Revelation 7_9-17 Wearing the right gear
Who here can surf? Is there anyone here who can play league at top level? Who can race a v8 supercar? Yep, that’s what I thought. Yet with the right clothing we can look like and act like the best surfer or racing car driver ever! Don the right gear and you or I can go to Surfers Paradise and look like a pro-surfer. Everyone does it. The moment you step into Queensland, for some reason you feel you have to clothe yourself in the right gear…the board shorts, the Oakely sunglasses, the Billabong tee shirt and thongs; you got to look like you can surf.
The same goes when we attend a sporting event like football or car racing. We buy and wear the clothing that makes us look as if we could tackle () or out lap the Stig! Unlike Dorcus, who voluntarily make clothing for the poor out of necessity, we make clothing to cover who we really are and we use clothing to hide our insecurities and inabilities; we wear designer clothing to blend into the crowd.
In a way its fun to look like a star sportsman or women…but please don’t ask us to play! The clothing might say ‘Holden Dealer Team race driver’, but it does not and cannot empower us to do what it says. We are reminded of this today on ANZAC Day. We can dress like a soldier, but don’t ask us to be the one to go to battle and be killed. Don’t expect us to take a bullet for our country and have our clothes ruined and stained by our own blood.
Adam and Eve were the fist to put on designer clothing, hoping to blend in to the surrounds, hoping not to be noticed, hoping to cover their true self. Genesis records their moment of discovery, when Adam and Eve realised they had sinned against God and for the very first time felt shame and guilt: ‘When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.’
Sin brought shame. They were naked before God and each other, both physically and spiritually. They were not a god in their own right after all, and so fig leaves became the first designer clothing. By covering themselves with clothes, perhaps God wouldn’t notice them. Perhaps the fig leaves would cover their sin, insecurities and inability to truly fear and love God; perhaps they would look like they did before.
However, as you and I are fully aware, designer clothing, made and chosen by us, only covers and hides, it does not do what it says. The leaves were of no use to Adam and Eve, God still found them and still knew they were sinners hiding under clothing; they were punished and kicked out of the garden.
Still today we try to look as if we can hide from God’s anger over our sin. We still try and wear designer clothing, chosen by us, to cover our shame. The moment we have a bad though or sensual desire, a bad word is spoken by us or we lie, like walking into our wardrobe to put on a new change of clothes, we pick out cover ourselves with a particular excuse; a clothing we knew worked last time. We clothe ourselves to justify our thoughts or actions by wearing the blame game; blaming the TV show, blaming the other person, blaming even God. We cover our unrighteousness, our shame and guilt with home made clothing, perhaps even condemning others for doing the very same thing we do, hoping this would cover our deeds. Yes, it often fools those around us. No one in the church would ever find out. Perhaps no one would even know in our family…but we know. And guess what….God knows.
Isaiah warns ‘all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’. God cannot be fooled, he sees beyond our clothing, our nice exterior, and casts them off as nothing but filthy rags. He knows what we are hiding underneath, and so do we. He asks us to do what our clothing says…be righteous, but we can’t. God asks of us what we cannot deliver. Like wearing the army clothing knowing full well we cannot fight. St Paul laments saying ‘What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?’
When St John had the privilege of looking into heaven itself, out of all the glorious and mysterious things he saw, out of all the wonders, like seeing the Son of Man and the seven spirits, one mundane and rather ordinary thing was pointed out and noted; the white robes of the believers in heaven. John records ‘Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes– who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’
The clothing of the saints in heaven, the clothing of those who have died and gone to heaven before us are singled out by God to tell us of their significance. They are not wearing clothes fashioned by their own works, excuses or righteousness…the old filthy rags that Isaiah speaks about; the fig leaves of the old Adam and Eve. No, the clothing they wear are not their own, they are white robes washed in the blood of the lamb. The blood of Jesus covers them and it is only this clothing, made out of Jesus blood that was poured out on the cross, and worn by the saints in faith, that covers the true sinful nature that once lied beneath. It is only this clothing that is good enough for God because it is really the clothes of his own Son Jesus.
The robe of righteousness, the clothing worn by the saints, washed in the blood of Jesus, is singled out to show it is the only clothing that makes us righteous before God; it is made known to us because we cannot see it…it is spiritual and it is put on by faith, as St Paul says ‘the righteous live by faith not by works’. This is the gospel, the good news.
Unlike the clothing of excuses and good works we wear to cover our shame and guilt before others, but do not cover before God, the robe we are given by the lamb covers before God, yet it is hidden for it is by faith that we trust we are wearing it. In baptism we are given this white robe washed in the blood of Jesus, as St Peter says in 1 Peter 3:21 ‘baptism now saves you … not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,’
Even though we may not feel or even look like a Christian, clothed in the white robe of righteousness, we are not play acting or pretending to be Christians, we really and truly are Christians who are saved and will enter eternal life. You and I truly are disciples of Jesus and saints before God; we have salvation by the very clothes we wear, given to us by God in baptism. While baptism clothes us with Jesus blood, we continually wash our robes in the blood of Jesus in Holy Communion, and in confession and absolution. Here our sins and guilt are covered again and again; we sin, we come, we are washed and we go and we serve.
This is the cycle of discipleship; always going out of and returning to Jesus to be covered in his blood. He is our shepherd who will continually wash us clean as we do his work in our community. Never fear about doing something wrong in ministry. Never worry that you will make the unforgivable mistake. Everything, when done in the name of Jesus, will be used by God and as long as we remain in the cycle of discipleship, all will be forgiven. For it is Jesus who not only covers our sin, he is also shepherding our conscience and soul. As you hear his voice and meditate on it, he will guide your thoughts and decisions. He will lead you into mission and service together with each other.
By faith we know we wear the right gear for salvation, but it is often forgotten that we also now live by that same faith; there is a promise that Jesus shepherds us now in our daily service. The promise is for now and it is for you that the Lamb at the center of the throne will be your shepherd; he will lead you to springs of living water. And that even though you may suffer and fall into sin, God will wipe away every tear from your eyes.’ Amen