by Ginny Beamish
September 18, 2022
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6:10-18
Back in an earlier life, when I was a preschool teacher, one of my favorite preschool songs was What Are You Wearing? What are you wearing? What are you wearing? What are you wearing today, today? If you’re wearing something yellow, stand up. If you’re wearing something yellow, sit down.
Singing that song was a good way for children to demonstrate their knowledge of colors or designs or clothing parts and to see their own places in the group. Today we want to talk a little bit about what we usually wear, what we are wearing today, and what we could and should be wearing. Think, if you will, about the uniforms that people wear. Why do people wear uniforms? What do they tell us? We were going to ask you all to wear uniforms this morning, but the thought of trying to explain why we wanted you to do that seemed too daunting for us. So we will be relying on your imaginations for a little while.
Soooooo, think for a bit about the last high-school football game you attended or watched. You probably noticed LOTS of people wearing uniforms, including the football players, the coaches, the referees, the chain gang, the band members, the cheerleaders, the spirited spectators, and the security personnel. And whether or not you were aware that you were doing it, you learned a lot about all of those people without talking to any of them. You knew from the color of their uniforms which players were on which team. And I’m told that you can tell from their numbers what position they play. Lower numbers are usually worn by offensive or defensive backs, middle range 40s and 50s are usually the interior linemen and linebackers, and the higher numbers identify the defensive and offensive ends. You also knew who the coaches were by the outfits they were wearing. They were the ones standing with the football team, dressed alike, but NOT wearing football uniforms. They spend the whole game advising their players of what to do next.
You knew that the guys in the zebra shirts were the officials. They all carry yellow flags, which they throw or drop to indicate an infraction of the rules. The head official, the one with the white hat, the whistle, and the microphone, is the referee. You knew who the chain gang men were. Their uniforms consisted mainly of safety vests over their street clothes. They are the ones who keep track of the downs and how far it is to the next first down. You knew right away, by both sight and sound, who the band members were. Their uniforms are all identical. To tell them apart requires you to notice what instrument they are playing. The couple band members who don’t carry instruments are the field commanders who usually lead the band onto the field and direct their performance. You knew who the cheerleaders were, again by noticing their uniforms. They don’t wear numbers, and unless you know them individually, you know only that they are part of the cheerleading team. You knew who the spirited spectators were: they were the ones wearing shirts, pants, jackets, hats, or tattoos embellished with the team name and/or logo. Although their “uniforms” were not identical, you knew they were all part of the team’s fan base. And finally you knew who the security personnel were. They were probably wearing the uniforms of law-enforcement officers, accessorized by all the accoutrements that go with the uniforms, including badges and those shoulder microphones. Whew!
Who knew that you took in that much information, just watching a football game?! If you think about it, you will realize that you have a vast amount of knowledge about uniforms tucked away in your memory bank. Think about military uniforms. They tell you to which branch of the service the wearers belong, what their names are, what their current ranks are, and what medals and awards they’ve received. The same can be said of scout uniforms: Daisies, Brownies, Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, gold Award Scouts, and Eagle Scouts. Who they are and what they’ve achieved are readily visible on their uniforms. Also in that memory bank is a collection of fast food uniforms: Arby’s, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Taco Bell, Waffle House. Most of you would recognize any of those employees were they to walk in here right now wearing their work uniforms.
We are living in the age of uniforms. Besides those already mentioned, there are many more that we might see on a typical day here in Troy, Ohio: first responders (police officers, firefighters, EMTs/Paramedics), postal workers (letter carriers, stamp sellers at the Post Office), delivery drivers (UPS, Fed-Ex), store associates (Kroger, Wal-Mart, Meijer, Home Depot, Lowe’s), and medical personnel (scrubs, lab coats). So what about us? What uniforms do we as Christians wear? In the scripture that Mike read earlier, Paul instructs us to put on the full armor of God, so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. Here in the UCC, we don’t talk much about the Devil. And we won’t today, either. But we can heed Paul’s advice and gird ourselves for our everyday adventures and encounters. In fact, if we take his advice literally, we will all look like super heroes: belts of truth buckled around our waists, breastplates of righteousness on our chests, readiness on our feet, shields of faith in front of us, and helmets of salvation on our heads. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like too much “stuff.” I can see us all weighed down with so much heavy armor that we can neither move nor recognize each other. So how about if we leave Paul’s Christian uniform behind and modernize it for our lives today?
Starting at the top, let’s smile more. According to VeryWellMind, there are ten big benefits of smiling:
- Smiling helps you live longer
- Smiling relieves stress
- Smiling elevates your mood.
- Smiling is contagious.
- Smiling boosts the immune system
- Smiling may lower blood pressure
- Smiling reduces pain
- Smiling makes you attractive
- Smiling suggests success
- Smiling helps you stay positive
So let’s keep those smiles going. Moving on, let’s look at our hands. Our hands are some of the most versatile parts of our body. They can be tender and accurate enough to paint a picture, thread a needle, or play the piano. They can also be strong and powerful enough to swing an axe, move heavy objects, or clean floors. Our hands are also two of the most important tools we have. We use them in nearly all we do from holding another’s in love and support to cradling a baby. We use them to wash dishes and to write words. We use them to clap and show appreciation and to eat. God created our hands to do things but also do work to advance His teachings. God apparently thinks hands are pretty important as the word – hand – appears 1466 times in the Bible and the plural word- hands – appears 462 times. I didn’t count them; I read it on the Internet, though, so I know it’s true. Using our hands to give to those in need include both physical needs (coats, food, shelter), financial (through tithing and supporting ministries) and spiritual (sharing the Gospel). We may think that we don’t have anything to give, but we all have something to give.
Of course, the blind use their hands to read Braille and the deaf use their hands for sign language, but all of us use our hands to communicate. We use our hands to type on a keyboard or to write out a check for tithing. We communicate with our hands when we give a high-five or clap. Some of the other parts of our uniform are not quite so easy to see. But we should also be equipped with and/or wearing friendliness, dedication, faithfulness, fellowship, and fun. We all know what friendliness looks like. Being friendly and outgoing is one form of our Christian love. We are called to reach the furthest corners of the world with the gospel of Christ—Jesus wants us to be outgoing in a literal sense. In Matthew 28 he tells us to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” We are also encouraged in Hebrews 10 to “gather and fellowship, not neglecting to meet together.” And in Exodus we read, “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friends.” And in Proverbs: “A friend loves at all times; and the existence of friends requires some level of friendliness.” And how about dedication and faithfulness? How do we wear those? Well, we don’t actually wear them as much as we demonstrate them. Many of us are dedicated and faithful to St. John’s. We’re here for worship every Sunday, and we probably return at least one other time during the week to attend a meeting, to make some plans, to sing with the choir, or to sort through some photos or documents, to cut the grass, to empty the trash, or to run the vacuum. And we are faithfully dedicated to the fiscal side of St. John’s as well, tithing and living as we are moved to do so by the Spirit.
Christians can also be identified by the high priority they place on fellowship and fun. The people here at St. John’s are known all over town for our fellowship and fun. From Lemonade on the Lawn to National Night Out to Tour De Donut to Holiday Lights at Lost Creek Reserve to Trick or Treat and Eat to next weekend’s Church Picnic and Brats and Sauerkraut Lunch, we are famous for our displays of fellowship and fun. Did I mention that many of those fellowship activities also include food?! And so, here we are, all wearing the uniforms of Christianity. Are we recognizable? Will other people know we are followers of the Word just by looking at us? I contend that they will, and I encourage you to always wear that uniform. Look around and you will readily see smiles, helping hands, friendliness, dedication, faithfulness, fellowship, and fun. Not to mention kindness, honesty, compassion, generosity, respect for each other, faith in God, faith in each other, and hope for the future, all of which add up to Christian love. Let’s carry those qualities with us, so that wherever we go or with whomever we meet, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.