Dressing For Success
Wedding of Amber Williams and Brandon Ness
Colossians 3:12-17 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Dear Christian Friends,
In my world, it doesn’t really matter whether the clothing I wear matches. It’s what’s on the inside that matters. In Debi’s world, it matters. In my world, all shades of blue will match with each other, and if I wear brown socks with black shoes and gray pants, nobody will really care. In Debi’s world, people really care. In my world, it wasn’t a problem the other morning when I dressed for our walk with gray shorts with a light green stripe, a bright red t shirt, blue shoes with orange shoe laces, and my John Deer cap. In Debi’s world, it was a problem. She took a look at me and cringed. I took a look at her face and said, “What? Are you upset about something?” She looked straight ahead and said, “It’s obvious you have stopped caring about the clothes you wear.”
This afternoon, the two of you obviously care about the clothes you are wearing. Amber, you are beautiful in a stunning kind of a way. And Brandon, you look alright too.
You both have done a lot of work to prepare yourselves spiritually and emotionally for getting married. We’ve talked very honestly about marriage in our premarital counseling sessions. I believe you’re more than ready to enter the institution of marriage, which Pastor Muther likes to say on the one hand will be the best thing you’ll ever do, and on the other hand, it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do.
One of the readings you chose for today is Colossians 3, and our theme is “Dressed For Success.” When you take off your wedding clothes, what are you going to put on? How does one dress for success in a marriage? What are you going to wear that will help you ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after?
First thing each morning, we would invite you to make the sign of the cross and to remember that in Holy Baptism you were clothed with a robe of righteousness purchased and won for you by Jesus Christ at the cross. In that moment, your parents and Godparents saw to it that you were dressed for success in all the chapters of life.
Our text for today suggests an inner garment, no fewer than six regular garments, and an overcoat.
First there is the inner garment of compassion. Literally, compassion means a heart of pity. It is an inner attitude you would have towards each other. It is a fullness of tender caring for and about the other’s vulnerability and strengths, and it will overflow into how you treat each other privately and publicly. It is not something you can muster up by yourselves, it will flood through your souls and your hearts and your minds as often as you cry out for the mercy of God. As often as you admit that you are by nature messed up, mismatched, and inclined towards misbehavior. Mission #1 each morning is to receive all of the grace and mercy and tender loving care that God is wanting to give you, and Mission #2 is give it away as fast and as best you can. In this way, you will be dressing for success in God’s eyes.
Secondly, there are the regular garments of kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and forgiveness.
Kindness is a garment with healing in its wings. It is proactive and goes on the offensive looking for ways to befriend and be helpful
Humility is a garment that gets down on its knees and stays low. It thinks more highly of others than itself. It recognizes its own sinfulness and appreciates all that God has done for sinners in Christ. Gentleness is a garment of self-control. It is not a spinelessness that bows before every breeze or refuses to take a stand on any principle. The gentle spirit will not be easily provoked to fits of rage and would rather suffer injury than inflict it. Patience will not bear a grudge and refuses to harbor thoughts of revenge when wronged. It is a defensive strategy that prevents all kinds of molehills from becoming mountains.
Amber and Brandon, if you’re going to dress for success, Mission #1 each morning is to be still and know that God is God, and Mission #2 is to help others to do the same. Mission #1 is to remember that Jesus Christ was stripped naked on your behalf, and when sinners in every generation stripped all of his garments away, all that remained was love for those very sinners. Mission # 2 walk alongside of each other and others helping them to know for certain that Jesus loves them without condition, without hesitation, and without exception. Mission #1 is to relax in knowing your Savior’s humility, His gentleness, and His patience, and to help others relax as well.
Paul continues by writing, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. In his book, “This Momentary Marriage,” John Piper writes about forgiveness and forbearance as that which to be emphasized even more than romance and enjoying each other. He says that marriage is first of all about keeping your promises to each other and only in a secondary way about staying in love. Three truths he would want us to know. 1)There is going to be conflict based on sin, we need to forgive sin and bear with strangeness, and sometimes you won’t even agree on which is which; 2) The hard rugged work of forgiving and forbearance is what makes it possible for affections to flourish even when they seem to have died. 3) God gets glory when two very different and very imperfect people forge a life of faithfulness in the furnace of affliction by relying on Christ.
Brandon, no doubt you have noticed that Amber is a sinner, but have you noticed that she can be strange? And Amber, no doubt in mind that you have observed Brandon as a sinner, but have you noticed that he can be strange? If you need an example of strangeness, I simply refer you back to the opening story of how my idea of matching clothes isn’t really sinful, it’s just what Debi considers strange. Not really wrong, just different! Forgive each other’s sins as Christ as forgiven you. Bear with each other’s strangeness, as Christ has first of all bore with you.
Finally, we come to the outer garment of love which is able to bind all of these virtues together in perfect unity. We have talked in pre marriage counseling about the different kinds of love necessary in your marriage. The love which you will be promising today is agape love, the love which is always wanting to give and never concerned about getting paid back. The love which is always ready to sacrifice and never concerned about whether your partner has done his or her share.
Brandon, here’s where I want to put the pressure on you, and I ask you never to forget that you are to love this beautiful bride in the same way that Christ has loved his not so beautiful bride, the Church. If you want to be dressed for success, from this moment on, your first assignment is to make this marriage all about Amber Elizabeth-Williams Ness. At the same time and in every one of your days you are to rest and not get your rest. What I mean by that is that on the one hand you are to rest in the all sufficient grace and never ending mercy and omnipotence of Almighty God, on the other hand you are to get no rest. As Jesus Christ would not be distracted and would get no rest until He made His way to Jerusalem and as He would get no rest until He had suffered everything He was appointed to suffer and as He would get no rest until He was spit at and slapped and whipped and cursed and beaten bloody and crucified, dead and buried on behalf of His not so beautiful bride……….so are you to get no rest in any one of your days until you have listened to every word she wants to say to you. We want you to get no rest until you have done everything you could do and said everything you could say and suffered every bit of unfairness you could suffer for this one simple purpose – to help her be as happy as she is today. To help her be all that she can be. To help her feel like she is the luckiest young lady in Mankato, MN.
Amber, from this moment on, your main assignment is to receive. To receive and to rest in and to enjoy all of that love and all of that kindness and all of that patience and all of that compassion and all of that gentleness and all of that humility and all of that forgiveness and all of that forbearance brought your way by this well dressed young man. And then, as time permits, to give it right back to Brandon in the form of respect.
The kingdom of God is like a couple who soiled themselves with their own self-centeredness someday. Other days, they fell into traps of crabbiness and stubbornness. Still other days, they came up way short in the arena of patience and kindness. But praise be to God that in every one of their evenings, they found each other’s hands under the covers, and in the quietness of the night, they prayed 1)forgive us all the ways we have fallen short today, and 2)tomorrow, Lord, do help me to bear with my lover’s strangeness. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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