Clothed in Christ

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday
Year C/RCL—Gospel: Luke 23:1-49

Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Sunday, April 14, 2019

Many years ago I worked for the speakers’ bureau of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles. As a professional speaker, I was sent out into the high schools of LA to impress upon career-minded fashion students “all things fashion” and “all fashion things.”

One of the core messages for FIDM speakers was, “Your personal choice of clothing, is one of the most public statements you can make.” As I reflected on this FIDM mantra, it occurred to me that on this Passion Sunday, we are spectators to the consequences of Jesus’ deeply personal choice to clothe himself in unwavering obedience to God’s purpose for his life, which ultimately led to his public suffering and death on the cross. Jesus’ personal choice of “obedience” clothing was one of the most public statements he could make.

One of my favorite FIDM presentations was The Psychological Impressions of Dress which underscored the power of the first impression. Imagine the countless first impressions Jesus made throughout his public ministry of teaching, preaching and healing from town to town. His first impressions caused people to follow him, and his first impressions brought people to believe in him. Jesus’ first impressions changed lives while he was alive, and would ultimately save souls in his death.

Now, we have all heard that you never get a second chance to make a great first impression. While that may be true for mere mortals, it does not apply to Jesus.
His first impressions were made when he walked the earth. But in his death and resurrection, Jesus’ disciples across centuries, including those of the 21st century, clothed themselves with Christ, with the intent to make countless first impressions of his love on those who do not yet know him.

Business experts say that the window of time in which a great first impression is made is only seven seconds.1 Once a first impression is made it is very difficult to change. Jesus constantly engaged new people over his three-year ministry and WOW—did he make an impression! So much so that once the religious and political leaders perceived his work—and his very being—a threat to the status quo and their authority, changing their minds to embrace him was not an option. They would conspire to bring about his demise.

A large part of what forms the impression that one makes is the outward, physical appearance, of which clothing is a part. Throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is described as the kingdom of God which had come near to the people. Certainly, as Jesus clothed himself in unwavering obedience to God’s will, his divine “otherness” caused many to believe in him.

The impact of the outward, physical appearance on one’s impression upon others is that one’s public, outward appearance should be in harmony with one’s purpose. Jesus’ appearance would have shown his wearing of the stripes inflicted upon him from the violence of flogging.

Add to that the wounds of the nails in his hands and his feet which he bore. The gruesome images, not explicitly described in our passage in Luke, make Jesus’ purpose to suffer and die on the cross for the salvation of the whole world clear. Clothe yourself in Christ so that your purpose of living and suffering in this human experience as a disciple of Jesus is reflected daily in your outward appearance.
In fashion, what you wear is just as important as how you wear it. Applying this concept to Jesus—he wore his suffering without causing physical or spiritual violence to those who inflicted the injustices and violence upon him.

From the hyped-up accusations hurled at him during Pilate’s and the assembly of elders’ interrogation—to enduring the collaborative humiliation by Pilate and Herod—to having a violent rebel and murderer chosen for release over Jesus—the one whose ministry was non-violent, and who led people, not against the government, but toward God. Jesus publicly wore his suffering on the way to his execution site, the place called the Skull.

Witnesses, along this brutal path, included women who were beating their breasts in anguish and wailing with sorrow. Jesus, the one who fulfilled the law and the prophets, gave the women a prophetic word which echoed the prophets Isaiah (54:1) and Hosea (10:8). Jesus said, “For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed’” (Lk 23:29), and “…They will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’” (Lk 23: 30).

Throughout this narrative the truth of Jesus’ identity and saving work on the cross is what God set into motion to save those who, ironically, would bring about the demise of his Son. The soldiers who taunted Jesus to save himself and mocked him did not know that in choosing to save himself, Jesus would sacrifice life eternal for all, including those soldiers. It is ironic that Pilate’s inscription over Jesus, “This is King of the Jews,” publically declared the truth even in mockery (23:37-38).

And, how very ironic that the criminal hanging beside Jesus recognized his kingship saying, “…Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (23:42). And, while I have been emphasizing the power of the first impression, for the Gentile, Roman Centurian, Jesus’ final cry to his Father, before commending his spirit into His hands was a powerful last impression which compelled the him to praise God and to proclaim Jesus’ truth of innocence (23:47).

God among us in the person of Jesus, made an undeniable impression. Lives were forever changed as disciples left everything to follow him; physical and spiritual healings took place; and the world was forever changed. Jesus’ powerful impression on this world continued after his death, showing up publicly in myriad expressions through faithful Christians all over the world.

And, Jesus’ powerful impression shows up today in the one-on-one sharing of the good news of God in Christ—spoken and embodied—while standing in line at the grocery store. You and I are called to create opportunities in this church, and beyond these four walls, where the truth of Jesus Christ shows up, and makes a first and eternal impression on those who do not yet know him, and for whom the Savior of the World died.

Make a personal choice to clothe yourself in Christ; it is THE most powerful, public statement you can make.

Amen.