Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
As you already know, we have come from Finland and the Diocese of Kuopio to live one week with you, with our Palestinian sisters and brothers in Christ. The members of our delegation are the leading vicars of our diocese. This Holy Mass is one of the most important moments in our pilgrimidge, because today we can pray together with you, thank God together, sing and praise together and put ourselves under the word of God together. Therefore let us here God’s word from the apostolic letter to Colossians:
”Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:12-17)
When I prepare my luggage for this pilgrimidge, I had to choose suitable clothes for me to this trip. I thought that the temperature in the Holy Land must be somewhere between 50-100 Celsius degrees, almost as hot in Finnish ”sauna”. So, guess what kind of clothes I decide to put into my sutcaise: only T-shirts, sandals and shorts. Wrong decision.
I thank God for my son who asked: Father, before you leave, maybe you should check the weather forecast for Palestine. I did. And I had to chance totally my clothing and put warm clothes in the luggage.
I don’t want to blame the wheather. Actually, here is warm, but in Finland there is cold and much snow. Last weekend we went ice-fishing on the lake with my five children. We drilled holes into ice and tried to catch some fish. The lakes are covered by ice which is so thik that you can drive a car on ice. It’s cold but it’s nice – if you have right kind of clothes.
The New Testamant speak about clothes and ”clothing oneself” especially in two places. First Apostle Paul writes to Galatians: ”In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed youselves with Christ.” (Gal. 3:26-27)
This is a wonderful picture. Today we might have different external clothes, but what is common to us: we are all baptized into the same Jesus Christ and in baptism we all have clothed ourselves into Christ and his love. It also means that we all are the children of one God. We all belong to the same people of God. Allthough we do not know each other very well, we belong to the same family of God’s chosen people.
The unity between us as baptized Christians is more than a sense of satisfaction between two bisnes partners after making a good deal or mutual profit. It is unity which is based on God’s salvific action and the common apostolic faith. It is unity which leeds us to witness God’s compassionate love and mercy to the broken world. And many often it is unity which leeds us to suffer together, to comfort each other and carry our different burdens together.
Martin Luther calls this ”cross” which is the seveth sign of the true apostolic Christian Church. ”Cross” means that as baptized Christians we follow Christ carrying cross and suffering together. This does not lead us to fatalism or inactivity but to work for justice and peace for all people: Christians, Muslims, Jewish and so on.
As I told, we have a partnership agreement with your church and our diocese. This relation has chanced us. Everytime I see from the news the acts of violence and hateress in Holy Land, it brakes my heart. Everytime I here about hits and hurts against our sisters and brothers in Palestine, it makes me feel somekind of pain. And I belive I don’t speak only for myself, but on behalf of our whole delegation. In baptism we all are clothed into same Christ. Therefor we pray for you every Sunday and do everything we can to stand with you in solidarity.
Another part in which the New Testament speaks about clothing is text we heard. In the Letter to Colossians the Apostle encourages us as baptized Christian to clothe ourself to sertain virtues: ”As God’s holy people clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Both virtues and vices are sometimes understood as emotions or feelings. One might ask, whether we can just take off the vices or bad habbits as I took the T-shirst and sandals out from my sutcaise. Or can we just easily clothe ourselves to virtues, like compassion, kindness, humility, patience and love, as I put warm clothes into my luggage?
Or course fighting against sin, like bitterness, hateress and egoism is much more difficult than just filling a suitcaise with T-shirts. It is true that it is much more difficult to clothe ourselves into good things, like compassion, humility and love, than clothe ourselves into jeans or jackets. But when we are baptized in Christ’s mercy and power, it is possible.
Jesus Christ, his love and compassion, is not somethings which is closed to heaven to sit there unemployed. It is also power which is present in us, acting among us, strethening our faith and love and empowering us to work for justice and peace. Therefore, the Apostle urges that the peace of Christ would ”rule” in our heart, ”rule”, not as a bad dictator but as a good shepred:
”Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
The Lord of Hope and Love be with you all. Amen.