I just came home from worship (first of three morning services). I usually sit down in the front because Mauri can join me there after he’s finished with his part of the service. This morning I chose the less-populated balcony, mainly because I didn’t want to share any lingering contagion I might have carried with me.
Planning separation allowed me to make a daring choice—I wore JEANS to church! At my very core I know attention to what I wear to a gathering for worship lands toward the bottom of God’s importance scale. Since I abide in him and he abides in me on a continual basis, the only thing I need to think about is whether or not my wardrobe choices honor him—wherever I am. So did I dishonor him this morning? If I had sat front and center with one of the pastoral team, would the answer to that question change?
We live one block from church, so we normally walk. In that short distance we pass the homes of people whose only connection to the church in their neighborhood is a glance at or a wave from Mauri and/or me. We’ve often expressed our discomfort in what could be their perceived view of the church from noticing our “dressy” attire. Do we want our neighbors to think that going to church means they have to leave the comfort of their casual dress and find something more appropriate to wear to be accepted at church and acceptable to God?
My morning experiment proved fruitful. On my way out of the church doors I was greeted by two older women, friends of mine, who focused their attention on our conversation and not (that I could see) on my denim. In the parking lot I also met cousins Craig and Wendy as well as my dear friend Susan, who because of our close relationship would surely have said something if she felt the need. In both cases the focus remained on cheerful verbal interchange. But the best part was when my walk down the middle of School Street converged with our across-the-street neighbor getting into her car to drive off. There I could acknowledge her with a smile and a wave and walk on by in absolute comfort.
So I ask myself: Have I judged anyone for what he or she has chosen to wear to church? I confess I have. My position of judgment comes from an upbringing that taught us to give our best to God; we dressed up to honor God. It’s a tradition that had a fine basis but one that has now shifted to a higher purpose—inclusion. Would we ever want some folks to feel excluded from our worship gatherings because of an unwritten expectation of a certain clothing quality?
Some of you wear jeans or shorts to church nearly every week; others choose your color-coordinated outfit on Saturday night and make sure the wrinkles are pressed before you turn out the light for sleep. Time tends to change the importance of some ideals we hold dear for too long. I’d rather keep up with the times than to cling to values that have become worthless.