“Clothes Make the Man or Woman” by Steve Sommerer
Second Sunday after Pentecost June 23rd, 2019
Sermon Text: Galatians 3:23-4:7
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
During Vacation Bible School this week we had three Liams and two Reece’s. We had a couple Macy’s and Micah’s. It was the hardest week ever for picking out kid’s names. You might guess that one addition to their clothing helped a lot, and that’s the nametag. Without the tag the clothes didn’t quite jog my memory, but for VBS the nametag is the perfect complement to the clothing ensemble.
Sometimes Our clothing speaks volumes about who we are. Many times as a pastor my clerical collar has earned the greeting, “Hello, Father.” If I go to the store sometimes and I have on slacks and dress clothes, inevitably someone will say, “Excuse me, sir, can you tell me where to find the extension cords (or some such thing)”? Like it or not people form opinions about us on the basis of how we dress. Growing up, we were taught you dress up to go to God’s house. You weren’t supposed to go to church so people could check out what you wore it was just a sign of reverence for God, a sign of bringing the best. In my first church full of farmers in Nebraska that might mean the farmers newest pair of overalls, but the idea was the same. When we played sports the coaches told us to wear our uniforms with class, tuck in our shirts and keep them laundered, it reflected on the rest of the team. Young people, when you dress modestly, you show that you care more for your Savior than Hollywood fashions. Showing your body off becomes a distraction and a way the devil would lead others into sin. Dress like a Christian young man or woman.
Our text for today says: “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Dr. Luther’s Galatians commentary notes Paul’s not really talking about clothes. Our appearance as Christians, our face to the world, is a reflection of who we are in Christ. How does the world see you? By your appearance, your choices, the words you use, the choices you make people read you like a book. What witness do you make to the world when you speak or act in a way that cheapens the Christian name? Will unbelievers be drawn to Christ when they see us or will they suspect there isn’t much to admire in Christ or Christians?
Not only are our clothes a reflection on us, but our behavior reflects on the faith we confess and the Savior we love. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” It’s worth considering whether our words and actions glorify God or bring great joy to the devil.
Like it or not, every moment of our lives is a confession before God and the world about our faith in Jesus. Each morning we choose the clothes we’ll wear into the day, when as Christians we might better pray God’s guidance to wear our faith and hope in Christ in such a way that it honors God; that our words and actions glorify Him, not bring dishonor on the God who calls us “sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” As a pastor or dad, and you within your vocations, we give an important witness to those we love by how we are – and how we choose to glorify God with our bodies.
One honest moment’s reflection proves that our problem is our words and actions don’t stand up well to scrutiny. They leave us torn and soiled. From the bad things we do to the good things we don’t do, at the end of the day we’re far from spotless. Like pigs wallowing in the mud, we carry the encrusted layers of failure. Hebrews says, “Without holiness no one will see God.” As kids when we came home filthy, mom wouldn’t let us into the house until we hosed off outside.
God had every right to turn us away. Our best works and greatest accomplishments still don’t measure up. According to Isaiah even “our righteous acts are as filthy rags” before a holy God. And yet our text says, “In the fullness of time God sent forth His Son born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law that we might receive the adoption of sons.” In Jesus, the God who embodies perfect holiness, chose to make our problem His. He clothed Himself in our miserable failure, living spotlessly under God’s Law for us, never sinning in word or action. The pure and unblemished Lamb of God, 2 Corinthians says, “Became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.” At the cross the only sinless God-man carried our sins and received God’s judgment in our place and He has become our “righteousness and holiness and redemption.”
Your identity in Christ is a gift to you through Spirit-given faith. You and I don’t often live as sons and daughters of Christ the King, but God stripped away our sin-encrusted failure, and clothed Jesus in those sinful rags, so that through faith we could be clothed in Christ. By God’s standard we haven’t lived up to our callings as moms and dads and church members and employees and friends and citizens, but our Heavenly Father is the perfect Father who restores His prodigal children to the family.
Baptism in many ways seems ordinary – a little water with God’s Name. But baptism isn’t just another empty commitment you and I make in a life of unfulfilled commitments. In Holy Baptism, you and I were clothed in our Lord and Savior. His perfect righteousness is the holy garment that covers our failure. In water and Word, God made a promise He intends to keep, a pledge sealed in the blood of His Son.
When God the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit clothes us in Jesus, God counts our sins as Jesus’ sins, washed away because He wore them to the cross. Baptized into Christ, through faith, our Heavenly Father sees Jesus’ righteousness as our own. Our eternal death and judgment already happened. Romans 6 says, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father we too may live a new life.”
The world tends to place great stock in fashions that change every year. You’d spend a fortune trying to buy the newest and latest, and in no time, you’d have to start again. Here in Baptism God clothes us in the unfading glory of Christ as the Holy Spirit calls us to faith. God chose our outfits and tailored them perfectly for us. When we were little and our parents handed us our clothes we wore them trustfully. We baptized children receive our garment of Christ to cover us, and we wear Him trusting that His radiant robe of righteousness never goes out of style into eternity. Isaiah 61 says, “My soul rejoices in my God for He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.”
Unless Jesus comes before that time, each of us will one day die and lay down these earthly bodies. When we were small our baptismal putting on of Christ was symbolized by the wearing of a white robe – the Christening gown – because by watery Word we put on Christ’s righteousness. For many another white gown will cover you one day, when you close your eyes in death, a white pall will cover your casket - the final reminder that these bodies clothed with Christ in Holy Baptism will wear Jesus’ righteousness into our heavenly home. All of us will rise bodily when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead. Believers to eternal joy. Unbelievers to unspeakable suffering. Be watchful for that day. Don’t be caught unprepared. Repent of your sins. Love and trust in Jesus with all your heart. Only His righteous robes can bring you home, and they’re yours for free. The robes of Christ’s righteousness are as certain and timeless as the watery Word that makes us belong to Him. Amen.
And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.