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Clothing for the Whole Family 
By Dr. Todd B. Jones
05/08/11

FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, NASHVILLE
DR. TODD B. JONES
MOTHER'S DAY, MAY 8, 2011

Clothing for the Whole Family
1 Samuel 1:21-28
Colossians 3:12-17


Well, did you see it? The Royal Wedding, of course, is what I mean. Did you at least watch some of the endless news coverage of the event that followed? We were up at 3:00 A.M., and I got to watch the wedding in the company of one of North America's most informed and insightful individuals on all things William and Kate! We now are amassing a library of research materials on the wedding! Actually, I will add that in many ways the royal wedding did not disappoint. In a world filled with so much bad news, in a world of violence that never seems to end, in a world where people around the globe and in our own country are suffering from natural disasters, it was a blessing to step away from all of that and to attend for a few short hours to a very promising moment in Britain's long history with the royal family, and to focus, at least for a time, upon love and the beauty of Christian marriage. Of course, in one sense, the whole wedding was hype and hoopla, a spectacle, a social event writ about as large as any social event ever could be.

But from another vantage point, this wedding might well have functioned as one of the best witnesses to the Christian faith and Christian civilization to the world, that we have seen in a long time. As a worship service, it hit the mark for the billion plus people who witnessed it as squarely as the funeral for Diana managed to miss that mark. On one hand, the wedding was a spectacle, a giant social event that drew the attention of people from around the world. On the other hand, what we witnessed behind all the media hype was a wonderful display of the abiding power and beauty of the Christian faith and the Christian Church, whose job it is to bear witness to the Gospel. First, there was the wonderful display of Christian civilization's beauty and power. We see the excess and ugliness of Western culture all too often. For this day, at least for a time, the world witnessed how sublime, how graceful, how full of truth and beauty Christian faith is. There was the beauty of Westminster Abbey's architecture, an explicit expression of Christian faith and its inherent beauty. Then there was the power and beauty of Christian music, hymns and anthems that were filled with reverence and grace. I especially loved the way the Brits sang with gusto William Blake's great poem, Jerusalem. It has become over time a kind of second national anthem to God Save the Queen. Then there was the reading for all the world to hear of Romans 12, one of the grandest, most powerful passages of Holy Writ any religion of the world has to offer. "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good," Kate Middleton's brother read as he concluded the passage.

And then there was the majesty of the Christian liturgy of marriage, which gives voice to the power of love and commitment as the foundation of God's world. And best of all, at least for this cleric, was the homily offered by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, who in a few short minutes really called the whole world along with William and Kate to love each other as Jesus Christ has loved us. "In a sense," he said, "every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future."

He could not have spoken of the power and hope of the Gospel any more directly: "William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that He gave himself in the person of Jesus Christ. And in the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each other." That is the Gospel, not just for marriage, but for every family, and for the entire human family. And it is why the Church still needs to proclaim this all-embracing message of God's love in Jesus Christ to a world that will be saved by nothing less.

Today is Mother's Day, the Festival of the Christian Home. In a way, it too can be a spectacle, a social event for the family. But at least here and now, we are in a sacred place, and for these few holy moments, it can be a time to hear the Good News of the Gospel, and to worship God in ways that make us more loving people.

Paul says to the Colossians not once, but twice, that "the clothes make the man" or woman! "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved…" is the way King James Version put it. The word for "put on," in Greek is åíäýù, from which we get the English word endow or endowment. But both the New International Version and the New Revised Standard Version editions of the Bible translate the verb as it was intended in this context: "Clothe yourselves." "As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience." This is indeed clothing for the whole family! This is the clothing that is to cover and adorn every Christian home and every Christian family, every marriage and every life. These five virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness or meekness, and patience are ones that Paul thought every Christian was capable of displaying. They are not talents, but rather behaviors and attitudes that become character traits. These are qualities that can transform our homes, and transform our most important relationships. Imagine what it would mean for you to clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience.

Second, Paul says we are to "bear with one another." And I suspect that Paul knows we all have it in ourselves to be bears! But hear what Paul is saying: We are fully to accept people for who they really are, just as we are to find full acceptance for who we honestly are. Christian love is all about being real, about honesty and authenticity. It is not about pretense. Imagine how in season such clothing is in any home, any family, any time!

Third, Paul bids us to wear the clothing of forgiveness. "Forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." I thought about this as William and Kate stood there taking their vows before the world. "I wonder how long it will be before one of them deeply hurts the other." We all do, both when we intend to hurt each other, and more often when we have no intention of hurting each other. Desmond Tutu was right with his book title: There is No Future Without Forgiveness. But please note two things here about forgiveness. First, it is to be mutual. "Forgive each other." Forgiveness is not the same as overlooking a wrong, and it is not a call for one person to be a doormat. Knowing that you have been forgiven by Christ, and that you need to be forgiven by Jesus, releases in you the generosity required to forgive another.

Secondly, any relationship in which forgiveness is not an integral part will remain shallow and superficial. Forgiveness is central to any life in Christ, any relationship that is important. That is because Jesus paid the greatest price to forgive us our sins: He shed His blood on the cross. And the blood of Jesus is not only a reminder of how costly a gift we have been given, but it is a call to forgive as we have been forgiven. The day before our wedding Connie and I sat down over breakfast with Tom and Barbara Gillespie. Tom and Barbara had been married to each other for fifty-two years that day we shared breakfast. And I will never forget what Tom said to us that morning: "Forgiveness is the oil in the machinery of marriage. Without it, it seizes up and grinds to a halt. With it, marriage can move freely into the future." Duke's Greg Jones says, "Forgiveness is a habit that must be practiced over time." No clothing is anymore becoming to us than that of forgiveness.

"Above all," Paul pleads, "clothe yourselves with love." "Love," Paul says, "binds everything together in perfect harmony." Love is the superglue of the Church, and the superglue of every home, every family, every friendship. Things break, things like hearts and homes. Precious things. And when they do, we need the healing power of God's great love in Jesus to put the pieces back together again, and to go on, often stronger in the broken places. Just as sin and death are the power of the old age, the one that is passing away for Paul, so love is the power of the new age for the Apostle.

So here is the question for you: In what age are you going to live? Are you going to keep wearing the tired, drab clothing of the old age, clothing yourselves in anger, fear, resentment, bitterness and discouragement? That clothing is not becoming to anyone, and let me say candidly, you don't look good in it! Or will you endeavor to clothe yourselves in love? In mutual forbearance and forgiveness? Let me say you look fabulous in that clothing, simply fabulous!

Allow me to close with these words from Bishop Chartres on this glorious Mother's Day:

"As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectation that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete; we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive. As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light."

Let there be light, I say, in the Church, and in our homes! Let is shine, let it shine, let is shine!

AMEN.
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