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Tue, Oct 21, 2014 11:07 AM
Issue of October 15, 2014

A hope note
A hope note
Dr. Wayne Willis reflects on life and hope.

Sunday best

March 12, 2014 | 09:08 AM

When I was a boy, people dressed up for church. Men wore suits, and women wore hats. I remember being taught that dressing up was a sign of respect toward God, that we should come before God in our finest.

Now, I suspect that it was also partly to fool others into thinking that we were the way we looked: together, whole, successful and contented, as in the song: "I've got the world on a string / I'm sitting on a rainbow / Got that string around my finger / What a world!"

Today, many preachers, even in some of the mega-churches, no longer wear robes or suits into the pulpit. They wear shirts with the collars open and shirttails out. I think some of it may be strategy to lead with their humanity instead of their divinity, to say with their clothing: "I'm one of you." The congregation is also dressed down.

Occasionally, some church, when they can't find anyone else, invites me to preach a sermon. When I stand before them, I see things different than I did years ago. Many years of working in a hospital, seeing people literally and figuratively stripped down to essentials, warped me to think that beyond every scrubbed-up, smartly-dressed, smiling body is a wounded soul.

Going into imagination mode, I picture a big bandage on her head, him sitting in a wheelchair with one leg elevated in a cast and you with a plastic tube coming out your nose and emptying into a yellow bag.

Anymore, I think of the church not as some museum for saints, but a hospital for the sick and wounded, and the preacher's obligation to hear the prayer of the wounded, as in Milton: "What in me is dark illumine; what is low raise and support."

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