Church starts in five minutes and they’re still as naked as the moment they were born. One is hiding in a closet, another beating up their brother, and the last is still asleep under the bed. Their mother has had it up here and finally yells out, “I’m going to tell you one more time…put your clothes on, ya hear me?!?!” After a moment, or two, the kids come back adorned with fire helmets, tu-tus, ninja turtle jammies, and a couple bath towels around their necks and shout, “Ready!” Worn out, with a hand pressed to her face and shaking her head the mother replies, “No, put your real clothes on.”
How many of you remember scenes like this from your childhood or years of parenting. Our parents knew and today we know what we wear matters. From the hospital nursery to the funeral home, we’ve been told the fabric we put on our bodies have deep meaning.
Scripture: Galatians 3:23-29
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Question: Do our clothes matter?
The truth is what we are clothed in matters, and more importantly it matters to God. Our scriptures speak of what to wear and not to wear and when to wear it. We’ve been told not to worry about your clothes or just give them away. Strip down to nothing and heap on ashes like Job or go dancing in the streets with just your birthday suit on like King David.
In our text Paul speaks of the shackling and imprisonment under the law. A law that was given for good, to protect. But here Paul is calling out the storytellers in his life; family, friends, and community members who have started to use the Law like a letterman jacket showing who’s in and who’s out. The Law which was given for liberation, to worship the God of Abraham, had become a straight jacket designed to keep its wearers in line and to keep out those who weren’t in the club.
If we think about it the truth is the attire we choose to wear still matters. Because the clothes we put on come equipped with a story and everybody has a different version.
That’s part of the reason why getting dressed in the morning sometimes seems like an insurmountable task. With all our pants, dresses, shirts, skirts, and blouses off the hangers and sprawled onto the bed, we can hear the stories in the back of our minds that our loved ones and society have told about our outfits. They’ve said, “Oh that makes you look poor; Well those horizontal lines aren’t flattering for your body type; Mmmm, no boys can’t wear skirts; She was wearing that?! Ah she was definitely asking for it.”
Unfortunately, these storytellers don’t just stop at the polyester and cotton we put on, but the bodies we inhabit become a part of a narrative that constricts and binds us to an impossible aesthetic. Our storytellers have created an idolatrous image of humanity that lifts up some and devalues others.
They’ve told us a little too much melanin in your skin can make you more prone to violence and crime. We’ve been told to be born with two X chromosomes your talents and skills aren’t worth much. And to be a man’s man you have to handle power tools not crochet needles. These storytellers, who have clothed us in a desire to protect, have unknowingly imprisoned us in straight jackets cinched so tightly we can barely move. Like those shackled by the law, we have been driven back into the same. The same color, kin, and kind.
Because of this some will say what we wear doesn’t matter.
But the truth is who we are clothed in matters. It tells us who we are and whose we are. Paul says, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” In other words through Jesus we have been soaked in God’s love, agitated by Christ’s grace, and blown dry by the Holy Spirit.
We’ve all been sent through the divine washing machine and Jesus has cleansed the clothes, bodies, and even the stories we brought with us. He has paid particular attention to our stains and has erased the distinctions between us and them. Now there is no longer Jew or Greek, Black or white, Hispanic or Asian, there is no longer slave or free, housed or homeless, felon or police , there is no longer male and female, robust or petite, gay or straight.
And to top it all off Jesus has given us a complimentary custom designed cloak, which makes us all one. But the beauty of this divine apparel we have been given is that we don’t have to take off all of the clothes and stories we’ve been given by our loved ones and community members. All those are passed through the one who cleanses and is incorporated into our new look. No longer that which distinguishes can divide.
However let us make no mistake, to put on Christ places is in obvious and apparent danger with a world whose only desire is to divide and conquer. To put on christ is to bind ourselves to those we ought not be around. You know who I’m talking about the backstabbers, liars, murders, prostitutes, thieves…and I’m just talking about the disciples, I’m not even talking about church folk yet.
Nevertheless, this garment also gives us a new story; one that proclaims release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, sets at liberty those who are oppressed and announces the time has come when all creation would be brought together.
You have been liberated to freely love God and neighbor in unity. Willie Jennings says, “today and everyday you need to understand where you are. Right now you are in the baptismal waters. For some of you the storytellers have already stepped back. And the One who baptizes you in the Holy Spirit has stepped forward and is calling you into a new future.” In Christ, we have all been given a new wardrobe and your service has begun so come out of the closet, stop beating up your brother, and wake up! Its time to “Put your clothes on.”