The good thing about having the evening service is that you get plenty of time to prepare yourself. After dinner, I walked the dog (getting some fresh air to oxygenate my neurons). During the afternoon (after a short nap to rest my neurons) I carefully read through my sermon (Hannah and Samuel, appropriate for Mothers Day – the Biblical basis for giving away your children). I read it aloud, making sure I put the right emphasis on the right words. I looked at the hymn’s I’d chosen and thought about how to introduce them. I considered the prayers, and jotted down some points to mention. I chose a psalm with which to introduce the service.
Finally, when I was clear in my mind about how it was going to go, I had a cup of coffee and a slice of cake (to re-vitalise the neurons), went upstairs to put on my tie, and set off.
Looking back, I did have some vague sense of discomfort while I was driving. Nothing that really got my attention though.
I parked up, went into the chapel, said hello to several people I knew. Gave my order of service to the steward, discussed the hymns with the organist. Everything was fine, everyone was happy.
At the appointed time, I went out to the lectern. I placed my notes, smiled, read out the psalm, announced the first hymn.
And that was when something made me glance down, and reality broke through my comfortable illusion of being in control.
I was wearing the wrong trousers.
Instead of the smart Sunday Best go-to-meeting trousers that I’d planned to wear, I still had on my slightly faded, slightly muddy, walk-the-dog trousers that I’d been wearing earlier.
My pampered neurons had let me down. In spite of all the care I had lavished on them, they had failed in their duty to remind me to change my trousers.
Several thoughts ran through my head in short space of time. One was, inevitably, ‘They’re the Wrong Trousers, Grommit!’ But there was no clever dog to come to my rescue. Our dog was back at home, sleeping off the walk I’d taken him on, and he’d never mentioned my trousers.
Another thought was ‘At least I’m wearing some trousers.’ Which was a good point - it could, after all, have been so much worse.
And I also remembered that the Bible tells us that ‘Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart’. It was comforting to be reassured that God didn’t care what I was wearing, but it was also a reminder that every member of the congregation must have noticed that I was wearing jeans.
Should I mention it, I wondered? If I did, what should I say? Of the top of my head, I couldn’t think of any credible excuse for preaching in the Wrong Trousers. Better, I thought, not to draw attention to my breaches of etiquette.
So the service went on. And when it came to its conclusion, the people of that chapel demonstrated what a godly group of men and women they were: for not one of them even mentioned my jeans. Indeed, several said how much they had liked the service, and one even commented favourably on the sermon. It seems that they had not been looking on my outward appearance at all! Or if they had, it hadn’t bothered them.
So I came away from the service having learned something myselfNone of us can look into people’s hearts in the same way that God can. But that doesn’t mean we have to get hung up on how they look!
Still, next time I’ll check what I’m wearing.