Happy Easter! He is risen! He is risen indeed!!
I’ve been thinking today about apparel. I have been putting off doing laundry because, well, I hate doing laundry. But on the other hand I know that I have to because the things I want to wear to the Easter Service tomorrow at church are included in the overflowing laundry bag on my bedroom floor. I have long planned what would be nice to wear: something different from the usual skirts or dresses I wear every Sunday, to mark the distinction that this Sunday is a special day of services. Something that would also be seasonally appropriate, and not the least of all, something that fits. Or fits long enough to wear for a couple of hours, lol.
I decided on a spring skirt I haven’t worn to church yet, with a green shirt, and a yellow cardigan. Aren’t you glad to know this? Stay with me, I have a point…
All that got me thinking about dressing for church.
I remember that Easter outfit: I must have been three or four. I loved Mary Janes, the black patent leather cutie pie shoe that were popular for girls in the 1960s. I wore Mary Janes well into elementary school, second or third grade, I think. Then it was Keds. I loved the dress and I really loved the coat. When we went to Easter Dinner (I don’t think we were headed to church services) my mother gave me white gloves to wear that had three pearl buttons on the wrist. I loved the gloves too.
I think it is a good thing to present one’s self for worship in clothing that shows a distinction from what we wear from say, cutting grass or cleaning the toilet. I think it is good to take thought and care when preparing our bodies as a living sacrifice at the service. The Old Testament priests had specially constructed priestly garments they must wear. You can read a description of them here.
The Pharisees were obsessed with clothing. They not only wore the required garments to show their ordained position, but they deliberately altered their clothes to show how holy they were and then by definition get stuff, like adulation and honors. They were accused by Jesus of enlarging the borders of their garments (Matthew 23:5-6) – This refers to the loose threads which were attached to the borders of the outer garment as a fringe. This fringe was commanded in order to distinguish them from other nations, specifically as God’s people, and that they might remember to keep the commandments of God, (Numbers 15:38-40; Deuteronomy 22:12). The Pharisees made them broader than other people wore them, so people would see them, and notice them when they stopped on the corners to pray aloud.
But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” (Matthew 23:5-7) They loved the trappings, and their apparel became a trapping to them and later when Jesus came, a trap.
Though I thought about what I would wear tomorrow, I do not think it is too good to overly dwell on our apparel, church wear, work wear, or casual wear. The bible is replete with admonitions about outer wear, believe it or not. It’s also replete with metaphorical warnings instructing us on the comparison of the outer garment and the inner man.
In Zephaniah 1:8 God warns that He will strike down those wearing ‘foreign garments’, or ‘strange apparel’ (depending on your translation). The pagans wore strange apparel, often an indicator of degeneracy, especially in the old days when it signified allegiance to pagan gods. When times get prosperous, people have time to lift their heads from grinding toil and look around to what other people have, and then import with intent to copy their extravagances, including apparel and then mores, customs, and religion.
Paul said with a sigh of relief that he never coveted other apparel: “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.” (Acts 20:33). It may seem strange to us today that the list of things that were often coveted in Paul’s day were not only the expected items like gold and silver, but also apparel. But clothing bespoke wealth. Remember Lazarus and the rich man. (Luke 16:19-31). In Luke 16:19 the rich man’s name is forever forgotten but his wealth is what is listed, among the riches mentioned are clothing. “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.”
Yet on the Day of the Lord, their wealth and clothing will not save them. “Neither their silver nor their gold Will be able to deliver them On the day of the LORD’S wrath; And all the earth will be devoured In the fire of His jealousy, For He will make a complete end,Indeed a terrifying one, Of all the inhabitants of the earth. (Zeph 1:18) Their silver and gold will not save them, a reminder AGAIN of how prosperity promotes self-sufficiency, as then and so now. And in self-sufficiency, we forget God. It is easy to do, and it happens in every generation.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27)
As we dress tomorrow for the sacred services celebrating His resurrection, pray starting today that His Spirit would work in us to remind us that it is what is inside that counts. Are our motivations good? Do we love Him purely? Are we in right standing with Jesus having confessed our sins?
I’m not saying that dressing up is a bad thing. I’m not saying nice clothes are bad, either. But if dressing up is the only thing we worry about for tomorrow’s service, then it is a bad thing. He knew the Pharisees and scribes were hypocrites, even though they were splendidly attired, because He could see their hearts were far from God. He knew the Rich Man was far from God too, despite the fine linens He wore to all his banquets.
Let’s think about tomorrow as a time prior to which we can prepare ourselves inside and come to Him clean tomorrow. Are we willing to examine ourselves? Or are we just a whitewashed tomb that looks good?
“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have”. (2 Cor 8:12)
“Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” (Romans 6:13)
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15).
He doesn’t care if we have a new dress or are wearing a tie, but sees the effort we make to ready ourselves to celebrate the universe’s greatest achievement, resurrecting Jesus from the dead as the slain lamb, for our sins.
If our heart is in right standing to Jesus (repentant and humble, a servant desiring change from the inside out) He will clothe us. He will give us garments of righteousness —
“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)