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St Johns Southgate

04 Jun 2019

Loosen up!

A few months ago, I officiated at a wedding at St Johns Southgate.

It was a ceremony full of warmth, love and even a few laughs. The couple looked stunningly beautiful and didn’t break from their smiles the whole afternoon – except to shed the odd tear.

There was a really relaxed atmosphere, but afterwards, once everyone had gone and I’d finished packing things up, I found myself in a panic.

I’d been invited to attend the reception, so I needed to quickly finish up at the church then catch up with the guests to be at the venue before the happy couple arrived. Ordinarily, I would have had plenty of time, but this wedding had a black-tie dress code, which – as I discovered – requires the wearing of a bow tie. It’s not that I was unprepared. The weekend before, I’d bought a bow tie. I had all the ingredients, but could I bake the cake? How hard could tying a bow tie be?

As it turns out, tying a bow tie, especially if you’ve never done it before and you’re in a hurry, is like trying to hit a hole-in-one with the first swing you’ve ever given a golf club – it ain’t gonna happen! Near enough, with bow ties, simply isn’t good enough. Either you get the length and tension just right, or you don’t.

So, there I was, in the church bathroom, looking from the instructional video on my phone to the mirror in front of me and then down at my watch as I fumbled failingly with the piece of material around my neck, until finally (divine intervention?) it just clicked. The bow tie slid into place with an acceptable amount of symmetry and the required tension to hold it together without it choking me to death.

I made it to the reception in time, as it happens, and even *blush* received the odd compliment on my outfit! But what was I to learn as I looked around at the other sharply dressed men? Most of them had opted for ready-tied bow ties – ones that you can slip on in about five seconds flat. Why didn’t I get one of those? It would have saved me so much torment.

All of this got me thinking about what we call “God’s grace” in the Christian church. When we talk about grace we’re not referring to looking graceful, as one might slinking across a wedding reception dancefloor in a beautiful flowing dress, we’re talking about grace as a theological concept. It’s the idea – or truth, as I would contend – that God loves and accepts us completely free of any need to fulfil requirements. In other words, we don’t need to fit the dress code to get in the door of God’s house – God, in Christ Jesus, comes to us in our half-dressed panic and says, “You look perfect!”

What would have happened if I couldn’t get my bow tie on that night? What if I was asymmetrical and unravelling? Would I have made it through the front door? Would I have died of embarrassment? Who knows? But in the Christian tradition, there are no prerequisites, no dress codes, you are welcome, and you are loved – just the way you are!

Tom Hoffmann - Pastor

 

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