Maybe you heard about the call that went out over the walkie-talkie: “Can we have some underwear to court 18?”
It was another underwear violation last week at the Wimbledon tennis tournament with an all-white dress code. Tournament supervisors had to intervene at least twice to insist that players change their underwear before proceeding with their tennis matches. No hint of dark or colorful undergarments is permitted on the stately, dignified lawn tennis courts of the All-England Club in Wimbledon, London.
The traditional dress code dates back well over a century. Historically it was even more stringent, as the photo of the 1908 women’s finals shows. How could they even move in those outfits, competing for a tennis championship? When American Gussie Moran scandalized Wimbledon in 1949, showing up in a new designer tennis outfit with a shorter skirt and lace visible around her thighs, the All-England Club officials accused her of “bringing vulgarity and sin into tennis.”
Once we humans have decided our standard of good and right, we are typically reluctant to tolerate violations or exceptions. When we deem something truly beautiful and noble, we don’t want anything to tarnish or diminish its beauty.
First century Jews had their magnificent temple in Jerusalem, the house of the Lord built by the unscrupulous King Herod. Of course he was welcome at the temple regardless of his villainy. Royalty had its privileges. But anyone lame—basically anyone with a physical disability or obvious blemish—was not allowed to enter the temple. It would have been a violation.
Some persons with apparent defects would get as close as possible, hoping to beg from the worshippers entering for daily prayer. One advantageous location for beggars was on the steps outside the gate called Beautiful. What a notable and sad contrast: the elegant, colossal bronze gate that opened to the holy ground of the Jewish faith … and the steps littered with deformed, helpless, impoverished souls.
That was the scene for Acts 3:1-10 where Peter and John accomplished the healing of a lame beggar. In the name of Jesus Christ and by the hand of Peter, God did something truly beautiful at that gate. This Sunday at North Lake Presbyterian Church I invite you to “Come to the Beautiful Gate” with me. And you don’t need to worry about the dress code!
Dr. Jeffrey A. Hosmer