Saturday, November 18, 2023

A petty but not unimportant thing. . .

I suppose I am hopelessly old fashioned when it comes to the appropriate manner of dress.  I long for the days when teachers dressed up (men in ties and women in dresses) and there was a more narrow dress code for students as well.  I am always overdressed when I look at folks around me but strangely I am not uncomfortable by this -- at least not as uncomfortable as I am with what passes for the appropriate dress of one flying, going to the doctor, visiting a store, etc.  When it comes to church, I know that I am swimming against the tide here but allow me one more plea.  Dress up for God's house and not down.  Dress modestly and not to flaunt your bodily assets or your political opinions or your choice of beer.  It amazes me how much more important it is to people to be comfortable than to dress appropriately for what is happening.  Here I can think no further of what passes for taste in dressing for funerals and weddings as well as church on Sunday morning.  Note here that I am not at all suggesting that there must be a dress code but only that when we put on our duds on Sunday morning we should choose from the best of the clothing we have and not the first thing there or what feels most comfortable.  If a suit, wear it.  If a good pair of pants and shirt, wear it.  For men and women as well as our kids the goal should be the same -- to honor on the outside of our bodies the same spirit and attitude of our hearts as we enter God's House. 

Now some are likely to shame me into thinking I am asking too much.  It ought to be enough just to get the folks into the building without also trying to shame them because of what they wear.  My goal is not shame (although it might not be the worst thing to have a little shame once in a while).  My goal here is to acknowledge in dress and behavior the absolute miracle that takes place every Sunday when God invites us into His presence, forgives our sins, addresses us with His voice, feeds and nourishes us upon the food of heaven, and sends us forth with His blessing.  We spend a lot of time talking about this feast, the foretaste of the eternal but the noble feast we experience in the here and now.  We have heard parables about who is invited and their excuses for not attending and even of the one who slipped in without a wedding garment.  But do we ask ourselves if we dressed for the feast?  Of course, this is not simply about external clothing.  It is about the attitude of repentance and the faith with which we enter into God's presence.  It is about the garment of righteousness St. John speaks of (Revelation 19:7–8) and about the clothing of Christ's righteousness placed upon us in our baptism (Galatians 3:27).  St. Paul seems to spend no small amount of ink urging us to walk worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1) and part of this is reflected in behavior and speech but surely dress is not incidental to all of this?

A while ago there was a buzz on the internet about a priest who gently suggested that it is not appropriate to carry coffee mugs into the Mass.  Lutherans ought to think about that as well.  We are not setting up a tailgate party to view the pregame show and the action on the field.  We have been invited into God's presence and promised forgiveness to the repentant, strength to the weak, hope to the despairing, renewal to the weary, and life to the dead.  God's presence ought to call us to do more than slip on a pair of casual shoes but is rather the occasion where we tread carefully on the holy ground of God's presence.  By the way, that priest was universally castigated.  Shame on him.  He should simply be grateful folks are there.  Which, by the way, I am sure he was and is and yet this has nothing to do with the external appearance and demeanor of God's people who come to the Lord first and always in the clothing of repentance and Christ's righteousness and not on their own merit.  So call me petty but next time you are getting ready for church, look a bit more carefully at the clothing you have and what you choose to wear.  The outside ought to be a reflection of the inside.

1 comment:

gamarquart said...

Amen and Amen. I am surprised by men wearing baseball caps to church. The food industry, which has taken taste out of food, may have found a way to take it out of people as well.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart