Friday, May 2, 2014
Wearing play clothes to work. . .
We all know that Americans are accused of working at their play and playing at their work. Perhaps it is true but our manner of dress seems to suggest that it is more true than we might care to admit. This is especially a problem on Sunday morning. More and more folks wear their play clothes to worship -- not because they have nothing better but because they don't want to. These same people have perfectly fine formal clothing in their closets but they dress on Sunday morning to be comfortable and for casual play. It is not a matter of simply what you wear but the consequences of it all.
Formal clothing is worn not simply because the occasion is formal but as a matter of respect. We dress for the occasion and we dress to show externally the inward honor for that occasion or venue. We wear our best before the Lord not because it is demanded but as an outward sign that we understand what is happening in worship and we want to honor the Lord with nothing less than our best -- best clothing and best behavior!
Wearing play clothes to worship is one of the ways we diminish what is happening there (if not deliberately then inadvertently). Wearing play clothes to worship is one way in which we bring the Lord and the whole occasion of the Divine Service down to our level. Both of these are dangerous. To diminish the Lord, His house and His gifts, is to dishonor Him. To bring the Lord down to our level is something we cannot do and it renders the incarnation of our Lord unnecessary.
When I grew up a million years ago my parents were on the lower end of middle class yet we always had suits and ties to mirror what our dad wore just as my mom dressed up for Sunday morning. Often the clothes were not new (sometimes hand me downs from other families and family members) but it was drilled into us that the occasion of the Divine Service was so important we must wear our best. Certainly there were dads and sons in blue jeans in church (if that was their best) and this was not a style show for the benefit of others or an expression of the economic divide. Not equal gifts but equal sacrifice -- that is how one stewardship theme put it and that is how the dress was seen then. We may not wear the same but it was assured that whatever we wore was the best in our wardrobe. The point was that we dare not wear casual clothing or play clothes to worship without in the same way confusing or diminishing what took place there.
Every Sunday I look out at a great mix of clothing. Some of it is formal wear (suits, ties, dresses, etc...) but increasingly it is play wear -- the same thing we might wear to a picnic, to the store, etc... I cannot help but think that what we wear is shaped by the idea that nothing important happens in worship and that God's presence is no big deal. That, my friends, is a big problem.