I go to a church that is not big on dressing up. Shorts and sandals in the summer, baggy pants, jeans, and hats on the young, shirt sleeves rolled up, t-shirts advertising secular businesses, etc. Some of us look like we just dropped in after rolling out of bed or while on our way to some fun spot elsewhere.
How different from the memories I have of attending church as a child. My mother sewed matching dresses for the four of us girls, shined our patent leather shoes, put the boys in bowties, and spent way too much time pulling out my long hair trying to brush out the tangles. A quarter for the offering wrapped up in a handkerchief completed my outfit and off we went to the maze of hallways for children’s church or to sit up-straight and sitting in Big Church.
Okay, just when you think I’m some old, fuddy-duddy, let me say that all that preparation lasted about a year at which time my parents decided it was too much work getting six children ready for church, so we stopped attending. There were many years between that time and when I stepped back into a sanctuary.
Still, when I read about the consecration of Aaron and his sons, I envied their devotion to ceremonial cleanliness and attention to articles of dress. What is it about the instructions that fascinate me? It is the thoughtful process of preparing to enter the presence of God. Moses followed God-given, minute details accorded to each piece of clothing, the washings, the symbolism, and the prophetic ritual leading to Christ’s atoning work.
The blue, flowing robe made of fine linen thread so that it would not tear when donned or removed, the turban secured with the gold plate which read, “Holiness to the Lord,” trousers for modesty, hats “for glory and beauty.” These items were not worn as a statement of personal preference or vanity, but each had purpose and meaning.
Lest you say that this is all fine and good for the Levites and Jewish priests of old, something that Jesus says in the parable of the wedding feast hints of our need to also consider preparation for worship. In Matthew we read the parable Jesus told that relates the story of a king whose son was to be married. The king sends out the invitations, but all who were invited refused to come. The king took care of that problem (a lesson for another time), and sought other guests. Then as he walks through this gathering, greeting and meeting them, no doubt pleased with their humble acceptance of his invitation, the king sees this man who did not bother to get dressed for the occasion. Now why would that be such a big deal? The king should know that when you start inviting people from the highways and byways that you will probably get a few who either cannot afford to buy wedding clothes or does not have the social skills to understand the importance of dressing up. However, that is not what is going on, here.
This guest had ignored the basic requirement of attending the wedding – come wearing clean clothes. How insulting to show up unprepared to meet the bridegroom. Clean clothes just like the consecration of the priests symbolized the righteousness of God. This guest thought he could enter without proper covering. Likewise, without the sacrificial garment provided through Christ’s blood, we have no place at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
Do my slovenly ways of dressing before going to church indicate resistance to the holiness of God? Am I just stopping by for an hour or so on my way to some other gathering? Or because I have worked hard all week, do I deserve the right to let down my hair on the weekend with an attitude of “what you see is what you get.” In other words, maybe my heart attitude about entering into God’s presence is rather blasé at times instead of well thought out, prayerfully prepared, and humbly grateful to be coming into His house of worship. I know this isn’t really about clothes.