I live in Steeler country. Sunday was the season opener. The team went to Cleveland. A lot of church-goers did as well.
Note: For people outside the Pittsburgh area, you can substitute your local team and team colors from this point on.
The sad thing is that it was also Rally day for the fall start of the new Sunday school year. I am no longer privy to the attendance records, but the church looked empty compared to previous Rally days. There are things that affect church attendance that have nothing to do with football, but it makes me wonder.
For all of my life up to the point of moving to Pittsburgh, people wore their Sunday best to church. We attended some churches that weren’t that formal about their attire, but they always dressed nicely.
When we came to Pittsburgh, we noticed children in soccer uniforms. We were then told that the soccer game was immediately after church and there wasn’t time to change. We accepted that, although all previous locations where we lived avoided games and practices on Sunday. That was just not done. Here, it had been done for so long that people were numb to the concept of keeping the Sabbath holy. With a large Jewish population in the area, maybe they had problems figuring out when Sabbath was. At least they attended church. (Is that me becoming numb?)
Then came our first football season. I had moved to the Pittsburgh area a day or two after the Super Bowl. We had not seen the spectacle. The church had more black and gold than anything else. My wife voiced her concern to me. They wear that to church? I was silently upset myself. Then I went to a store to look at Steeler gear. I told my wife that if the person was wearing an authentic jersey, they probably paid more for the shirt than they paid for their custom-made suit. There may be a little hyperbole there, but not by much. If it was a game-worn jersey, I underestimated.
I was at the early service one day. I noticed a twenty-something guy with his jersey on. It was a home game. This guy always dressed nicely. I was bold enough to ask why. He said, “I’m going to the game as soon as church is over. What saddens me is that there are 20-30 people in this church who don’t try to come to church on game day. They go straight to the game. Early church is over at 9:30am. The game doesn’t start until 1:00pm. The stadium is less than an hour away, even if the tunnel is backed up to its record limit for a game day. It’s a shame.”
I agreed. That is a shame. I’d never been to a game. I could never afford a ticket. I didn’t think that Kielbasa and Brats in the parking lot took that long to cook and enjoy. I have no idea what there is at the stadium to see, although season ticket holders have seen that stuff before. The timing just didn’t add up.
But the root of the problem isn’t dressing appropriately or not. My wife and I, from nearly total different backgrounds, were taught that we were going to worship God. If you were getting an audience with the king, how would you dress? If that king were the King of Kings? Then, why do you dress in yesterday’s dirty clothes when you come to the house of God?
Okay, that was what we were taught, but the concept behind it is the key. We are going to worship God. The key physical activity on Sunday morning in preparation for church is getting dressed. God is the most radiant being in the universe (although outside the time-space continuum). We can’t impress Him with our clothing. But He notices what our choices are. I always wore a shirt and tie. But the ties could be just about anything from a wild pattern from Jerry Garcia to a cartoon character to a tie with scripture written on it. I will admit that when Ole Miss won a major victory on Saturday, I might wear the tie on Sunday to strike up a conversation during fellowship. The only conversation I ever got in Pittsburgh was, “Does that ‘M’ stand for Michigan?” After I removed the dagger from my heart, my answer (often expressed like I was talking to a kindergarten class – Lord, forgive me.), “No. Michigan is Maize and Blue. I didn’t go to Michigan. I went to the University of Mississippi. See. Red and Blue. The colors are different. And see, this is a picture of Colonel Rebel. He is not a wolverine.” By that point, crowing about a victory of a team, one thousand miles away, would have been counterproductive. To God, it would have been very poor worship indeed.
And that is the point. At a critical time on Sunday morning, instead of thinking about God, they are showing their homage, adoration, and zealous, god-like worship for a football team. Franco Harris may have caught the Immaculate Reception, but he didn’t die for our sins. Noll, Cowher, and Tomlin may have coached Super Bowl winners, but they didn’t raise Lazarus from the dead.
If you put on your jersey or T-shirt in a reverent manner to worship the God of the universe, I have no problem with your attire. Too many people miss the idea that we are the participants in worship. We need to prepare for that. Otherwise, our style of clothing is irrelevant.
As for me, I’ll wear my ties with scripture, or a cross, or Veggietales. If Ole Miss beats Alabama, LSU, or Mississippi State… No, Satan tempts. God does not.