Crossing the Threshold

Hosea 2:19-20 (ESV)

19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.

Dear Friends in Christ,

   I wish we had the time today to go around the sanctuary and give some of you married couples a chance to share with us how you got engaged.  I’m sure we’d hear many interesting and perhaps amusing and no doubt romantic stories as to how you husbands proposed to your wife.  But one of the best that I’ve ever heard took place with a couple that I married some years ago, namely, Shane and Alecia Landreth.  Interestingly I ran into Alecia a few weeks ago at Wal-Mart and I was reminded of how Shane popped the question to her.  When he decided that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Alecia, he secured the services of a pilot and took her on a ride in a twin-engine airplane.  As they flew over the countryside up in the St. Peter/ Farina area, he had directed the pilot beforehand to fly over the Brown Produce Co., also known as the egg factory, on the south side of Farina where out in the parking lot he had put a sign with very large letters that could be read from a great distance, or maybe I should say a great height. It said: “Marry me, Alecia.”  Well, with that kind of proposal and after having gone to all that trouble, how could she resist?  So high above the earth she said yes, the ring was placed on her finger, and as they say, the rest is history. Indeed, how could she resist such a proposal?

   And…how can we resist when we become aware of the proposal that our heavenly Bridegroom has extended to us?  That’s what we want to spend our time talking about today on this Christ the King Sunday.  As we’ve already noted our theme for today is “Crossing the Threshold.”  The reason I’ve chosen that theme is because one of the most common analogies the Bible uses to describe the relationship between Christ the King and his Church is that of the bride and the bridegroom.  Christ, of course, is the Bridegroom and we, the Church, are his bride.  And so this morning we’re going to explore that analogy, though instead of thinking of ourselves as the bride of Christ, I want you to think of us more as the betrothed of Christ, pledged to him, promised to him because the actual marriage between Christ and his Church will not take place until he returns to this earth at his 2nd coming and we finally begin our life with him in what the Bible calls the new heavens and the new earth.

   And the 1st point that I want to make today is one that may come as a shock to many of you, yet it’s true.  And that is that you have captured God’s heart.  The reason that’s such a shocking statement is because we know ourselves all too well. We know deep down in our hearts that we are far from worthy of such an acknowledgement.  In fact, even though we are the betrothed of Christ, as I stated a few moments ago, often times we don’t behave like we’re engaged to him, do we?  Instead, we sometimes act like the groom at a bachelor’s party whose friends bring in the cake with the scantily clad girl that pops out and with whom he has one last fling before he ties the knot with his bride.  In a similar way, we are constantly wanting or having one last fling with the things of this world instead of totally committing ourselves to our groom, Jesus Christ. 

   And yet in spite of that, God makes it very clear to us in his Word that we have captured his heart and that, as crazy as it sounds, he is madly, passionately, and deeply in love with us.  If you don’t believe that, listen to how Paul puts it in Eph. 3:18-19.  He says, “May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.” 

   Now my friends, I want to you understand something here.  When a person is loved like that, what does that kind of love do for that person?  It has the power, the potential to change him or her, doesn’t it?  This is something that I noticed when I was in high school.  Once in a while, one of the less popular, average-looking girls in our school would catch the interest of a guy.  And he would ask her out.  And pretty soon they would start dating regularly.  And as he began to show an ongoing interest in her, she would undergo a most remarkable and noticeable transformation. She might start wearing her hair or her makeup differently. The way she dressed might change. But most importantly, her self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem would elevate.  And why?  Because she had captured the heart of another.  By him choosing her from among all other girls in the school, he had convinced her that she was worth something, that she was worth loving.

   And my friends, that’s what God’s love can do for us. For you see, sometimes we’re like that girl.  We feel so common, so plain, so ordinary.  We’re plagued by insecurities and self-doubt.  We have low self-esteem.  We wonder how anybody could ever love us.  But then our heavenly Prince comes along and sweeps us off our feet and lets us know that he’s not only taken an interest in us, but that we have actually captured his heart.  My friends, few things in life can change us the way that knowledge can – to know that we are loved so deeply and so intensely by the One who is the source of all love. 

   But there’s more.  Not only have we captured the heart of our heavenly Prince, but he’s taken it one step further.  He has also proclaimed his love for us, in both word and action.  When I think of proclaiming one’s love verbally, I can’t help but think of my favorite author, Max Lucado.  Every time I get one of his books, the 1st thing I do is I go to the acknowledgements section in the front of the book because he always has an extra-special tribute to his wife, Denalyn.  Listen to just a few of them that I brought with me today:

From “And the Angels Were Silent” – For my wife, Denalyn.  When I come home late you don’t complain.  When I go on the road you don’t grumble.  When I write in the middle of the night you don’t mind.  Does every writer have an angel for a wife, or did I get the last one?

From “A Gentle Thunder” – For Denalyn, my wife:  For making the grass so green on this side of the fence that the other side looks barren.

From “God Came Near” – And most tenderly, thank you Denalyn:  If a star fell each time I thought of you, the sky would be empty.

From “In the Eye of the Storm” – And most of all, to my wife Denalyn – a decade with you has convinced me:  there is a heaven, and you don’t have to die to go there.

  Beautiful ways in which Max has verbally proclaimed his love for his wife.  But as we all know, it’s one thing to say the words; it’s another thing to actively demonstrate them, to live them out on a daily basis.  And yet, isn’t that what God has done over and over again? Just think about it for a moment.  It was love that sent Jesus from heaven to earth some 2000 years ago.  It was love that put that holy Son of God in a dirty, smelly manger the night he was born.  It was love that moved the Prince of heaven to do battle with the prince of hell on our behalf.  It was love that nailed our Prince to a cross as our sin-bearing, sin-paying Substitute.  And it was love that raised him to life again 3 days later and brought him forth from that tomb as our Heavenly Hero and Champion.  Like one author has put it:  “Jesus would rather go through hell for you than go to heaven without you.”  And that is precisely what he did, thus demonstrating in a very active, powerful, and visible way a love for you and me that goes far beyond our ability to grasp or comprehend.

   So thus far today we’ve learned 2 very important things about our relationship with our Heavenly Bridegroom.  We’ve learned that we have captured his heart and we’ve learned that he has made his love known for us in both word and action.  All of which takes us to our final point, which is this:  What does all this mean for you and me?  Well, let me answer that question by asking a few other questions, each one of which begins with the four words Do you ever feel. For example, do you ever feel unnoticed, as though nobody really has any idea that you even exist?  If you do, then learn to see yourself as God sees you – as one who was not only worth living for, but also worth dying for.  If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times, “If you were the only person alive when Jesus came to this earth, he still would have gone to the cross for you.  He still would have died, just for you.”   Do you believe that, my friends?  I do with all of my heart because that’s the kind of personal love the Bible says he has for each and every one of us.

   How about another question?  Do you ever feel worthless, as though you are of no value whatsoever?  Does your self-esteem ever sag as low as the jeans of some teenage boys these days? If so, then you need to hear how highly God values you.  In I Peter 1:18-19 we’re told:  “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors.  And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver.  He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”

   Do you ever feel unwanted, as though nobody really cares about you or what happens to you?  If so, then find comfort in what God tells you in Is. 43:1 where he says:  “But now, this is what the LORD says – he who created you…he who formed you…: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.’”

   Do you ever feel lonely, as though you don’t have a friend in the world?  If so, then turn to Matt. 28:20 where Jesus says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

   Do you ever feel poor, as though you don’t have much in life?  If so, then take an inventory of just a few of the gifts that your betrothed has given you.  He has provided his angels to watch over you and care for you, his Holy Spirit to dwell within you, his church to encourage you, his Word to guide you, his Sacrament to nourish and strengthen you.  Anytime you speak, he’s there to listen.  Anytime a tear appears on your cheek, he’s there to wipe it away.  Anytime something good happens to you, he’s there to celebrate and rejoice with you.

   But you know what, my friends?  Better than all those things I’ve just mentioned is the fact that he is even now preparing a place for you.  In John 14:2-3 Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  So try to envision this:  with every swing of the hammer and every cut of the saw, your heavenly bridegroom is dreaming of the day when he will come for you, his bride, to carry you across the threshold.    So getting back to the question we asked a few moments ago, what does all this that we’ve talked about today mean for you and me?  Well, it means we are spoken for.  We are engaged. We are chosen.  We are loved.  So don’t settle anymore for the one-night stands that this world continually offers.  Rather, set your eyes upon your heavenly Bridegroom.  Let your heart belong to him and only him.  And look forward to that day when he will come and carry you, his faithful bride, across his heavenly threshold so that you can begin a life with him that the Apostle Paul finds himself at a loss for words to describe in I Cor. 2:9 in these words, so he simply says: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”.