A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend. One of the things we talked about was what we wear to church. She really wants her husband to go to church but he didn’t grow up in a church and really doesn’t have any interest in going. Finally, he agreed to go. As they were getting ready he asked if he could wear jeans. She screamed, “No! You can’t wear jeans to church!” I’m sure you can imagine the next question–“why not?” She didn’t have an answer for him and he ended up not going to church with her.
She wanted to know why we always had/have to dress up for church. I told her I thought it had to do with giving our very best to God, putting on a good face so to speak.
This morning during children’s time I asked the kids if they liked to dress up. Most answers were no but there were a few who thought it was fun to dress up. I told them about how women used to wear big gorgeous hats every Sunday and I always had to wear a dress–this was also how most of the other adults probably had the same experience growing up.
I then shared the conversation about my friend and her husband. I asked them if they ever wore jeans to church, then I asked them how many of the adults were wearing jeans at church–there were a few embarrassed snickers.
Then I lifted up my robe and said, “You know, I wear jeans to church every week.” Do you think it’s more important to dress up or to actually get to church? We all agreed it was best to actually get to church. After a little more discussion, I said “I’m probably going to get in big trouble for this but…if your mom or dad are giving you a hard time about wearing jeans to church tell them that Pastor Crystal wears jeans to church.” As we gathered to pray I suggested that the kids pray for me because I was going to need it.
The children’s sermon got quite a few laughs and giggles from both the kids and adults but it’s a serious issue. Yes, sometimes the whole what you wear to church thing is simply an excuse not to go. However, I think it points to something deeper to something more sinister and problematic.
How often have you known people to stay out of church when they are in the midst of great pain or hardship that basically comes from something they did wrong? I used to joke that I didn’t enter churches because I might explode being in a holy place. I said that I was joking but there was more truth there then I cared to admit.
Too often we put on our best front, our best faces so that when we get to church we look fine, we look as though we deserve to be there. This is not what we teach in Sunday School, nor in sermons but it is the theology that we live in church.
I’ve yet to go to a church in which I would feel safe sharing some of my pain, some of my darker secrets. But that is exactly what we need to be able to do when we are at church. Jesus didn’t come to those who looked right and acted right–he came to the lost, the downtrodden, the outcasts. When I look around our churches sometimes I notice those who seem a little lost, a little rough around the edges but for the most part everyone “fits.”
Once we were looking for another male singer for the choir and someone said, we could bring X but he’d have to be drunk to sing. This is a guy who has a real problem with alcohol. Shouldn’t he be at church? Sober or not? Shouldn’t those of us in the church welcome him in with open arms and offer him the grace of Christ that we have so freely received?
Rarely is that our reality. I think that’s too bad. I think it’s tied to whether or not it’s acceptable to wear jeans to church. They grown from the same bad seed, the un-gospel that says we have to be good-enough to receive hope and life in Jesus Christ. That’s not what we say but that’s the theology that our lives live out.