Thursday, December 2, 2010
But Don't You Think People Will Look at You Funny?
"Pastor, you'd look good in this!" Ha ha ha ha.... "I have one," I replied (gift from a friend over 34 yeas ago). The laughter stopped. "What??? You don't wear it, ah, do you?" "Yes, I do," I replied, "at funerals in the cemetery and the like.." "Bbbbbbbut, aren't you afraid people will look at you funny?" came the question.
Now we are at the heart of it all. What will people think? Well, if I was radically concerned about what people thought of me as a Lutheran Pastor in the Bible Belt, the South, the bastion of South Baptists, Church of Christ, Nazarene, etc... I would not wear a clerical collar. I would go for an office casual look.
When I visit my wife at work in the hospital, the other RNs all say "Ooooh, dontcha just love a man in uniform." But the truth is that they have had "Pastors" (read that loosely) show up to visit parisioners (again, read that loosely) in overalls, cargo shorts, painted work tee-shirts, even a wife beater or two. They were hesitant to let the guy in but the fella had a hospital ID (community clergy, a requirement at the local hospital if you are visiting there regularly as clergy).
Once when heading into K-Mart, I was stopped by a young man in his late teens or early twentys. "Are you feeling better?" he asked me. Having been laid up that week a couple of days but now knowing who he was, I was surprised that word of my frailty and affliction had passed so far into the community. "Why, yes I am..." I replied. "Is your neck and back better?" He continued. Aghast that he was so intimately acquainted with so much of my medical history, I asked him how he knew? "Why, your neck brace," he answered. (Read that clerical collar). I smiled. "That is not a neck brace," I went on to tell. "That is a clerical collar to identity me as a Pastor of the Church." "But isn't it uncomfortable?" he asked. "Well, yes it is.... but it is the kind of uncomfortable which is a good thing for me to remember..." I said as we parted our ways...
Christians living in the world risk being thought foolish or weak. They have people looking at them funny all the time. It is uncomfortable being in but not of the world. It is uncomfortable to our sinful human nature to stick out by walking to the beat of Christ instead of the drumline chorus of the world and its values. It does not matter the headgear or manner of dress, God does not want us to be so comfortable here and with the values and goals of the world, that we forget who we are and whose we are. So, if you don't want to stick out, skip the faith entirely. It will be entirely unsatisfactory to live with the guilt that you should look different when you don't. And the world will pick up on it quickly. Hypocrite (means actor in Greek).
I do not worry so much about people thinking I look funny. I worry more about my weakness in the face of temptation and my tendency to be quiet when I should speak and to be silent when I insist upon speaking -- and in both cases betray my sinful human nature more than I proclaim the wondrous grace and mercy of the God who came to be one with us that we might be one with Him.
Now what we show to the world is not our righteousness or moral behavior. We are not stars seeking the limelight to showcase our accomplishments. What we want the world to see is Jesus -- the Son of God placed in the womb of Mary, born to live as one of us under the Law, living in perfect obedience for us, dying to pay the price of our sin, rising to end death's tyranny, and coming again to seal the deal with us for all eternity... It is not the respect of the world I seek but their ears... sometimes looking funny or out of step with the world and its values is the very beginning of a fruitful conversation about the steps of the One in whose way we walk... think about it...
BTW the picture is not of me... though I can see some of myself in this man's years... it is the only real photo I could come up with on short notice...