July 27, 2016

Appropriately Dressed

It’s not unusual to have a themed wedding or party, but a themed funeral service gives me pause. Recently a member of our congregation passed away and the invitation to the memorial service read, “Clair loved to travel and she was particularly fond of taking a cruise. In celebration of Clair’s life, the family is asking for those attending Clair’s service to wear clothing that one might wear on a cruise (casual, Hawaiian, palm trees, no grass skirts, but you get the idea.” My closet is filled with beige, black and tailored clothes; hence if I wear my normal black funeral attire I’ll not be dressed appropriately. In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet there is conjecture from modern-day commentators as to the meaning of the wedding clothes and the customs of that period. However, with a literal reading of the text I find myself commiserating with the guest who, at the last minute, was brought into the banquet from off the street corner. Jesus said, “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless” (Matt 2:11-12 NIV).

1 comment:

Steve Corey said...


-----It’s kind of hard to be a social being amidst social chaos. There’s a difference between chaos and freedom. Freedom still respects social order. Social order is a part of communication. It attests to morality and virtue; it honors relationship; and it values the organism unity makes of a gathering. Therefore freedom views the individual as a part of a larger whole with responsibilities to both the self and everyone else. Chaos shirks those responsibilities. It views the individual as the whole. It is not necessarily anti-unity, anti-relationship, or anti-morality and virtue. It just pays no mind to any of these, or to anything else. Only the individual counts in chaos.
-----The wedding belongs to the bride and groom. It is their social event of honor for and celebration of what is being formed between the two. It is not about the guests. So it is not a time for the guests to express their own personalities, but rather it is for them to express honor and celebrate.
-----If clothing were for warmth only, then we wouldn’t wear any during good weather. Some do approach that. And of them, maybe somewhere around half dress up stripped down for more reasons than just to stay cooler. The rest of us continue to wear a socially acceptable level of clothing in even sweltering weather out of respect for the morality and virtues of modesty. And the individual winds up being free to choose his styles, yet constrained by the others. The further constraint placed upon clothing style by the wedding extends from its narrower focus of social attention and expectations.
-----Funerals are like weddings. The attention is upon paying respect to the deceased in his parting and the survivors in their grieving. So we’ve developed social expectations of what generally pays that respect. We would be more accepting of dressing to a theme in a wedding because a wedding is of a completely different attitudinal nature. But to request the usual, doomful attire for funerals be replaced by cruise attire would be akin to requesting wedding guests show up in funeral clothing. Even though individuals are compelled to limit their choices of freedom for overarching social purposes, it is not wise to brew chaos by asking individuals to insult their understood norms. Society is a delicate fabric woven of individual threads. Teasing them with abnormal expectations will produce at least a little static in the weave.

Love you all,
Steve Corey