Sunday, August 8th: T-Shirt Sunday

Ready for a little summer fun? One of the UCC’s mottos is “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!” I would like to add – no matter what you wear. This Sunday you’re invited to participate in T-Shirt Sunday by wearing a t-shirt with a positive or funny message on it for our service. Join us for a come as you are party as we ponder WWJW – what would Jesus wear?
WWJD-What Would Jesus Wear?

Paris, London, Italy. Gucci, Versace, Louis Vitton. Where do you find your fashion inspiration? Who are your style icons? Honestly it took a bit of brain power for me to even name the three designers I just mentioned. Although I grew up with a mother who was a custom designer, I was never someone who “got into fashion.” Maybe it was because of the time I grew up in. Let’s face it the 70’s was ruled by plaid and the 80s by screaming neon colors!!

Of course, certain professions have their own “fashion” requirements – those in the medical profession usually wear scrubs, first responders of various kinds all have their uniforms as do those in the military. Those in business have their well pressed suits and starched shirts and those of us in the ministry have our robes and stoles.

But my favorite outfit no matter what I’m doing has been and I think l always will be the same – a comfortable pair of jeans and a favorite t-shirt. So today – I’m having a come as you are party in the pulpit!

T-shirt Sunday began back in 2013 when I was working as licensed associate pastor at North Congregational Church. In summer several of the local congregations across faith traditions with have union services together. It was summer, so while of course it was worship, we wanted to also make it fun. My colleague Mark who was pastoring on of those churches made the Sunday he led – Hawaiian shirt Sunday much to the chagrin of many of us who not only didn’t own a Hawaiian shirt but who hadn’t a clue as to wear to get one in the NEK of VT!  T-shirt Sunday was my counter to his union service fashion suggestion. The bottom line is that we had fun and it gave me plenty of ammunition to rib him with!

So this morning I want to dive a little deeper even as we are casually clad! Let me ask you this:  What kind of fashion sense does the Bible provide for us?

That’s right the Bible does talk about what we wear. As I was preparing for this morning, I was actually rather surprised by how many references to “clothing” I found. Here are just a couple:

The first may not be so obvious but God did clothe humankind in skin – the very first thing we all wear.

Deuteronomy 22:11 gives the rule: “Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.”

Of course, there is scripture about what men and women “should” wear and although there are some faith traditions who adhere to those as part of their spiritual practice, I personally am grateful that for most of us those descriptions are a historical record of what was considered the norm of that time and what was considered acceptable in that specific social construct.

I am grateful for the many individuals who have blown open the box of what is acceptable to wear no matter who you are or whether or not you identify on the gender binary. They have made it more in fashion to just be your authentic self however that looks.

If you look at the Bible, who are your style icons?

Adam and Eve fashionable in fig leaves. Exodus tells of the lavish vestments fashioned for Aaron and his sons, clothing that was intertwined with their ordination and service as priests of God. Pehaps Joseph with his coat of many colors or what about the father of the prodigal son cries out for his returning child to be garbed in the best robe (Luke 15.22) Then there is John the Baptist and his famous (and I would think itchy and hot) camel’s hair tunic.

What about Jesus – what can we messages do we get from the things that he wore in his life here with us? As Jesus is prone to even what he wears turns things on their heads and gives us a clue to what we should “try-on.”

Jesus wore swaddling clothes first – like any other child wrapped up in anything that could be found to be swaddled. Just like any other infant even though he was God incarnate – so perhaps from this we learn humility.

A cloak or robe and more than likely his prayer shawl, his tallit. We hear about this In Matthew’s gospel, the hem of Jesus’ robe becomes a conduit of healing for a woman who has bled for years (Mt. 9). Seems that Jesus’ “prayer shawl” has healing powers as do the ones our prayer shawl ministry group knits.

Sandals which John the Baptist talks about not being worthy to tie. He is an itinerant preacher and teacher. His feet were his vehicle.  He was not tied to a building, in order to live into his ministry he had to go out to where the people were. He literally and metaphorically walked with them on their journeys – in their suffering, their isolation, grief and pain. Perhaps he is calling us to do the same.

Clothes of dazzling white which are in the story of the transfiguration where Jesus “comes out” as the Christ to his closest friends. Perhaps the message here is living into who we truly are, our authentic selves.

An “apron,” fashioned from a towel around his waist when he washes the disciples’ feet in the gospel of John. In this Jesus shows us what it means to be a servant leadership, that loving others is being willing to offer acts of love and kindness even ones that are seemingly small.

A crown of thorns and a purple cloth used to mock him or Jesus’ tunic which in the gospel of John the solders cast lots for. By taking on these garments Jesus was holding up a mirror for us – about the worst we can do to each other, the ways in which we oppress one another, the ways in which we enact violence on one another – if we would do this to the son of God then who wouldn’t we do it to. In this Jesus helped to shape the mirror we can choose to be in the world – what will we reflect back out to the world?

Of course, finally he wore a shroud but not for long! Perhaps in this he taught us that life is an endless circle of death and rebirth that is reflected not only in our own lives but also in all of creation and nature. Perhaps Jesus was showing us what hope would wear.

If Jesus were alive today, I would imagine him also in a worn pair of jeans that he likely picked up at Experienced Goods or another second hand store, perhaps wearing the t-shirt you see on the pulpit today or one that simply had an image of a fish with the multiplication sign and the number 2 and an image of a loaf of bread times 5! If Jesus were alive today, he would most certainly be wearing a mask.

In our Gospel scripture Jesus tells us that we shouldn’t worry about what we wear. Of course, he wasn’t talking about that with regard to being in fashion but instead he was talking about our most basic needs. That’s pretty hard to do especially for so may now who have lost their livelihood due to COVID and along with it lost their ability to care for their most basic needs.

However, Jesus also tells us in scripture that we should cloth the naked. Not because being naked in and of itself is a bad thing but because it is about everyone having their most basic needs met. It is about affording everyone this most basic right – the right to dignity.

It is our friend Paul however who I think wins the award for the best fashion sense – “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

“Over all these put love on,” like a coat, the other most layer and therefore the one that gets the most exposure. Maybe Jesus was telling us to wear our hearts on our sleeves.

So this week I invite you to reflect on this question: What am I clothing myself in? Or, perhaps more precisely, how am I allowing God to garb me these days?

Jesus came to show us what it truly means to walk in someone else’s shoes, to put on their experience so that we can truly be compassionate.  In her wondrous book Showings, also known as Revelations of Divine Love, the medieval English mystic Julian of Norwich wrote, “Our good Lord is our clothing that, for love, wraps us up and winds us about, embracing us, all beclosing us and hanging about us, for tender love.”

Come to Jesus’ come as you are party, clothing yourself in love and you will always be in fashion! Amen.