Every year growing up we got a new dress for Easter. I remember church on Easter feeling like what I imagine New York Fashion Week to be like, or, at the very least, the Kentucky Derby. I continued getting myself a new dress for Easter every single year until 2006.
In 2006, instead of an Easter dress, I bought myself white jeans to wear to church.
Back in 2006 I was a large group storyteller for the children’s ministry at our church. My dear friend and relentless mischief-maker in chief, Megan, had a brilliant multi-week project to bring the story of Easter alive. Because Megan is a creative, like I am, there was one thing we agreed on without ever discussing: Palm Sunday we would wear all black, Easter we would wear all white.
We both instinctively know how very great the impact of color is. I remember Megan saying, “My favorite color is the rainbow.” (If you can find yourself a friend who says things like that, you will never be bored I promise.)
It didn’t really matter to me if the children understood the significance of the black vs white wardrobe for the two Sundays. It was a subtle distinction we were drawing. One was darkness and the start of an oppressive week for Jesus. The other was the start of a stain-free new life for all of us.
I was surprised when I overheard a few kids ask Megan, “Why are you wearing black?” on Palm Sunday. I shouldn’t have been. Megan’s favorite color is the rainbow. In my defense, I knew little at the time about children and how infuriatingly observant they can be.
The next week, though, when I wore my newly thrifted white jeans and a white sweater, that was when I realized that our visual metaphor was inspired. “Last week they wore black and now they are wearing white!” There wasn’t just one kid who said it. It was like a rumor that spread around the room.
The Tomb Builders
On the Friday before Easter in 2006, we spent the day hanging painter’s cloth from ceiling to floor around a section of the all purpose room, We were turning it into a stone-colored tomb into which we would bring all the children with us, the excited women who discovered that the tomb was empty, on Easter Sunday. It was strange the way the painter’s cloth absorbed the sound and light. The room took on an almost holy ambiance.
Megan and I loved to talk about the funny details that the writers of the Bible provide us with in some stories. We giggled about how Peter had to make sure to put his coat back on, specifying in parenthesis that he had taken it off, when he saw Jesus sitting on the beach in John 21 after the miraculous catch of fish. What a small, insignificant detail to provide for us, don’t you think?
We laughed about just how much Peter and John were like rivaling siblings, with one overtaking the other as they ran to the tomb on the day of the Resurrection to see it empty, but one only looking in standing at the door, the other being the brave one and actually stepping inside first…
We wondered if Jesus made his bed after the Resurrection: were the linen strips neatly folded when Peter and John found them in the tomb, or were they in a muddled heap? What would Mary have said to her son if they weren’t neatly folded?
These seem like silly details, just as silly as thinking that wearing black and white would be significant.
Not so insignificant
When I got home that day I decided to go back and read through the recountings of the Resurrection. The way the details vary in the retellings of it have never really bothered me, although I know for some people they can be a major roadblock to even wanting to read the Bible. But stick with me, okay?
There is at least one detail that remains firmly in place, along with the idea that the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb and the stone was rolled away: There was someone dressed in white there to greet the people who would discover the empty tomb.
“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.”
John 20:11-12 NIV
“But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.”
Mark 16:4-6 NIV
“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.”
Matthew 28:2-4 NIV
“While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.”
Luke 24:4 NIV
There was something very significant about our decision to wear white (albeit white jeans!) on Easter Sunday. White, pristine, stain-free, wrinkle-free clothes were, and are, such a meaningful theme throughout the Bible and the story of salvation.
What you wear matters
One of these days I am going to do a thorough reading of the Bible, making note of every single time God gets really specific about clothes.
My cousin Kristi mentioned that she and her daughters were wondering why God would have thought we would want to walk around naked like Adam and Eve. Although Adam and Eve got us into a lot of trouble, at least we have them to thank for clothes!
Reading through the inordinately specific instructions for the clothes the priests were supposed to wear in Exodus feels almost excessive.
Skipping way way ahead, Esther gets a complete Cinderella treatment with a flamboyant wardrobe master.
I’m going to stop there. What I know is that God cares about what we wear. To such an extent that Jesus tells us, “Don’t worry about it! You are more important than the lilies of the field (who are dressed pretty dang fine!) God will dress you even better than that!”
On this Easter Sunday, I want to encourage you, really, really encourage you to think about the clothes God has given you to wear. The things you love, the things you love less. What would it take for you to stand in front of your closet and say, “Yes, all of this is a gift. I have everything I need?”
I’m not talking about what clothes would you need to feel like you have everything you need. I mean, what kind of change would have to happen in your heart for you to accept that this bounty in your closet is provision directly from the hand of God?
That change is what I am praying about today. For you.