This morning I was listening to the 12/17/15 podcast of the Calling All Catholics radio talk show with “Father” Rick Poblocki criticizing people nervy enough to bring water bottles to mass and it got me to thinking.
Way, way back when I was growing up Catholic (in the era of Beaver, Wally, June, and Ward), severe reverence and piety were absolute rules for Sunday church attendance. My Dad wore his best suits along with a mandatory tie. He would remain dressed up for the entire rest of the day, yes, even wearing his suit jacket if we went on a picnic on a hot Sunday afternoon in July.
As I’ve related previously, I started reading the Bible (a relative rarity among Catholics) in the early 80s, left Catholicism, and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1983. My wife and I attended an independent fundamental Baptist church from 1983 to 1991 where a jacket and tie were still Sunday de rigueur for men and no one would think about bringing a coffee cup into a Sunday or Wednesday service.
I became exasperated with the legalism of the IFB church and I walked away from the Lord for 23 years. When I returned to the Lord in 2014, we began attending a small, Southern Baptist church, which was much more relaxed. The young pastor wore a suit jacket but no tie and usually had on jeans and sneakers. Several of the attendees wore jeans and a few brought water bottles and coffee into service. My, things had changed! The SBC pastor was also a little too relaxed when it came to doctrine so we left that church for the non-denominational church we now attend. At this church, they have an elaborate coffee and donuts bar set up right outside the “sanctuary” entrance. Quite a few people bring coffee and a donut into the worship service. Just about every guy in attendance wears jeans. A flannel shirt and jeans seems to be the unofficial uniform of the pastor and associate pastors.
Of course, dressing down isn’t peculiar to church services, it’s become the norm for our society. Many people would not attend a church service if they had to dress in a jacket and tie. There are only a few occasions – weddings and funerals – where dressy attire is still considered to be mandatory. Does God really care whether we show up to worship services in a suit or jeans? Jesus was a poor rabbi and certainly didn’t own the equivalent of a Hickey Freeman suit. Does God get upset if we’re chomping on a donut and sipping a coffee while the pastor is preaching? Some people are of the opinion we should show the Lord at least the same amount of respect during a worship service that we would show to a human dignitary at some formal, secular function. Others argue back that God doesn’t care about formality and ritual. He’s looking for followers who honor Him in their hearts, not on the exterior. In days gone by, most people dressed to the hilt for Sunday services, and many never even knew the Lord.
How would Jesus handle it? Hmmm. I think all believers can say with absolute confidence that Jesus revered and worshipped the Father all day, every day, in all that He did. I’m thinking He most likely participated in worship at the community synagogue and at the temple with singular devotion, without a cup or snack in His hand. That’s right, we’re no longer under the Law that Jesus followed to perfection, but Christ worshipped and revered the Father with a singular focus and intent out of love. Maybe I’ve gotten a little too relaxed. I’ve personally enjoyed many cups of java during services but, after writing this, I don’t think I’ll do that any longer. But I don’t judge anyone else when it comes to Sunday outfits or refreshments during services. Those are things each believer needs to settle in their own heart.
Any thoughts? Yup, I realize there are MUCH more pressing topics so I’ll blame it all on Rick’s rant.