Theology Tuesday: A theology of dress

On Sunday morning, as I was walking up to the altar for Communion, the usher looked at me as I went past and whispered, "See me after church!" Now, immediately after communion each week, I run down to the gym to get set up for the flood of kids who gather after the service for fellowship before class, and as soon as that was done I went up looking for the usher. And couldn't find him, of course. I went home, then, without knowing what he'd needed to see me about.

He just left my office, and now I know. Apparently, on Sunday, a few of my students were hanging out in the Great Hall, and their mere presence was affecting the dignity of the whole church. (The fact that the whole church couldn't see them, only folks who weren't in worship, which is an entirely different issue, isn't good for theology and won't be covered here except for this eyebrow-raise.)

What was affecting the dignity of the church was the way these kids were dressed. Apparently the boys' pants hang down too far, and the girls' shirts go up too high. And it's bad for the dignified image of the church. And it's my job as the youth minister to stop it.

That's the setup. Now for the theology. As usual, there is Scriptural support on both sides. When Samuel anointed David king of Israel, God's word was "Don't look at his outside, because that's not what I look at. I know what's in his heart." But in the NT, there's a story about guests at a wedding banquet. The host had gone out into the alleyways and dark corners looking for guests, because the original guest list all made excuses, but the one guy who showed up without a proper wedding suit was thrown out.

What's a poor youth minister to do? God wants people to come to worship because that's our highest act as humans, connecting with God who made us. Jesus seems to have told us many times that the dignity of the church wasn't the main thing; in fact, those who focused on dignity and appearances were keeping themselves away from God, because serving God means getting down and dirty with people who need help.

The deepest question in all of this is "Does my outer self show the condition of my inner life?" Will a close relationship with God convict me of the need to dress perfectly when I come to God's house, or does that friendship allow me to be comfortable walking in, grabbing a beer from God's fridge, and crashing on the couch to watch "CSI" with my Creator?

The answer that I've come to after wrestling with it every Sunday morning at the ironing board, is that a church in right relationship with God comes to worship ready to work. The clothes we wear should reflect our willingness to go out and serve God's people after being strengthened by His word.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Was this a typo? The girls' shirts?
Anyway, to the real posts: Perhaps it was concern for the youth missing out on worship. Perhaps the usher missed a lovely voice, the company of the young, the joy of worship on the face of that teen. What is the "best construction" of both the youth being in the hall and the ushers being in the hall?
My question to a parent, if I was brave enough to ask it, would be, "Would your child, even as a teen, wear that outfit to...a wedding, a funeral, a special dinner, Christmas at grandma's, etc.?" However, the only parent I'm brave enough to say that to is myself.
Also, I'm glad you are struggling with this over the ironing board! Love, Mom