Welcome to the historic First Baptist Church of Memphis, serving Memphis & the Mid-South since 1839. You will find exciting ministries, mission opportunities, and vibrant worship.

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9:30am Sunday School
11:00am Worship

Wednesday Evenings:

5:00pm Dinner
6:00pm Bible Study


200 East Parkway North, Memphis, TN 38112 ⋅ Office: 901.454.1131

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Wearing a Tux to Church

Over the Christmas holidays, I had the privilege to hear my friend John Ballenger preach.  It had been awhile.  John and I were the lone Baptists in the DMin program at Brite Divinity School.   John is someone who makes me smile, and on this Sunday, he left me with an image that has kept me smiling.

He was preaching on Isaiah 61:10-62:3 and Luke 2:22-40—Christmastide texts of Joy.   He told the story of how some years before he had worn a tux to church.  The day before he had been a groomsman in the wedding of dear friend in that same church, and when he woke up that Sunday morning he was just compelled to wear it because “some parties should never end.”  I can see the whole thing happening.  John leaping out of his car, taking joy in all the others smiling at him, and John asking them, “What do you think?  Too much?”

Well…what do you think?  Too much?  Can we be “too joyful” as Christians?  I mean, we do, after all, have much to be joyful about.  Think of our church right now: Brittany and Mary joining our staff, a three year strategic plan on the horizon, stories of meaning and joy and purpose and service that come about in and through this community of faith, etc.  And then most of us were raised with this idea that faith should produce happiness within us.   “If you’re happy and you know it…”  Certain passages of scripture even command us to be joyful.  “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord….”  And faith aside, we do like being greeted with a smile, entering an environment of happiness.   I’m guessing few of us would return to a church if we stepped in the door and were greeted with sad and sour.  So why not a tux?  Too much?

And yet all of life is not happy.  And being a faithful human, let alone a faithful person of faith, demands that we attend to all of life.   And in life there is pain, loss, worry, fear—the hard stuff, the yuck of life, that which does not make us happy, that which does not make God happy.   So, in the face of such, can the joy we confess, the joy we seek to express be “too much?”

Well, such a judgment is, of course, personal, relative to where we are on that given day.  But my friend John did, I think, give an adequate defense to at least an informed, sensitive confession of joy.  In the Isaiah text, God is sowing the seeds of righteousness and praise which will spring up.  There is no denial of present difficulty, or even future hardship.  Nonetheless there is the confession of hope that God is even now up to something more and that that something does indeed include us.  And this hope is the basis for even our present joy.

Now, there is genuine joy for all the blessings of the present, too, just like there is a wedding day which celebrates the present reality of love found and consecrated.  As we have noted, we do have reason to be grateful.  We can count our blessings every day.  But our present joy is not just for what is, but for what will be.   Our joy at the wedding is not just for that moment but also for the years to come.  Our joy on Sunday is much the same.  It’s not just about that day, but for all the days to come.

Now this not to say that we need to always be on top of the word, or be less than honest when someone asks us how we are.  But in general, let us dare to be people of joy, not because we are oblivious to the pain of this world, but because we believe in one who will see us through this pain, and is, even now, sowing seeds of joy that will spring forth in days to come.  In other words, maybe not every Sunday, but occasionally…If you got a tux, wear it!

Grace, David


This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the February edition of Together.
Posted by Bridget Ellis at 7:00 AM
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