I don’t imagine that most of us remember doing such a thing as children. But, we might remember it of our own children or our grand children. There was that day that they snuck off into Mommy or Daddy’s closet, and tried to put on the shirt that was 5 sizes too big for them, and put their feet into Mommy or Daddy’s shoes and came scuffling out. They were playing dress-up. There they came, shirt tail dragging on the floor, barely walk in those big shoes, even if they had left their own shoes on their feet. Cute as they may have looked, this was an important day. For a brief instant they had become Mommy or Daddy. As a parent, it may have seemed an innocent children’s game that was perhaps a little inconvenient to us because we had to go rehang all the clothes they had tried. But to them as children it was an important exploration in the imagination of what it might be like to be all grown up, an adult who had reached what the child’s mind saw as the fullness of life.
In this season of Eastertide, we celebrate something that is not so dissimilar to them. For, we as the children of God celebrate the putting on Christ. In the early Church, candidates for baptism were given a white garment the day they were baptized. But they were told that they had to wear that garment for the entire week, and wear it on their return to the church the next Sunday. Well, you can all imagine how that went. Of course they all left with the best intention of keeping their baptismal garment white throughout the week. And, maybe they made it through the better part of Sunday, and maybe even into Monday. But I guarantee that by Tuesday evening there was at least one spot on that garment. And I bet by Saturday they wanted to burn their baptismal garment, not wear it again. Because when you wear something white, all the mistakes show up. Sort of like the alb I had when I was first ordained a priest. Well, it wore out over the years, but there were some fairly permanent coffee stains, and some ink stains and the like before it was retired.
The newly baptized would come to the church that next Sunday and it would be pointed out to them that just as the garment had become soiled, that it is not possible to keep ourselves totally unstained and unspotted. We live in the world, and no matter how hard we may try, we cannot keep our baptismal selves totally pristine and spotless. So, we promise in our baptismal covenant that when, not if we sin, that we will turn round and repent and return to the Lord.
But just as those, our children and grandchildren played at dress-up, so too we are challenged to be about the dressing-up of ourselves into the full stature of Christ. And that is in part what the second reading this morning reminds us: O yes, we’ve heard it million times, but no matter how often we’ve heard it we need to hear it a million and one more times. Our Eternal Father loves us so much that we are not only called the children of God.
But we actually are the children of God. And, like the children of God, we are in need of grace, guidance, and parenting just like any child. Like any child, we may have days that are better days, and days that are not. But like any child, we need those occasions where we dress up—and I do not mean wearing vestments, but I mean dress up by learning to put on the fullness of life in Jesus Christ. And, just as that small child does not know really how he or she is going to turn out on that day that he or she is playing dress up, we may not fully know what we will become as God fully works within us: We are God’s children now, John says, but what we will be has not yet been revealed. But what we know, he continues, is that we will be like him.
Maybe that theme of playing dress up does not seem so child like when we consider this passage from the Bible:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Dress up? Not such a bad thing. Dress up into the fullness of our Lord Jesus Christ.