Summary: More important than our outward wedding finery, the spiritual clothes we receive from God equip us for marriage.
Sermon for the Wedding of BQ and MM, June 8, 2019
It's not very often in the course of pre-marriage preparation that a pastor gets consulted as to what the bride should wear. But I was! It was quite an honor. And I have to say, M, that you made the right choices. You look lovely in your wedding clothes. And B, you're looking very sharp too. Everybody here looks good! I imagine all of you put some thought into what you were going to wear today – because when you go to a wedding, especially when it's your own wedding, you want your clothes to show on the outside how happy and excited you are on the inside to be taking this big step today. You want your clothes to show on the outside how much you want on the inside to be the one your new spouse is pleased to see. And pleased to be seen with!
Our reading from Colossians has something to tell us about clothes too, but these are not like wedding clothes: the kind you wear only on special occasions, or maybe only once in your life. No, these are clothes for every day of your life. And these are not clothes you wear on the outside. You wear them on the inside of you – and yet people can still tell if you've got them on! These are clothes for your spirit – and when you wear them, your spouse is not the only one who will be pleased to see you, and be pleased to be seen with you!
These are spiritual clothes, and they have 7 layers: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. And those are clothes that money can't buy, not in [this town], or in [bigger city], or even from some online specialty store!
No, these seven wonderful garments are given to us by God because he loves us and chose us to be his own. AND because we were naked, so to speak, and didn't have anything to wear.
Do you remember what the Bible says about the very first marriage, between Adam and Eve? It all started off so well, but then they decided that they didn't need God, didn't want God, they could be their OWN gods – and then they found themselves outside the Garden of Eden, outside of God's life. And do you remember how that felt to them? The Bible says they realized they were naked, and they were ashamed. And, I would imagine, cold!
Now, I don't know if that's exactly how it WAS, but I can tell you that's exactly how it IS. Naked and ashamed and cold. This the human condition that we're all born into and that we all die from, because the human condition is full of flaws and failures and alienation from God. And that leads to eternal death. That's the way of the world.
But Christ, who is God since eternity, entered into the world. He became human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He joined himself to our human condition to CHANGE our human condition. And when we are joined to his holy life through faith, we are “born again” into a new life in his kingdom, where the way of the world doesn't apply. And so what once was true about us – is no longer true. What we once had to fear – we don't have to fear anymore. Where we once had no choice – now we do. What once would have made us despair – no longer has that effect. And where we were once naked and ashamed and cold, now we are dressed and dignified and warm! That's what it means to have life with God restored by a faith relationship with Jesus Christ.
Compassion. Kindness. Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Forgiveness. Love. These are our spiritual clothes now, but interestingly, although these clothes are ours, we get them from someone else, and they mostly benefit others. We get these spiritual clothes from Jesus, because he covers us with his infinite compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and all. And because we have been treated this way, on a deep, spiritual level, we become able to treat others with compassion, kindness, and all those good things, including love.
So these aren't virtues we're advised to aspire to, or standards we must meet. They are gifts we have received. All we have to do is open them up and put them on!
We start with the first layer, closest to the skin, and that's compassion: that's the ability to really know and understand another person, and to see what they really deeply need and want, not just what we think they should need and want.
On top of that goes the second layer of kindness: that's the urge to do good to someone without expecting anything in return.