She walked into the church on Easter Sunday morning dressed in a light blue “church” suit and a silver ornate hat on her head. I watched her from across the room and as she walked to her seat, I noted how she stood out against a backdrop of Sunday casual.
I grew up in the era when clothes had a category. There were work clothes, school clothes, play clothes, church clothes. On special occasions there were party clothes, Easter clothes, Christmas clothes.
Church clothes were aka Sunday Best and everyone, kids to adults, wore their Sunday Best every Sunday. Often, Sunday Best was the same outfit every Sunday, but it was always pristine, freshly cleaned and ironed.
I think about those days in light of the casual ambience of today. “Come as you are,” almost looks like “ready-roll.” For those of you not familiar with this term, it means an individual rolls out of bed and rolls out into the world just as they are, “ready-roll.”
Church wear is pretty much casual wear these days and I get it. Following Christ has nothing to do with the clothes one wears into the sanctuary. Fellowship with the saints is more about the blood of Christ than the red sole of a shoe.
But, my Sunday observation got me to thinking. Here are my thoughts, my “Afterwords:”
Back in those days when there were church clothes and work clothes, my grandparents and parents needed that distinction. The work week for them was tedious and back bending. More often than not, they had no authority, no power. They were subject to the whims of the system that defined how they could be, where they could be and who they should be. Those work clothes reminded them of just how powerless they were in a world that demanded so much of them as it did its best to drain them of value and self respect.
But, Oh, those church clothes! Those church clothes, that Sunday Best ensemble, welcomed them with open arms. Those clothes reminded them of sanctuary, that place where they could celebrate one another and rejoice in the presence of a God who loved them beyond their reality. Those church clothes strode proudly into a place that was 100% their own.
Those church clothes, plain and simple, were worn with a regal posture as the saints greeted one another before walking into a house whose doors were always open to them. Hats were crowns worn on heads held high in the presence of the King of Kings.
I never saw my grandfather in anything other than a blue suit jacket, a khaki shirt and khaki pants on Sundays. But, dressed in his Sunday best, he was the superintendent of the church, and in that place he was that intelligent, self-taught, learned man he always was.
His work clothes were farm laborer clothes, but his Sunday clothes spoke to who he really was from the inside out. His Sunday clothes kept him sane and insulated from the wretched demands of those work clothes. His Sunday Best was his best and in them he was always at his best!
No, clothes don’t seem to have categories anymore. But, for some of us, those yesterday clothes categories remind us of just how far we have come by faith!
I must remember this the next time I see someone dressed in their Sunday Best!
Photograph from the book CROWNS.