Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mine outward vesture be. . .

Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become mine inner clothing;
true lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part, and o'er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.


 In the words of the great hymn, Come Down, O Love Divine, we sing of the shape of our outward vesture, our clothing.  In the hymn we sing the prayer of a people who pray that externally we manifest holy charity or love and inwardly humility that weeps with shame at our shortcomings.  Good words.  Worth more than an occasional sing to be sure.  But do we intend them to be more than words.

We live in an age in which we demand, even flaunt, our personal choice and desires.  We expect to dress in ways that showcase our assets (to put it kindly) or for the sake of our comfort.  If someone else is offended or it seems inappropriate, that is not our problem.  Once in the blue moon I have watched that program in which designers teach someone to dress less like a bum or a harlot and more like a person whose dress expects them to be taken seriously and respected.  I must admit that I am less shocked by those who dress in ways too casual than those who dress to shock or offend, often screaming their sexuality or their desire to step outside the mainstream.  I have been told that there is a web site with actual people shopping at Wal-Mart and it is, as I have come to understood, a sight to be behold.  I would suggest that the same kind of surprise might be found in a typical church on Sunday morning.

BEFORE YOU GET ANGRY, I am not suggesting that a coat and tie, dress and full compliment of accessories is required.  What I am talking about is modesty first of all and respect for the place where you are.  It is a shame that we must raise the issue of modesty in church but we must.  It is not only a gender issue but it is primarily one.  The church is not the place to showcase your assets.  It may not feel out of place to you, but consider those around you.  Consider the setting.  Our attention is to be upon the Word and Table of the Lord and not on our own different self-expressions.  Women and men, girls and boys, need to reflect more humility and less sensuality in their dress in general and especially in church.

Second here is the extremely casual nature of most church attire.  We all want to be comfortable but what is comfortable is not always appropriate.  Here again the point is not to impose a dress code but to ask everyone to see if their dress is a fair reflection of the inward shape of their heart -- especially on Sunday morning. What might be appropriate for a BBQ or jogging or trip to the beach is not appropriate to the Lord's House.  No, you do not have a dress code but you surely know when your dress is in conflict with the rightful attitude of the heart of a people who come to the Lord's House at His bidding.

Finally, the principle here is love.  Love for God and love for neighbor.  Love that sacrifices preference and comfort for what outwardly befits the inward heart of a people whom the Lord has suffered, died, and rose again to save.God does care when the outward vesture is in conflict with the rightful attitude of the heart or when our dress treats the things of God as casual and ordinary.  Adore the Lord in holy attire (Psalm 96:9; Ps 29:2). Do you recall how Moses was told to remove his shoes for he stood on holy ground?

Again, I am not advocating a dress code but some honest reflection as we stare into the mirror before we head to the house of the Lord.  Let our outward vesture be a faithful reflection of our inward hearts.  Let humility and charity reign.  Amen!

8 comments:

Unknown said...

Why not advocate for a dress code, Fr. Peters? I'm not saying you need to display one on the church marquee or print one in the bulletin board, but an implied one. WE have dress codes for every ceremony or event we attend. No one would think to meet the president in a shorts and a t-shirt; no one would think to attend a formal charity dinner in anything less than a tuxedo or at least a suit; no one would go to a wedding (in a church or not) in informal attire. So why are there constant exceptions to how we should dress in church? Church dress is not about showing off how physically good looking one is nor showing off status of wealth nor showing how lazy one is. Does the person wearing a t-shirt need salvation? Of course. But if we dress up for the trivial things in this life shouldn't we do the same for the Lord? If people stop coming, then they are saying that the Lord and the Church should conform to their standards, not vice versa. Such people, I think, would probably not be interested in the rest of the Church's message.--Chris

Anonymous said...

Schools, workplace, and many places have a dress code. The church should have one too. The Bible does teach us about how we should dress, and especially in the church where the focus is upon the Lord. Too bad we are so reluctant to have a dress code in order to properly teach our people what is proper and fitting for reverence and the worship of God.

Kirk Skeptic said...

Outside of modesty and cleanliness, what sort of dress code do you wish to have and why? My eldest son and I wore a suit and tie when I accompanied Him to traffic court not out of awe and reverence, but out of a desire to make a positive impression on his honor (which it did); is God so impressed? Besides, anyone familiar at all with Corporate Amerika knows about "power suits" designed to impress and intimidate, or just to show off one's wealth; doesn't sound particularly pious to me.

So, since outward appearance is not always a clear indication of one's piety, exactly what level of dress do you expect, and how might you enforce your decree?

Pastor Peters said...

Did I issue a decree? Did I issue any dress code?

Janis Williams said...

A longish post, mostly for the women readers...

Unfortunately, this is an ubiquitous problem in churches of every place and denonination. It was a topic discussed even by St. Peter in his epistle. It was a topic of discussion at the Reformed Baptist church I once attended. No code was issued, but a booklet in-house published to address, well, dress. It ended up doing two things: 1. There was NO change in the way the men dressed. The ministers still wore suits/sport-coats. The men and boys generally wore slacks and shirts (a tie, a few polos, but not usually a tee in sight). 2. I watched as several of the women went from fashionable, modest clothing (with jewelry, makeup, styled hair, etc.) to - well - frumpy. No makeup, long skirts (don't get me wrong; I don't own anything but skirts that are well below my knees) long, straight hair (not the best for every woman or age), and "sloppy" blouses worn outside, never tucked. Many women would wear a tee shirt or turtleneck under any top deemed too low, or too flimsy.

What was the result of this? I saw the 'lust factor' go noticeably higher. Unfortunately, legalism only makes sin worse.

I can truthfully say women's clothes today reflect the culture in which we live. We have women in our church who work in this area who would agree. It can be difficult to find clothes that fit our style desires and a modesty level for church. It is possible, however. I seriously doubt there are many women who don't think about what they put on before leaving the house. That includes church attendance.

We need to bring our thoughts captive... We should not dress for other people. It's not about a piece of tailored cloth; it's about my intent. To my own shame, I have thought more about what someone else in the congregation would think than about preparation for worship. I am not dressing to meet any man, woman or child, but the Holy God, who created and redeemed me. That needs no code, as Fr. Peters indicates.

Oh, and one more thing. Don't cop out for the excuse, "it's the men's problem; they need to control their thoughts, and watch where they put their eyes." I have a husband who is a normal red-blooded man, even if he is over 60. I don't relish having to watch him struggle to avert his eyes from a bare back, or almost bare other part of a woman's anatomy. It is a selfish and unchristian attitude to place blame, or to tempt anyone. If women are the "weaker vessels" that makes men not the strong, but the "weak" vessel. Charity can also be a part of our outward appearance. I would hope if I ever offended any person (man or woman) by my dress, they would tell me.

More than enough said...

Kirk Skeptic said...

@Pr P: my reply was for Anonymous and Unknown, but perhaps you could describe exactly what you believe proper church attire to be, and why?

Anonymous said...

Emulate the dress code that Lutheran schools have for chapel days. That would be a good start for a dress code that brings some proper decorum and decency to the services in God's house. It's about time somebody dared to take a stand on this. Great post, Pastor Peters and thanks for the reminder of how we should dress.

Kirk Skeptic said...

@Anonymous: codes mean rules, and rules mean enforcement; is this what you're proposing? Lutheran schools are for Lutheran kids; is this how we treat adults? I'm with you on respectful appearance, but example and suasion beat rules and regulations in my book.