There is a show on TLC, which I believe stands for ‘The Learning Channel’ (why do they call themselves the learning channel when they have shows such as Honey Boo Boo, Cake Boss, and Sister Wives, I don’t know)…
ANYWAYS, there is this show on TLC called ‘what not to wear’; anyone ever hear of it? Basically there are these two fashionable people who take these outlandishly dressed ‘normal’ people, usually women, who at the beginning of the show are wearing some of the craziest, or hideous outfits you may have ever seen. Throughout the show you learn about the person, fashion, and some better ways of dressing and living that you didn’t know about before. Yes another quality television show, and yet another reason we are becoming less intelligent as Americans. But I digress…
But this got me thinking: what are some things that we wear that we shouldn’t be wearing?
I know for me that as I look back on my childhood I wish that either A.) my parents shouldn’t have been dressing me, or B). I shouldn’t have been able to wear those clothes!
What are we wearing that we shouldn’t? And why in the world are we wearing it?
I want us all to think about this. Think about some of the CRAZY things that people wear that you just think to yourself: ‘What are they doing?!’
There is this other story written by a Danish author named Hanz Christian Andersen called ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ all the way back in 1837. This has to do with clothing as well.
The story goes like this:
A vain Emperor who cares about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two swindlers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or “hopelessly stupid”.
The Emperor’s ministers cannot see the clothing themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions and the Emperor does the same.
Finally the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk also play along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid.
Then a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspects the assertion is true, but continues the procession.
There is a problem with this story! The problem is that even when others notice that what we are wearing is CRAZY, or not wearing, we are so afraid to be bold enough to say anything because we are fearful of being singled out. We call this a ‘herd mentality.’
When buffalo travel around in herds they do so because they don’t want to be singled out and eaten by a predator. The same goes for us as humans at times.
The PROBLEM is that sometimes we focus so much on staying within the herd…that we run off the side of a cliff…right into our own doom. Native Americans used to do this as a form of hunting. Get the herd running in a certain direction…right to the edge of a cliff. Dinner is ready!
So what does this all have to do with a letter by an author named Paul who wrote to this group of Christians in Colossai?
The author in this letter to the Colossians writes about being newly clothed with Christ. This is all good, but he reminds us that first we need to get rid of our old, incredibly out of fashion clothes before we can even begin to put our new clothes on.
For Paul, these ‘clothes’ are actually behaviors. He goes on to list a few:
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication (meaning sexual activity outside of marriage), 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 (holding grudges), slander (speaking bad about people), 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.
He then goes on to tell us the positive consequences of getting rid of our old clothes; we become new beings. Not only that, but when we dress like our Creator, God, then we are no longer cast into those segments or classes of society! We are no longer in need of our old herd which we thought was necessary to survive.
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!
So what does this mean for us here today? What does this letter written some 2000 years ago mean for the 300 or so of us who are gathered here?
Today’s message is one that you may not ever hear a pastor say: it’s time to get some new clothes, and it’s Jesus who has some new clothes waiting for us.
It’s in Jesus that we don’t have to worry about being in the right social circle or sitting at the right lunch table. It’s in Jesus that we don’t have to worry about choosing the right sport to play so that the right people will like you. It’s in Jesus wear we can live our lives free because we understand that it’s not the others who decide whether or not you are a good person, or whether you are cool enough, or whether or not you’re loveable; it’s Jesus who says I love you.
What not to wear: fornication, impurity, unhealthy passion, evil desire, greed, anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language. We need to get new clothes; Godly clothes. And when we do, we open our lives to a whole new world outside of the life of the herd, filled with new opportunities.
Life outside the herd can be a little scary to think about at times. It’s outside of our comfort zones, where we think we are safe. But life outside the herd can also be liberating!
I’m reminded of Jack London’s story, ‘The Call of the Wild’, where Buck, a normal house dog was forced out of his comfort zone as he was sold into being a sled dog in the Yukon wilderness of Canada. It was then that Buck was able to recognize and appreciate his newly discovered qualities that made him feel truly alive…they were within him all along. Buck met a new herd; a pack actually. And it was in this discovery that Buck realized his true identity.
We also are called to leave the comfort of the herd in order to discover our true selves in Christ. Yes, there may be bumps and bruises along the way. There may be truly scary moments. But ultimately, we are called to live a truly passionate life in Christ.
The Good News today is this: by God’s love we are offered new clothes in Christ Jesus to replace our old clothing: behaviors, attitudes, and all.
These next few days, let us try this on for a while. Let’s try putting those old clothes away, and trying on some new clothes. Let’s walk and talk with others outside of our herd; those who may not look or act like us. Let’s open ourselves to God’s presence in our lives today.
Can you imagine a life outside of the herd to which you may find yourself in today? Well, if you ever wondered what it would be like to break free and experience something totally new in Christ, this is your invitation. And let us take those bold steps together.