I am excited to join you this Sunday as we kick off our fall formation program! This time of year awakens nostalgia in my soul for the comfort of falling back into the familiar routine of school and church life after a summer of travel and rest. I can’t wait to hear our church halls ring with the happy voices of children scampering off to Godly Play. I love to see our youth sitting together in the north transept at 9:00 a.m., then retreating to the Youth Building for their formation time. Most of all, I am heartened every fall when we return to the classroom and recommit ourselves to learning and growing as disciples of Christ.
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul likened this discipline of learning and growing in discipleship to the process of getting dressed each day. “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,” he wrote (Romans 13:14). We begin clothing ourselves with Jesus in baptism: we take off our old self and put on Christ. Early Christians did this literally: they were baptized in the nude and clothed in white as they came out of the water. White remains a traditional color for baptismal gowns and suits for this reason.
Children baptized at Transfiguration continue to clothe themselves with Jesus as they attend Sunday School and Youth Group, learning more about what it means to follow Jesus’ call in their daily lives. Though some may feel they’ve graduated from this process when they graduate from high school, the work of becoming a disciple of Jesus is never finished. This is why I’m always so excited to return to formation in the fall.
Last year, I read Lauren Winner’s book, Wearing God, in which she explores Paul’s metaphor of Christ as clothing (along with several other refreshingly-new metaphors through which we can encounter God). In her chapter clothing, she quotes from commentary on Romans written by Alexander MacLaren, a ninetieth-century Baptist pastor in Manchester England. I love what he says about Paul’s suggestion that Christians clothe themselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. He writes:
It takes a lifetime to fathom Jesus; it takes a lifetime to appropriate Jesus, it takes a lifetime to be clothed with Jesus. And the question comes to each of us, have we “put off the old [person] with [their] deeds”? Are we daily, as sure as we put on our clothes in the morning, putting on Christ the Lord?
On reading this quote, Lauren knew she’d found something important. She wrote these three sentences on an index card and taped it to her closet door. Taken with MacLaren’s reflection as much as she, I followed suit (pun intended).
This fall at Transfiguration, there are many ways to clothe ourselves with Jesus.
- Ted will lead a Sunday morning class on the Book of Common Prayer, in which we’ll take a deep dive into the profound ways the prayers and liturgies therein clothe us, both individually as children of God and communally in our life together.
- Pastor Nancy will lead a Sunday morning group on clothing ourselves in non-violence, taking Scripture as our guide.
- For parents with children living at home, our Figs with Kids group will explore each Sunday how we take off the garment of perfectionism and put on the clothing of wholeheartedness – they’ll be reading Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection.
- On Tuesdays, all are invited to join The Way, a class exploring the basics of Christian clothing. The Way prepares newcomers for baptism and/or confirmation and serves as a refresher course for those seeking a closer walk with God.
- On Thursdays, we’re offering a year of Bible study exploring the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.
This week, before most of these classes begin, all adults are invited to a meet and greet in Roper Hall. Before we break out into smaller groups to study different ways in which we clothe ourselves in Christ, come join us for coffee, kolaches, and fellowship. Fr. Ted and I will be on hand to answer questions about the classes. We can’t wait to …
See you on Sunday!
 Alexander MacLaren, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1909), 322; quoted in Lauren Winner, Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God (New York: HarperOne, 2015), 41.