10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our[a] struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these,[b] take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.[b] 7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.[c] 8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive[d] language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal[e] there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord[f] has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.
When I was growing up I used to do youth theater. And when I was 11 years old I had a huge crush on this 16-17 year old boy named Chris. And when you are 11, been a teenager who can drive- he was just so cool and so cute! And the woman who ran the children’s theater program also owned a series of McDonalds. And Chris worked in one of her McDonald’s. And so one day we went in and Chris was working the cash register and he was wearing a very 90’s McDonald’s unform- I think it was like bright orange and blue and red…and when we walked in, I grabbed my mom’s arm and turned to her and said, “I’ve always loved a man in uniform.” I was a very subtle kid. Lord knows where I had picked up that phrase.
There are phrases out there about loving a man in uniform. Or the uniform makes the man…clothing is something that we regularly interact with. If people can afford them, they buy a first day of school day of school outfit, fashion is a billion-dollar industry. If people can’t afford clothes – it can be hard to get a job, to stay warm, to fit in. Different cultures and some religions have different clothing requirements. At a glance we can recognize, Buddhist monks, certain orders of nuns wear habits, the Amish and Hassidic faith have mandated clothing for their community members. In fact, Protestantism is unique in that we don’t have a designated outfit. Some people wear crosses or a fish necklace but there isn’t a set sort of unform.
In Lauren F. Winner’s book, Wearing G-d she writes, “Clothing not only creates bonds between individuals…It also creates communities and sustains communal identity…There is an underside, of course-as clothing creates community, it also creates borders and boundaries between people. Each week I each at a women’s prison. Half of the students are incarcerated, and half of my students are enrolled at Duke Divinity School. My co-teacher Sarah and I work hard to level as many distinctions as we can between the two student groups, so that they might come to understand themselves, for a brief two hours every week, as fellow students learning together, equal in our classroom if nowhere else in society. To that end, we remind our Duke students that their classmates do not have access to computers, and we ask them to handwrite their papers. We remind our Duke students that the incarcerated women cannot Google the Dukies and find their secrets shared in publicly available court records or newspaper accounts, and we ask the women from Duke to refrain from seeking out their classmates’ criminal justice histories online. These measures help create a sense of community and equality in a classroom marked by deep political, economic, and social distinctions.
But there is one visible boundary in our classroom that Sarah and I can’t do anything about—half the subtends (and the two teachers) come to class each week wearing whatever cute skirts and cardigans and earrings struck our fancy that morning. The other half of the class is wearing seafoam-green uniforms. When speaking for themselves as a group, the incarcerated women often say, “Those of us in green…” The uniforms are a forceful reminder of the capacity of clothing to reinforces social and political divisions. The prison provides an illustration, too, of the ability of clothing to blur those distinctions. Each week, about thirty minutes into class, the prison has “count.” During count, we all say put while two correctional officers go through the campus counting each body, making sure every incarcerated woman is where she is supposed to be.. In our classroom, where there are as many guests to the prison as residents, the officers count clothing. They are looking not for twelve women but for twelve bodies clothed in seafoam-green.
Last week one of the Duke students happened to wear a sweater that matched the uniforms precisely. The officers got confused—they kept counting an extra incarcerated body than should have been in that room. Finally the incarcerated women counted out loud—one, two, three—and the officers left. Clothing had, for a brief moment, blurred the distinctions between the imprisoned and free…But clothing need not always create borders between people. Clothes can also minimize divisions. That is one of the chief arguments for school uniforms…”
Christ is the clothing that has the power to say no male and female. In fact, all three of the distinctions that Paul explicitly names as undone by Jesus—male/female, Jew/Greek, slave/free—are distinctions that, as various points in history, have been created in part through clothing. For example, in the Middle Ages, the church demanded that Jews wear special sartorial markers…And many slave societies have attempted to set apart slaves by their clothing: in ancient Rome, lawmakers tried to distinguish enslaved women from free women by dress. Even in societies where slaver was racialized and enslaved people more easily identifiable by skin color (and, indeed, their free kin more easily mistaken for slaves), slaveowners clothed slaves distinctively: in the eighteenth-century Caribbean, for example, it was typical for planters to order the linen from which they would have slaves’ clothing made “dyed a distinguishing color to help identify slaves…On Paul’s terms, Jesus is not the kind of clothing that creates social divisions but the kind of clothing that undoes them…He is the school uniform that erases boundaries between people. Or at least that is the kind of clothing Jesus wants to be.”-(Wearing G-d by Lauren F. Winner)
As we have heard from our Biblical readings today Christ and aspects of our faith as something we put on. But it is non-divisive, it is a beautiful unifying force. It is a the beauty of love and mercy and justice. It should radiate off of us, and be so inviting so appealing that others want to put it on as well. Lauren Winner writes, “Alexander MacLaren was a nineteenth-century Baptist and he wrote, “It takes a lifetime to fathom Jesus; it takes a lifetime to appropriate Jesus, it takes a lifetime to be clothed with Jesus. And the question comes to each of us, have we ‘put off the old man with his deeds”? Are we daily, as sure as we put on our clothes in the morning, putting on Christ the Lord?” (Wearing G-d by Lauren F. Winner)
One of my favorite songs is they will know we are Christians by our Love, this idea that our actions- become the clothing by which we are recognizable. I think this concept builds on the idea that St. Francis said hundreds of years ago, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when it is necessary use words.” And I think this is really true. We as Christians preach a lot. But the times when we are connecting with people, helping people come to know Christ often happens outside of Sunday mornings. We can’t just wait around anymore for people to come to church on Sunday mornings. We have moved past that as a culture. The way to share about Christ- the way to go forward and be fishers of men as Jesus instructs us to, is to dawn the clothes of Christ. We always talk about wanting our Church to grow, and we have had some growth spurts over the years, and each of these had to do with us being in the community, being at Starbucks for Crafting for a Cause, being involved with Chapel of the Hills and the Bailey Center, putting together the COVID Holiday Store. This is how we wear Christ. This is how we serve Christ, this is how we become fishers of men.
10 and having clothed ourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal[e] there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord[f] has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.