Thursday, August 4, 2011

Don’t Trash the Dress

by Pastor Paul Wolff

Window from
Trinity Lutheran Church
in Herscher, Illinois

Galatians 3:26-27
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

Isaiah 61:10
“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Revelation 7:13-14
Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?’
I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’
And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’

There is a fad among some wedding photographers to schedule a photo session with a new bride some days or weeks after the wedding ceremony where the bride gets dressed up in her wedding gown once again and then proceeds to “trash the dress”. From what I have seen this usually involves the bride ending up swimming in the ocean or river or pond or pool, but the effect is that it ruins the dress. Visually it often looks like a baptism gone wrong, though I suppose that if this fad catches on sinful minds will come up with all sort of terrible ways to destroy a beautiful dress.

Jesus and the
woman at the well
from Emmanuel Lutheran
Dearborn, Michigan
I do not like this practice on several levels. First, the Seventh Commandment forbids us from stealing, which includes destroying anyone’s property, including our own. Many times when I have taught this commandment I have heard objections stating that people can do as they please with the things that belong to them. This is not a Christian way of doing things. If we have more than what we need then we should share with others who are lacking, not wantonly destroy our possessions so that neither we, nor others can use them. Because of this I do not like the destruction of anything that can be put to further use, even if that use is simply to remind the bride of her wedding day and marriage vows.

Second, it used to be the practice for the bride to preserve and protect her wedding gown so that the dress would look as good on the couple’s 50th anniversary as it did on their wedding day. This was done in recognition that marriage was for life and something generally only done once in a lifetime. A wedding gown, like marriage itself, was treasured as something valuable worth preserving. This is less common in our society, and out of this comes the “trash the dress” practices. If marriage is not something to be preserved at great cost, then what is a dress? This destructive fad reinforces the belief that marriage is something easily discarded and this is another reason why I do not like it.

Window from
Trinity Lutheran Church
in Herscher, Illinois
Third, the Holy Scriptures often portray the Christian’s relationship with God with the metaphor of the bride and groom. Christ is the perfect, loving groom who cherishes His bride, the Church, so that He gives His life to redeem her from sin and death. The effect of Christ’s sacrifice is to wash away the stain of our sins and to clothe us with pure white robes of His perfect righteousness. These pure righteous robes are not like clothing that covers up something shameful, but they reveal the righteousness of Christ which is given to His people by faith to purify them inside and out. This scriptural imagery of marriage to describe God’s gracious relationship with us is the main reason why I do not like the “trash the dress” practice.

All people at some point in our lives treat Christ’s righteousness as if it were some raggedy old garment which could be thrown in the trash at will. We do this whenever we think that our own attempts at righteousness are somehow more pleasing in God’s sight than the redeeming work of Christ on our behalf. In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:2-14) the man who is found not wearing the wedding garment (i.e. Christ’s righteousness) is thrown out of the feast. Here Jesus teaches that we will never receive salvation if we rely on our righteous acts to clothe us in preparation for God’s eternal wedding reception. Only Christ’s righteousness can properly clothe us so that we may receive the gracious gifts of eternal salvation from our beloved God.

Because of this Scriptural imagery of the wedding garment, let us encourage one another to avoid the practice of “trashing the dress” and instead encourage one another not only to treasure marriage and the traditional wedding practices which view marriage as a lifelong gift from God, but even more let us treasure the gift of Christ’s work of salvation which clothes us in an eternal robe of Christ’s own righteousness that we may, by His grace, feast with Him at His eternal wedding banquet.

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