“What are you wearing to the party?” Ever asked that question to someone? We ask this question because we want to know what is the proper, appropriate, normal way for us to present ourselves at the dinner, wedding, church service, etc. Even churches, nowadays, are wise to list on their websites what is the normal attire to a church service.
Whether we like it or not, admit it or not, we spend considerable time thinking about, and planning for, how we are going to present ourselves to the outside world.
This whole thing about presenting ourselves has been an issue since the fall back in Genesis 3. Our Bibles show us in Genesis 3:10 that Adam was afraid to present himself to his Creator because he was naked. Have you ever considered that before this – they never had to worry about how they were going to present themselves? Ahh the perfection of the garden, where Debutantes, Fashionistas, and Fast Fashion weren’t even concepts. Adam and Eve woke up each morning, with no cares of how they would present themselves because they were “presented perfectly” the way God created them to be – naked and unashamed.
Now, however, in our post Genesis 3 world, fig leaves, makeup, and hats are the norm.
We cover, we hide, we are careful with how we present ourselves to the world. Ever been wildly overdressed for a party or awkwardly underdressed for a dinner? The horror.
So we hide from the world, but what about hiding from God? Can we hide from the God who “searches hearts and examines secret motives?” (Jeremiah 17:10). We cannot, “for nothing in all creation is hidden from God”, proclaims Hebrews 4:13.
But here’s the good news, as Stephen Seamands says, “God calls us, like he called Adam, to come out from hiding. He loves us. Fig leaves and makeup don’t make us more presentable to God.” (Ministry in the Image of God, p. 128)
The wonder of God is that he didn’t smite or kill the first humans for their sins. He invited them to come out from hiding, to return to Him (Yes, he dished out consequences, because sin has consequences), but he also clothed them, and he would be with them, even in their sinful state.
You see, one of the themes of the Bible is that this relentless God is constantly pursuing sinful people, wooing them to Him. We Wesleyans call this “prevenient grace” in that God’s love has always been inviting us to come out from hiding our sins, tucking away our sorrows, pretending like our brokenness isn’t real.
The invitation of God through the words of the prophet Joel, “return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12) rings so well with the invitation of Jesus in Mark 1:15, “repent and believe the Gospel”. It’s not about trying to present ourselves in some worthy, perfect, put together way to God, it’s about presenting to God who we really are – our sins, our sorrows, our brokenness, our everything. As we do this, we begin realizing that as we have given God our worst, God, in Christ, has given us His best. Better said, God has presented us with His best, His Son, the perfect One, to deal with our worst.
In a few minutes we will lean into one of the most holy acts of the year, as we will bear the mark of morality by having last year’s Palm Sunday dead palm branches smeared on our foreheads. Yet, the image smeared is the Cross. The reminder that though we are dust, though we are mortal, Christ, who went to the Cross, but is no longer there, is reigning over the cosmos without rival. Christ presented himself as the perfect sacrifice for sins, his blood the atoning work for salvation for us to be born again, his life the perfect presentation for us of what new life looks like.
Saints, we enter into Lent not trying to impress God with our good works, nor trying to cover up from God with fig leaves and make up. We enter into Lent, repenting and believing the Gospel – that Christ has done the work for us, so that we can now present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing unto Him, a people clothed with the righteousness of Christ.
This Lent, what are you wearing? No wait, “who are you wearing?” May it be Christ.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Luke is Pastor of Discipleship to the community of saints, in Christ, at Nashville UMC.