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Dress Up For Easter
April 7, 1996

COLOSSIANS 3:1-15

Isnít it amazing what some people wear on Easter? It is an ancient custom to dress up for Easter. In the early centuries of the church, Easter services began on Saturday evening with a vigil. At dawn, new converts were baptized and given new white robes, signifying joy and new life. In the Middle Ages, European Christians took an Easter walk through the fields of new grass and new blossoms, all dressed in new clothes. In New York, they walk down Fifth Avenue showing off their new clothes and Easter bonnets in the famous Easter Parade.

But, isnít it amazing what some people wear on Easter! However, Iím not talking about our cotton or wool or polyester clothing, Iím talking about life style. Paul was amazed to find people in the Colossian church still wearing their old natures! They were still wearing bad temper, irritability, meanness, abusive language, and, in Petersonís translation in The Message, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. Paul was amazed. He wrote to the Colossians, If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above. Continuing Petersonís translation, Youíre done with that old life. Itís like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes youíve stripped off and put in the fire. Now youíre dressed up in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it...So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you.

Dress up for Easter. Wear your new nature. Wear your new way of life. Paul wrote, Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness (which Peterson translates as quiet strength), patience, forgiveness, and peace. And, regardless of what else you put on, wear love. Itís your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

What are you wearing this Easter? Surely, you are not wearing your old nature-- the way you used to be before you met Christ! Surely, you are not wearing old rags. Isaiah 64:6, All our righteous acts are like filthy rags! Are you dressed up in your own self-righteousness? Are you carrying a lot of baggage this morning? Burdens, heartaches, problems. Come to Easter with your burdens, but donít take them home again. Leave them here. Take off the old, and dress up for Easter. Put on Christ (Romans 13:14).

What about your face? What kind of face are you wearing. Abraham Lincoln was once pressured to name a particular man to his cabinet. Lincoln refused, and said, "I donít like his face." They responded, "But, the poor man isnít responsible for his face!" Lincoln countered, "Every man over forty is responsible for his face." What is inside you comes out your face! A reporter interviewed three old men sitting on a park bench. The first said, "I play checkers and Iím 91." The second said, "I play checkers and Iím 95." The third said, "I drink three pints of whiskey a day, smoke five packs of cigarettes, take cocaine when I can get it, and stay out all night." Surprised and impressed, the reporter asked, "And, how old are you?" "27!" We are responsible for not only our faces, but our bodies. What you see is what you get. Dress up for Easter! Put on Christ.

You have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above. You have been raised to a new life by Christ, act like it. Dress like it. In fact, you have your own personal valet. Jesus picks out your clothes, lays them out nicely on the dresser, and even helps you dress. Wear your new life. An 87-year-old woman was asked by an interviewer, "How were things in your day?" To which she snorted, "This is my day!" Have you ever examined the phrase growing old? Itís an oxymoron! How can you grow old? You can only grow new. A plant doesnít grow old leaves and old flowers. A plant can only grow new. The old is discarded and thrown away. You canít grow old. So grow new. Put on new, said Paul. Wear your new life, the life given you by Jesus Christ.

Wear compassion and kindness, urged Paul. Our church was all dressed up for Easter last Thursday. We hosted the choir from Germany. You were very gracious hosts and hostesses, excelling in hospitality and generosity. I was very proud of my church! The meals served here, the overnight hosting (some of you even helped them do their laundry) were generous acts of hospitality. You gave unselfishly. Even the offering was generous. There was $117 in checks, plus a plastic bag stuffed with one, five, ten and twenty dollar bills which we handed over to the Germans. We didnít even count it! We didnít keep track. Now, no one can ask, "How much did we give them?" We donít know. We didnít count it! Generous hospitality. And, I noticed: You received. You were obviously having a grand time, serving, laughing, making new friends, forming international relationships. Thatís the gospel: give and give, and it comes back to you! Two-fold, four-fold, a hundred-fold! What goes around, comes around.

What are you wearing this Easter? Discard the old filthy rags of your old nature, and put on Christ. This is Easter. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The new has come. Victory over sin and death is assured. Wear the clothes of hope and confidence. George and Rosie were married forty years. They obviously were still deeply in love with each other. They were attentive and responsive to each other. When you saw one, you saw the other. They did everything together, went everywhere together, except for church. On Sunday, George drove Rosie to church, then he sat in the car and read the Sunday paper. Sunday after Sunday. Then, Rosie suddenly died, and George was alone. The church folk missed seeing Georgeís car in the parking lot on Sundays; but, a few months after Rosie died, on Easter Sunday, the car appeared in the parking lot, and this time George went inside the church.

He sang the hymns, he heard the choir sing triumphant music. He heard a rousing sermon on the resurrection. He heard that Christ was raised from the dead. He heard that Jesus is the resurrection and the life and whoever believes in him will never die. He heard Jesusí promise, Because I live, you shall live also. And George couldnít contain himself. He stood up. With tears streaming down his cheeks, and a big smile covering his face, he shouted, "Rosie lives! My Rosie lives!" And, he burst into song and began singing, "My Wild Irish Rose." Then, Easter erupted all over the church, as one by one, the congregation joined him, and together, the entire church, raising the rafters, sang that great hymn of Easter, "My Wild Irish Rose." George dressed up for Easter in hope and joy.

What are you wearing this Easter? Take off the old rags. Take off your old nature, the way you used to be. Leave your burdens, heartaches, and concerns here. Donít take them home with you. And, put on the new. Wear your new life. Put on Christ.

ã 1996 Douglas I. Norris