It was way back in the 80s when male preacher’s “normal” attire was a suit and tie … or, it was at least my every day attire. I was probably playing out some old mental tapes left over from another era, but they played out in my mind anyway … and even in the heat of summer, the suit went on if I was about the business of the church. God didn’t really care what I wore, but I had an image in the back of my mind as to what was proper and right.
To often, as well meaning people, we attempt to apply our standards to the behavior of others as when people shared with me that “children shouldn’t run in church” meaning that it was disrespectful of God. My response later became, “Well, I think that God is probably running and jumping with them simply because it is so much fun!” People didn’t understand.
These same well meaning folk also tried to apply their standards of what was proper by making comments about what others should wear or not wear in worship. The words always flew when acolytes would wear tennis shoes or shorts or jeans or flip-flops under their acolyte attire. My response ran something like this, “Well, when I come across the biblical instructions concerning the proper attire for acolytes I will mention it to the coordinator.” They just didn’t get it.
I was mentioning David in one of my sermons when I added an unplanned footnote … those were usually dangerous, but my filtering mind was always a little late in passing judgment on my mouth. Go figure! The unplanned footnote was actually a result of being confronted just before worship by one of those “well meaning folk” concerning the improper dress of some of our youth. She even suggested that if “they couldn’t dress better they should just stay home!” … and she was serious.
Well, the unplanned footnote went something like this; “Sometimes we get caught up in issues that are of little real concern to God such as ‘proper’ attire to be worn while attending worship. I wonder how we would react if someone followed King David’s practice of dancing naked before the altar or wearing an ephod which was probably only a little modesty apron?” I’m not sure what else I said, but I am sure that there was more. The dear soul, who had made such a big issue earlier of what people wore, took my hand after the service, gave me a kiss on the cheek (her normal expression of appreciation – she didn’t like people hugging her including her preacher) and said, “That was a great sermon.” She just didn’t get it … at least I don’t think she did.
In today’s church it seems anything goes. Pastors wear robes, suits, shirt and ties, jeans, shorts, flip-flops, cut-offs, baseball hats, cowboy hats, etc. you name it and it can be found in the pulpit of our churches and that goes as well for those who are sitting in the pews … if the church still has pews. Things have changed. Some say it is for the good while others groan at “losing” the traditions of the past. I have mixed emotions.
I have to admit that I feel different when I put on a suit and tie. I don’t do it very often, but when I do it makes me different inside. But that is just me. Maybe if I “dressed up” more I would feel different about what is taking place within today’s church.
If Lent is about seeking God’s forgiveness through penitence and acts of contrition then I should be seeking God’s mercy upon on my soul for passing judgment on others over trivial matters, as well as being flippant about their concerns. This “Lent stuff” is not easy – too demanding, too personal, too revealing of my inner being – but, how else can we grow in our spiritual walk which should include the presence and feelings of others as they stand before the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Peter, Paul, John, and Jesus. We stand before the God Almighty naked because he sees us for who we really are and join in the dance of joy of grace … maybe, David had really gotten it right!
Quote for today: To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~e.e. cummings