and i looked good. really good. black stafford sport coat. gray, cuffed slacks…with pleats. pleats are back, you know. a black and gray striped shirt, with a button-down collar…with a contrasting light-gray patterned tie. and my black, soft-leather rockport slip-ons.
oh yeah. i was ready for some serious officiating.
when i was just a young rector-pup, my senior pastor determined i was seriously fashion-challenged, so he gave me a copy of john t. malloy’s 1975 bestseller, “dress for success”. i didn’t read it. i figured my shorts and flip-flops were already trendy enough. but then i had to start officiating. at weddings. at funerals. and at the big-dog church that was writing my paycheck, we had this pesky little rule that all the pastors had to be in coats and ties on sundays, if we were going to be on the stage.
talk about sucking the fun out of a young minister’s cool, new gig…
i grew up in the era of put-on-your-sunday-best for church. i look on those days fondly. “dressing up” for church is not biblical command, though. it’s cultural. there are a different set of expectations in every country…in every generation. in the first century, the apostle paul told women to keep their heads covered and their hair long… and men to keep their hair short. i’m pretty sure god must be really happy with me. there has to be a special room in the heavenly mansion reserved for shiny heads…
the consensus among biblical scholars is paul’s command is a first century cultural imperative. whew.
since my early days with the dress for success book, there sure has been a lot of talk about how followers of jesus are supposed to dress. in the church building and outside of it. most of it is a blend of cultural expectations and personal bible interpretation. i’ve never gotten too worked up about it…though i really was cornered and chastised by a first-time visitor for calling myself a pastor and not wearing a tie while i preached. for real. i love texas.
i have to admit that my modus operandi when it comes to daily wardrobe selection is pretty tainted…by nearly forty years of hanging out with young people. are you ready for the dress code? there is none. i knew if my life was ever going to count with kids, what they looked like could never matter to me. so it didn’t.
bleached hair, sagging pants, tommy hilfiger polos, tatted sleeves, pocket protectors, doc martens, or school colors…it just never mattered. it couldn’t. there was never a dress code for youth group. i was just glad kids came and they had the opportunity to hear about jesus and be loved. that was always enough for me.
at this point in my, it always will be.
i know there are cultural clothing “rules” that reflect respect and honor tradition. those rules differ from state to state and family to family. i know they are really important to some people. not so much to others. and definitely not at all to me.
most every day of the week, i never think about what i’m wearing. i put on clothes that are comfortable and allow me to do the things i have to do efficiently and enjoyably. that almost always includes tennis shoes (seven major foot surgeries gives me a pass, don’t you think?) and shorts in the summer…and tennis shoes and jeans in the winter…and tennis shoes and sweats when it’s really cold.
i know i need to play nice on sundays. i will only wear shorts when i’m not preaching…even though i could, if i wanted too.
and the best news? how you dress will never ever matter to me.
unless you wear a dodger hat while you take communion.
that would be pushing it.