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Reflection March 3, 2019
"Clothing Ourselves with Love" - by Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience ….Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
These words from our brother Paul (Colossians 3:12&14) are such telling words. I didn’t have the opportunity to write much about Valentine’s Day this year, so in this week’s Advance, I’ll write about love in light of this passage from Colossians.
What might love look like when we put it on? Is it soft like a cashmere sweater? What color is it? How can I tell if you are clothed with love? How can I tell if I’m clothed with love? How are we to take to heart Paul’s admonition to clothe ourselves with love?
God has been courting us, wooing us, for so long. It’s part of a great mystery why God loves us so much. God is deeply committed to what scientists suggest is an almost 14 billion year old love affair. I say this in light of my recent preaching about Jeremiah’s “seduction” by the Almighty.
Let me quote from the Irish writer, Pat Collins’ book, Intimacy and the Hungers of the Heart: “I have a growing conviction that it is only through our loving interpersonal relationships, especially those of an intimate kind, that we receive the…key which unlocks something of the meaning of the universe and of its Mysterious Creator. If ultimate reality is love, then all of creation must bear the imprint of that love.”
What this means is that everything created is created out of love by the Creator. God loves everything God has created and everything God will create. God is in a deep, divine relationship with everything created.
As Psalm 104 extols: “You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart.” (verses 14–15)
After describing many of the creatures God has made, the Psalmist writes: “These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your breath they are created.” (verses 27–30).
The Psalmist is claiming that every creature living is sustained in life by God. If God stopped loving any creature, that creature would then fall out of existence. In other words, we’re sustained in our lives because of the love God has for us. The breath of God sustains all life, including human life. If God takes that breath away, we die. We owe every moment of our lives to the loving sustenance of our God.
And this sustenance is all held together in Jesus Christ, the second person of the all-holy Trinity of God. As Paul writes in Colossians 1:15–17: “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created. Things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Paul is explaining how all creation occurred through the power of Christ Jesus and how all creation “holds together” - continues in existence - through the power of Christ Jesus. No creature is excluded from the power exuded throughout creation by Christ Jesus. No corner of our vast cosmos is removed from the power of Christ Jesus. Everything created, everything living, lives in and through Christ.
As one of my Scripture professors, Robert Karris, writes in A Symphony of New Testament Hymns: “Christ, who lived, taught, and was crucified in an obscure part of the Roman Empire, was with God at the beginning of all things. He holds all things together…Christ has primacy in everything and in every way. Through Christ and for Christ, God has fulfilled the longings of the human heart for peace and a cessation of cosmic and human warfare.”
We wait for this cosmic fulfillment to finally unfold. We are all impatient for its fulfillment, its promised appearance. But I also know that the reconciliation of all creation has already started in and through Christ Jesus. This is our Christian certitude!
And when we’re commissioned to “above all, clothe ourselves with love…and to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts,” we must take this commission seriously. As I recently preached, the essence of love is the sustaining, the affirmation, the approval - of something or someone’s existence.
Since God sustains all creation through the power of divine love, every moment of our existence is God’s continued approval of our existence. God, in Christ, states emphatically “I want you to continue to exist!” Talk about positive reinforcement!
Of course there will come that time when we enter the dark mystery of death. Yet even in that mystery, we know that we’ll continue being loved by the One who Made Us. We trust we’ll continue in a different, less sorrowful, style of existence.
So how do we clothe ourselves with love? The primary way we clothe ourselves with love is through affirming and supporting each other, saying to each other: “I’m glad you exist!” If our love is to echo the love which God has for us in Christ Jesus, then this is how we are called to clothe ourselves with love. A belated Happy Valentine’s Day to All!
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor