What are you wearing today? For this World Communion Sunday, I kindly asked you to wear your traditional garments if you have any, or something that can represent your own cultural background. So today, I’m wearing Hanbok, which is the traditional attire of Korea. I got this for my wedding. I didn’t particularly love this pinky pants, but I had no choice because the person who made this was so adamant about color selections for a bridegroom. She said, “It’s the tradition!” And that’s it. From here, I can see many of you wearing different folk costumes, clothes with emblems, and also casual clothes in your own style. Whatever you’re wearing today, you all look great in your beautiful diversity!
Our garments and clothes are special in a way that they express many things about who we are. Yes, we can tell something about people from what they are wearing. The perfect example is me. One day, I had to go to Home Depot in my clergy shirt and collar. People immediately recognized me, especially, who I am. It got so funny. Some people tried to stay away from me. I don’t know why, but whenever I wear my attire in public, it always happens. And some people greeted me, “Hello Reverend, or hello Father, and even, God bless you!” Although I am a bit too obvious example, it’s still true that the clothes people wear reflect who they are—their vocations, cultures, religions, characters, personalities, and even which sports team they root for.
In today’s Epistle reading, Paul speaks of a mysterious garment. According to him, we are also wearing this right now. But very importantly, this garment not just represents us. Rather, it “defines” who we truly are. What kind of garment is this? Paul says, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Yes, Paul thinks that Jesus Christ is what we wear as Christians. Paul says a few times in his letters, if we believe in Jesus, we are clothed with Christ or putting on Christ. But what does it exactly mean? As we talked earlier, what we wear reveals the part of who we are. And in the ancient world, where Paul lived, clothing was more typical, so it represented more things about a person than now. It openly displayed a person’s economic status, social class, ethnicity, and occupation. So it was much easier to identify people—who they are—based on their outfit. Thus, for Paul, if we are clothed with Christ, people should know us by Jesus; people should know who we are by seeing Jesus in us.
Then, who is Jesus? We know, Jesus is the incarnation of divine love, the embodiment of God’s unconditional love. If we have to describe him as an item of clothing, he would be the garment of love. In today’s Gospel story, to the Pharisees who ask about the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus answers, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). Love God and love neighbor. No doubt, this is the core teaching of Jesus. Here, we become more clear on the meaning of being clothed with Christ. It means that we should be known as Christians by our Christ-like love. We should be recognized as the disciples of Jesus by loving God and loving neighbor.
Then, if you put on Jesus, what happens? Paul continues to tell us, in Jesus Christ, in this single garment of love, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). What are we wearing now? We are wearing all different clothes. We come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different nations, and so on. We are different from one another and highly diverse. But who are you wearing now? I know, at the Hollywood red carpet events like the Oscars or the Emmys, the E-Channel reporters often ask this strange question to actors and actresses. Who are you wearing today? Then, they answer with different names of designers who made their beautiful dresses and tuxedos. But for us, the answer is one; yes, our answer is Jesus. In our faith, we are putting on Jesus, the beautiful garment of love. Therefore, no matter how different we are and no matter how different outfits we are wearing, as Christians, we are clothed with Jesus together. In our diversity, we are one in union with our one Lord. Indeed, by Jesus, we are what we are. And by Jesus, we are one.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, on this World Communion Sunday, we are not only clothed with Jesus but also fed by Jesus at his table. To complete his love, Jesus gave himself up for us. When we feel naked, vulnerable, and unprotected, Jesus puts himself on us and warms our hearts with his love. When we feel hungry, thirsty, and empty, Jesus feeds us with his body and blood, and assures us of God’s unending grace upon us.
We are living in a world where differences become the reason for violence and discrimination. The world is divided by race, socio-economic class, gender, ethnic group, political party, religion, and by social issues on immigration, human sexuality, climate change, foreign affairs, and so on. The stories of separation, division, alienation, and rejection always outnumber the occasions of reconciliation, unification, inclusion, and acceptance. In this world, today, let us invite our neighbors to the table where everyone can be clothed with the garment of unconditional love, to the table where everyone can be fed with the food of grace, and to the table where people from everywhere can find their unity in Jesus Christ.
Today, Jesus is calling us and the whole world to his table. “Come! Come to my table all you who love me. Come and have a seat. Come, put on my love that overcomes any barriers, and live your new life in communion with me and in communion with each other.” As we hear this call of Jesus, let us come to his table and invite, accept, and share love with all the children of God. Then, people see us clothed with Jesus, and they know we are Christians by our love. Amen.
Pastor Earl Kim