Clothed for Comfort
Rev. Kurt Lantz Proper 7 C Galatians 3:23-4:7
June 19, 2022 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people baptized into Christ,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of God our Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen (Galatians 1:3-5).
I am not sure green is my colour, yet here I am again in a big green garment as we have entered the Season after Pentecost. It is not the colour that is most important, although the colour reminds us of the life that we have from the Word of God and the Sacraments of Christ given in the Church. What is most important is that I am not wearing my colour, or my garments, because the Word and Sacraments that I administer here are not mine.
A judge wears a robe to indicate that the justice he administers is not his own. The employees at McDonald’s wear a uniform to indicate that the food they distribute is not their own. The pastor wears vestments to indicate that the justification and salvation that he delivers is not his own. The vestments may not be all that comfortable, but then again, many of us are not even comfortable in our own skin.
Two weeks ago, when three of our young people were confirmed in their baptismal faith in Christ, they wore white gowns. It was a reminder of their baptism into Christ, for as St. Paul wrote in our Epistle reading for today, and as one of those young people received as their Confirmation verse: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ, have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). You were clothed with Christ. That is why we often clothe those who are baptized in white. We show that they have been covered with Jesus, like a garment that covers head to toe. It is not that we dress like Jesus dressed, but that we are dressed in Him.
But being clothed with Christ is not always recognized by us or by our fellow man. That is why these vestments are helpful. Our sinful nature sticks out both to us and to others. People see not only our physical flaws, but even more, our sins, our true ugliness. We ourselves are all too aware of our shortcomings and sins, and too easily conclude that we have been abandoned by God rather than adopted by Him.
Being clothed with Christ in Baptism is not just a reminder. It is an effective adoption into the family of God because the garment of Christ is primarily for God to look at. He doesn’t see our depraved sinful nature. He sees His Son, the holy, innocent, beloved Son whom He sent forth into the world, “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5) and heirs (v. 7).
That is why Baptism saves us. It is Baptism that clothes us with Christ. It is Baptism that covers us with the perfect righteousness of the eternal Son of God who came in the flesh to die for our sins and rise again to give life everlasting. It is through Baptism that God the Father regards us as holy, righteous, and sinless and so extends to us all of His love and all of the rights and privileges of being His children. You see, being clothed with Christ is our salvation, because it is Christ. It is God’s promise given to us in Christ Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we believe the promise of God given to us in our Baptism and we are saved.
Being clothed with Christ means that we are all sons of God. He is begotten of the Father from eternity and we are adopted through Him, but God loves us just the same. Our identity is godly; it is Christian; it is holy, even when we don’t feel that way. And that has a number of important implications for us who are sometimes uncomfortable in our own skin.
We are often given the impression that many of the social problems in the world today are new, and that if we can get everyone to look at the issues properly, then we could resolve them: racism, poverty, identity disorders. These are nothing new. Ancient documents, from world history and church history, all show that these have always plagued the human race since the fall into sin. The tensions between black and white; the injustices to first nations peoples; the hate crimes by and toward immigrants have always been present in all societies throughout history and around the world. It is a problem of sin that has always been present in all societies throughout history and around the world.
Likewise the social inequalities due to wealth and poverty, and also the confusion of male and female biological genders. You can read about all of this throughout the history of the world. There have always been divisions on the basis of cultural background, and on the basis of wealth and power, and on the basis of sexual identity and orientation. There have always been people who feel uncomfortable in their own skin because there has been the problem of our sinful nature, of sinful actions against those who are clothed in a different skin colour, of the sinful curse that has corrupted the once beautiful and perfect creative work of our beautiful and perfect God.
One of the Jewish morning prayers of the first century, the time when St. Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians (so a prayer that he himself likely learned in his youth) goes like this: “I thank you God that you did not create me a gentile, an ignorant person, a slave, or a woman.” How awful that sounds to our ears, and yet, if we are honest, do we not make at least part of that prayer our own? These are not systemic social problems that can be eradicated by changing the system. These are problems of sin that can only be eradicated by Christ Jesus.
And so, St. Paul reminds us of Jesus in order to point out that the problem has been eradicated through our Baptism, and we ought to start seeing it that way in one another as God the Father sees it in each one of us. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28).
Yes, we are all one. We have unity of identity even in the diversity of our humanity. Throughout the New Testament we can see that the early Christians struggled with Jews and Gentiles in one Christian Church. But that was the reality of their Baptism into Christ and so they needed to be admonished, forgiven, and encouraged in their life together. God sees us all covered in the righteousness of His Son, so when we look at each other, we ought to be able to see Jesus covering the Jew and the Gentile; the slave and the free; the male and female.
That works out not just to being comfortable with each other, but to being comfortable in our own skin. However it is that God created us, He has covered us with His Son. However it is that others treat us, He has covered us with His Son. However it is that we feel about ourselves, He has covered us with His Son.
We are all adopted into one family and all fellow heirs of the promise given to us at the baptismal font. Eternal life with God belongs to each one of us. There is no need for jealousy, no need to fight, no need to struggle for power or control. There is no need to worry about those who oppress us or hate us. There is forgiveness, righteousness, and salvation by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ into whom we have been baptized.
Our heavenly Father will give what He has promised and it is to Him that we can cry when we are in doubt or fear. The Holy Spirit whom He poured out upon us at our baptism cries out “Abba Father.” Our faith leads us to look to God to give all that is coming to us in Christ Jesus. We cry out to be released from the oppression of a wicked world. We cry out to be released from the corruption of the curse of sin upon our created bodies. We cry out to be forgiven for our sins against our fellow man and against the God who has made us all one in Christ. And He hears His Spirit crying within us. He hears and He answers and it is grace and mercy and love in Christ Jesus.
Jesus met a man who wore no clothes. He didn’t live in a house but among the dead. He had been bound with chains, and was possessed by demons. It is pretty hard to think of a social situation worse than that. But he was given a new identity in Christ. People came to check it out. They found him clothed and in his right mind sitting at the feet of Jesus. What a transformation! He was clothed with Christ, healed, freed, in communion. He was comforted and comfortable in his own skin and was able to go home and tell everyone how much God had done for him (Luke 8:26-39).
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Find your comfort in being clothed in Jesus, adopted by the heavenly Father, and filled with the Spirit. All of the love of God is yours. All of the holiness of Jesus is yours. All of the Spirit of His Son is yours. You are no longer a slave to your sin and the curse of sin upon this corrupted world. You are a son of God and a full heir of eternal life with Him.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen (Galatians 6:18).