Stop!  You're disrupting the ceremony!" "Hush!  You keep quiet now!  The ritual is going on!"  

"For Zion's sake I will not keep silent," the Best Man rebukingly says to the crowd.  "For Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,"  This man is under the unction of the Holy Spirit.  I can see tears welling up in his eyes as he defends, not his right to say these things, but her right to experience them.  "Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch."  

This Bride is a bit clueless, as I said.  The crowd though doesn't think they are.  Their entire focus is on the ritual itself.  The Bride in this picture is merely eye-candy.  The only purpose she serves, as far as they are concerned, is to get married.  This, and this alone, will satisfy their reason for attending the wedding.  They have made the wedding all about them.

The Best Man now turns and begins to speak directly to the Bride.  

"The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give."

"Look," he says, "every shameful thing you've ever done... all the things that have made you sorry to be called by your name?  They're all going to be washed away.  Your Beloved is going to give you a fresh start.  He's going to call you by HIS name."

More than that, he reminds her that the Groom is of royal blood.  This is the real genesis of the Cinderella story: to realize only as you are standing at the altar that the Groom is actually the son of the King and that you, a commoner, are about to become his princess.

What names did this Cinderella go by in her former life?  Desolate... Forsaken.  What a sad background to have.  And yet, everyone at the wedding knows that she did it to herself.  Way, way back, she had known she was of Royal blood as well, but she has forgotten it.  In her whoring and in her unfaithfulness she has completely lost any knowledge of her birthright.  And now the Best Man reminds her that she is The Beloved of The Groom.  

Oh what a joyful ministry it is to be given the commission to remind Israel, the Bride, the Elect of God's own choosing, that they are standing at an altar ready to clasp the hand of the one who will take away their shame and give them the honor of sharing his name!   You who call yourself Christian, is that not what Christ your Redeemer wants to do with you?  

Oh stay for a moment longer!  Stay and Christ will marry you!  Stay!  This is the moment before the consummation.  Don't despair!  Stay.  It is about to happen.



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