A few weeks ago seems a long time ago. How are you faring? How is the ‘new normal’ working out for you? (I think we will not go back in many areas of living even when COVID-19 is gone.)
So this story is a real long time ago – prehistoric almost 😉 – when we were in our first parish in the Outback (late 1980s) Charlotte went to give a TV interview at the local TV station about the local nursing mothers group. This was quite special. On TV! No YouTube or selfies or everyone their own broadcaster back then. Charlotte prepared her material for the interview and also dressed for the occasion. She was ushered into the studio and given a chair and the presenter sat at his desk and they did the interview and as she went to leave he got up to shake her hand and Charlotte was shocked to see … that while he was in business attire – crisp short and tie – from the waist up, he was in stubbies (very short Aussie shorts) and flip flops under the desk. Only what was visible to the camera looked the part.
Today when working from home, it is recommended that one dress to go to work even if it is in the next room. Clothing is a very good marker of time and an indicator of our identity or role. The act of dressing and changing clothes is a small moment to debrief oneself or prepare for what’s to come. Nevertheless there are already stories of laptops in baths, people with night-time and daytime pyjamas, and bosses being told to give employees a 20 minute warning if they want to go online unexpectedly! Those who are still out (especially those working) are also adding layers of clothing to their usual attire.
Clothes may make the man or woman as the saying goes when we were out and about but now what is visible might be only what can be seen on a screen and only that part of us needs to dress for the occasion. Conversely who are we behind personal protective equipment when even our faces are shielded behind masks?
On this Palm Sunday and the entrance into Holy Week, we recall that Jesus didn’t change his clothes for the occasion. Ok, his mode of transportation changed from walking to riding a donkey. It was the crowds the celebrated the arrival of a liberator who threw their clothes and branches before Jesus. He still wore the same simple garment – more attuned for serving than anything else. (He will lose even that at his coronation and enthronement.) With Jesus, I think, it is very much what you see is what you get. And what do we see? Where do we look?
For those baptised in Christ, they look to Jesus’ death and resurrection where we are joined to him and his new life. Our baptism is where the robe of righteousness is put on us, where the film of water from our washing glistens on us, and we are told that we are children of this gracious and mysterious Triune God – forgiven, saved, and having eternal life. A daily return to our baptism is a daily putting on (like clothes) of Christ where we are reminded that our identity has been given to us – God calls us by our name, ‘you are mine’ (Isaiah 43:1) – and that identity is what we wear no matter the clothing! GS