Rev. Harry Currie
Oct 1, 2023
Romans 6:1-5, Colossians 3:1-17
I started school in Greasby in the county of Cheshire, England Greasby was in the Wirrall peninsula, between the Dee and the Mersey Rivers. Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Liverpool.
Brookdale School in England where I went was a little different than school in Hampton New Brunswick. It was much more proper, and I used to be a proper little schoolboy. Then I came to Canada and I found out that it doesn’t take long to lose proper.
Part of being a proper little schoolboy in England was that I wore a uniform to school. Shoes that were expected to be polished. Gray socks. Gray flannel shorts. We wore shorts, I think, because you can’t put the knee out of shorts. Bandaids on the knees were not an official part of the uniform but they were very common. Grey or white dress shirt. Grey and Yellow striped tie. And then a gray sweater or blazer.
That was the uniform.
Every week the teacher would give an award out to the boy and girl in the class who were the neatest in the dress and appearance. Ties properly tied. Shirts tucked in. Hair neatly combed, shoes polished. Fourty four weeks in a school year. About 15 boys in the class. On average I should have been the best and neatest three times a year. Never once was I the best dressed.
I have heard debates in this country about whether school children should have uniforms. The Catholic high schools in some place in Ontario had school uniforms.
Now, there are reasons to wear uniforms.
One reason is functional. If your job requires you to do certain things, then you may need special equipment or a uniform in order to perform your job. If you are a professional hockey play, you need a uniform so that you can be differentiated from the other players. And you need skates, helmet, gloves, stick and other protective gear in order to do your job.
If you are a police officer the uniform is designed not just for identification but also so that the job can be performed. A tuxedo would not work for a police officer.
A firefighter would need a uniform that would be functional when attending and fighting a fire.
So, one reason to wear a uniform is that it is specially designed to help meet the job requirements.
A second reason is for identification. This has already been mentioned. The police officer needs to be recognized as a police officer. People who work in McDonald’s and Burger King or other stores and restaurants wear uniforms for identification purposes. This is who we are. This is who we are about. The uniform says to others. We are different. Or we have a special role.
Minsters who wear clergy shirts and collars and robes are identifying themselves. This is who I am. I have a role to play. This is my identity. When I go up to the hospital in the middle of the night with a clerical collar on, the nurses and doctors and security know who I am and what my role is.
So another reason to wear a uniform is for identification.
But there is another reason to wear a uniform. It is to make everybody the same. Those who argue for school uniforms, say that if everyone wears the same clothes, then teenagers will not be so hung up on their clothes and trying to be different and unique. There will not be pressure on students to buy thousands of dollars on a new wardrobe each year just to look good. The poor students will look like the rich students. The scholars will look like the athletes. There will not be divisions based on who is the best dressed etc. The students are all to be treated equally and there will not be pressure to conform to some pattern of dressing according to some particular peer group.
Another reason for uniforms is to try and make people equal.
Now, what then would make a good uniform for a Christian?
What would we need to wear so that we could perform the duties,
be identified, and be equal?
Now if you think that seems a silly question to ask on a Sunday in church in our sophisticated western culture.
Christians don’t wear uniforms.
May I suggest to you that this kind of question has been around for thousands of years in the church.
I know that there are certain Christians who walk around town usually two by two in suits, neatly dressed, with short hair for the men, professing their brand of Christianity. They are usually identifiable and often if you get up close you will notice they have a name tag on that says Brother so-and-so.
I used to go to a church where make-up was a no-no. Girls were supposed to have long hair and boys short hair.
The Puritans of former ages had particular clothing they wore. The Amish wear particular clothing.
Christians have talked for years about how they should look and present themselves to the world.
If a uniform is about functionality, identity and equality.
Then these are the questions Christians have struggled with...
1. What is the function of a Christian. What is a Christian supposed to do?
2. What is a Christian’s identity? How do Christians identify themselves in the world? How do they differentiate and say “This is who we are....this is our role”
3. How do we show equality? How do we make the church be a place where everyone is treated the same...everyone is equal? Do we expect everybody in the church therefore to act the same?
What is the uniform of the church? Or maybe the question should be. What should be uniform about the church?
How should we walk and talk? How should we act? What should we wear? What should we eat and drink?
Those were questions that I as a teenager pondered when I put my faith in Jesus. I read the scripture that we read today
we shared his death so that as Christ was raised we could have new life.
If I have a new life it must show in some way. It must be evident.
If I go to school on Monday morning are people going to see it. How are they going to know that I am risen, that I have new life. Do I dress differently. Do I talk another way. Will the soccer team say “Look, he looks like he’s been dead and raised again.”?
Will the girls say “Harry has new life.”?
I stopped going to dances, and it shows in my dancing now. I started reading the bible. I tried not to swear. I did some things.
“Hey, I thought. I am born again. I was lost but now I am found. I was dead, but now I am alive.
I am different. I shouldn’t look the same, talk the same, sound the same, or act the same, should I?”
What’s the uniform of a Christian?
Now these were questions and issues that the Christians at Colossae thought about. Colossae was a place in what now is present day Turkey.
They knew they were Christians. They knew that they had died with Christ and were raised with Christ.
AAANNND so they tried to be different, to show they were raised with Christ.
So, they became fascinated with so called ‘mysterious things.” They began to be involved with fortune telling. They called up those 1-900 numbers and spoke to the psychic hotline. They were into trying to commune with the dead and seeing into the future.
“Since we are raised with Christ” they said “we must concentrate on heavenly things”
“We are not the same as the rest of you folks. We be heavenly.”
They read their horoscope in the newspaper. They read their tea leaves.
How are we different than the rest of the world? We are spiritual through and through.
Now there had developed a line of thinking in the ancient world that matter was bad and the Spirit was good. Therefore, the body was bad and the Spirit was good.
And there were those who came to believe that Jesus didn’t really have a body. He just seemed to have a body or he just borrowed a body. He called up Rent a Wreck., borrowed a body and then when he was about to be crucified he stepped out of his body and let the body be crucified while he watched from the next hill laughing.
And as crazy as it seems, the idea of the body being bad and the spirit being good still lingers on in Christian circles and in the churches today.
So, the Colossians were into Spiritual things. That was their uniform. They had a very external piety of religious ritual.
And to go along with it: “If we are so spiritual, we must not indulge ourselves in the things of the world too much.” They had a little motto: “Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch.”
So, they developed quite a set of rules about how Christians were to live. What one must eat or not eat. What one must say or not say. How one must worship and not worship.
And they were very strict. And very down on anything that indulged physical pleasure.
And Paul wrote to them: “I am sure you people are a really amazing bunch of people and I give you an A+ for effort. And I am sure you are amazing a whole bunch of people with your spirituality, but you are not amazing God.
Your spirituality is self-serving and egotistical. It has nothing to do with Jesus, and to God it doesn’t amount to more than a hill of beans.”
What is important is Jesus Christ.
The death and resurrection of Jesus is the key says Paul. Through that action God has made peace with us humans. We are forgiven. We are made part of God’s family.
We die with Jesus on the cross and then are raised with him to new life.
And more than that our lives are lived with Christ, in Christ, talking to Christ, imitating Christ, transforming to be Christlike, Christ living in us. Our real life is Jesus.
Well then, the question remains? What is the uniform we are supposed to wear Paul?
What should we do? How should we act? What is our badge of identification? What is the symbol that we are the same?
And Paul says: “Baptism”
Remember your baptism. You had your old clothes. You went to the water and took them off. You stepped in the waters of baptism. You came out with new clothes.
Baptism is the sign of cleansing.
It is the sign of new life.
It is the sign that you are God’s child.
It is the sign of God’s Spirit present with you.
You left the old life behind. You died. That’s what the old clothes represent
You died to ignorance. You died to sin. You died to other powers than Jesus.
So, keep taking off the old clothes.
Greed? Take it off. Selfishness? Take it off. Vengeance? Take it off. Sexual misconduct? Get rid of it. Gossip? Throw it away. Profanity? Throw it out. Insults? Lies? Hate? Into the Garbage Can.
That was the old. Take off that old uniform and put on a new one.
Put on the clean white clothes of your baptism.
Compassion? Put it on. Being kind to people? Put it on. Humility. Wear it. Put on forgiveness. Wear love.
You have been raised with Christ. You have a new uniform now.
The clothes of the resurrection. Compassion, kindness, humility, forgiveness and love.
What do you think?
Should we try to be more religious than others by lots of rules and regulations. Should we turn away for the earth, from our bodies, from our everyday lives and just live in the heavens and have all kinds of unusual and interesting spiritual practices so everybody can see we’re are really raised with Christ?
Or is being raised with Christ living a normal life with love, compassion, humility, forgiveness and love; and inviting Jesus into every part of that normal live?
You ever look at all the old pictures of Jesus that the renaissance painters painted. The baby Jesus… Jesus healing people. Jesus on the cross. Jesus raised from the dead.
You notice that in most of them Jesus is shining.
Well, it isn’t because Jesus glowed in the dark.
It is because they were trying to put into their pictures, what we have been trying to express in words.
When you are risen from the dead you are not the same. You shine. Your life is not the same.
So let your light shine.
Wow those clothes you are wearing.
The love, the compassion, the forgiveness, the kindness, the humility.
They are so bright today…
I should have brought sunglasses.