Sunday, June 17, 2012

God, Our Clothing

A sermon for the blessing of a marriage, June 16, 2012.  The epistle reading mentioned is Colossians 3:12-17. 

The other day I was at a meeting with some colleagues. This being Washington in the summer, the room we were in was over-air-conditioned and absolutely freezing.  One person said, I need a sweater.  Another replied, somewhat archly, “Since we are church people, perhaps we should have prayer shawls at our next meeting.”  Finally, one friend who is holier and much better read than the rest of us said piously, “God is our clothing, who wraps and enfolds us for love.”

We all burst out laughing.  Some of us were familiar with the words, but couldn’t have told you who said them.  It turns out that our friend was quoting a wonderful Anglican saint and mystic of the 14th century, Julian of Norwich.  God gave Julian a vision, and Julian reflected and prayed on the meaning of that vision for the rest of her life.  Some twenty years after the vision, she reflected, “I saw that God is everything which is good and comforting for our help. God is our clothing, who wraps and enfolds us for love, embraces us and shelters us, surrounds us for his love, which is so tender that he may never desert us.”  (Showings, Long Text, Chapter 5)

God is our clothing—God wraps us round and enfolds us.  We hear this idea of clothing  in our second reading this afternoon, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. …Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” 

What a wedding garment that would be!  And think, for a minute about what such a garment would NOT be.

We’re not encouraged to clothe ourselves with a suit of armor.  In marriage, in relationship, we bring ourselves—our truest selves, if we’re to stand any chance at all of it being a real friendship, or a real love.

We’re not encouraged to put on the best and bravest, because those things—while beautiful—can also sometimes be a means of protection. 

And we’re not called to clothe ourselves with things that don’t fit.  I remember a wedding I attended a few years ago in which the groom wore a kilt out of respect for the bride’s Scottish heritage.  The trouble was that the kilt didn’t fit, it was out of character, and looked ridiculous.  It was clearly not the thing he should have been wearing. 

Instead, the things we’re to wear, with which to clothe ourselves are things that come natural to us, when we’re at our best.  They’re things of God—compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  It’s a great wardrobe to have, and on days such as this, and in the days ahead, it’s a good thing to remember that in God we have an enormous wardrobe from which to choose.  And as long as we’re human, we will need that extra clothing, provided by God.

As long as we ask for it, God will provide what we need.  Mimi and Rick, as long as you ask for it from God, God will provide—when you’re cold and lonely, when you’re feeling weak and afraid, when you’re so mad you’re shaking, when you’re consumed with worry, when you’re so happy you feel you might explode—God will be your clothing.  God will always wrap and enfold you for his love.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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