Midweek Scripture Passage (Isaiah 61:10)

 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

“He has clothed me with the garments of salvation.” What does this mean? We may not know what “the garments of salvation” are like. However, one thing we know for certain: we are visible to others as the people wearing new clothes that show others that we are saved. Everyone sees that we wear clothes that show the world we are free from slavery or under the rules of others and that we belong to God unmistakably. 

There is no way to mistake soldiers of one country from another. Each country designs and fits their soldiers with specific uniforms to let others know which country a soldier belongs to. I have not yet seen a country that does not distinguish their soldiers from soldiers of other countries. In all countries there is a law preventing people who are not soldiers from wearing their uniforms. 

With Isaiah, then, we say we as Christians are wearing the garments of salvation in Christ. In early times, Christian monasteries had specific garments for those who belonged to them. One could easily distinguish Franciscans from Dominicans from regular parish priests. After the Reformation, protestants and their clergy often did not wear special garments to distinguish themselves from others during regular times. Only the clergy wore gowns as a sign of humility during worship services covering themselves lest their appearances may signal pride and vanity.

We have come a long way in protestant churches as more and more clergy do not wear gowns for worship services. Gowns which signalled humility in earlier times no longer symbolize anything other than the roles of the clergy. 

It is no longer possible to know Christians from non-Christians by the garments we wear. In the 20th century, Christians argued that by garments we meant our actions in the world. That is, by our actions in the public and private spaces others would know if we were Christians or not. In the 21st century, this is no longer the case. There are no specific actions both in public or private that signal whether we are Christians or not.

Today it is mostly the case that being identified as Christian is not considered to be good. If we are to wear specific clothes showing our identity as Christian, this will cause more concerns for us. Look at how those religious Muslim garments have become flash points in Europe and North America. Look at how many people do their best to steer clear of those orthodox Jews who are very visible.  Ironically in many places where the Muslims are the majority, Christians stand out because they are not dressed like the Muslims. However, in most areas around the world, we are more likely to blend in rather than stand out with the local population.

Are we comfortable with wearing clothes that tell others who we are? As Christians we are very careful how we appear in the world around us. Unlike those fervent evangelical and/or conservative Christians who are either sharing their messages with megaphones or wearing anti-abortion signs  on street corners, we keep our faith very private most of the time.

I know that there are many Christians who do not mind standing out in the world and being identified as such. Indeed, these Christians wear certain styles of garments of salvation even if their presence provokes and agitates their neighbours. Some Christians deliberately wear their faith on their sleeves to let others know that they are saved while others are condemned to hell. 

We, on the other hand, have always been part of the Christian Church that kept our faith in secret and went out to do God’s will quietly and invisibly in the eyes of others. Indeed, like the early Christians who hid their identity as Christians, we are more comfortable hiding our identities from the public. We do not feel necessarily that we lose much by being identifiable Christians. We are firm and steadfast in our faith. We live lives worthy of being part of the body of Christ. We have our own way of identifying ourselves as Christians in private. When in our own gatherings, we could clearly see that we belong to Christ and that we are wearing the garments of salvation. We do not provoke. We do not disturb. Yet, we approach others with the love of Christ always without fail.

Planning for 2024

Another calendar year has come upon us. We try our best to plan. The question always is, why do we plan? Why is it necessary for us to plan? Can we not do the same thing we have always done as Christians? 

We do not have to plan. We can argue that trusting and relying on God gets us away from planning because planning is nothing more than human attempts to figure out what God is up to. As we often see in the Old Testament, when human beings try to figure out the future or discern God’s will we inevitably impose human will on our future. This is so when we think our plan is the only way to be a church in this world.

For us, planning is a discipline of committing our future to God. In this way of thinking, working out our activities and budget is not to carry out what we think is God’s will, but it is a prayer that God will bless us to love our neighbours by sharing Christ’s love with the world near and far. Our plan for 2024 is our pledge to Christ that we will do our best to follow him and at this given moment these are the activities we see in our limited ways. Yes, it is our promise to God that we will be faithful.

The plan that is our prayer and pledge of faith is always open to correction by Christ and his will. This is why our plan may change and we may end up adjusting as we go. Our plan is always subject to change according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Please remember that

Sunday, December 31 at 10:30 am – New Year’s Service