Friday, May 13, 2011

Psalm 119.145-152, Exodus 38.21-39.8, 22-23, 27-31, Luke 8.1-21 - Lectionary for 5/12/11

This didn't post on schedule due to a problem at blogger.

Today's readings are Psalm 119.145-152, Exodus 38.21-39.8, 22-23, 27-31, and Luke 8.1-21.

Through the first 25 years or so of my Christian walk I was in situations where ministers were not supposed to wear fancy clothes. If they were, they certainly wouldn't wear robes or vestments. They would maybe wear nice business suits, though more often you'd see a pastor in a shirt and tie or a shirt and no tie. There is, within much of American evangelicalism, a bias against ministers "dressing up." They want to emphasize that the pastor is a person, just like other people in the congregation, simply with a special role of caring for God's flock.

When I look at passages like our reading today in Exodus I see a different picture. God's special servants wear special garments, maybe very costly garments, with ceremonial significance. Those who are leading God's people in worship dress in a way they will only dress for those ceremonial tasks. And the very garments have an important symbolism.

This is one of the reasons that when I am "on duty" as a pastor I typically wear black garments and a clerical shirt, the "uniform" of clergy. The black serves as a symbol of sin. The white collar inserted at the throat symbolizes Christ's righteousness inserted into my life by his sovereign grace. When officiating in a church service, I add the white robe, called an "alb" (named after its color, being the Latin word for "white"), which symbolizes the righteousness of Christ put on over my sinful nature. I wear a good sized cross on my chest. I chose a rather simple pewter cross because of Christ's humiliation, associating with common people. I also choose to wear a rope cincture in the color appropriate for the season of the Church year. Some people like to wear a stole with the color for the time of year as well. I prefer the simple rope fastener, again as a symbol that I'm nobody special, it's Christ in me who is special.

Is it all right for pastors not to wear a special uniform? I suppose so. Then again, as a Russian Orthodox priest I was talking with some months ago told me, he has a simple response to pastors who question his wearing of a black cassock and big gold cross. He says that when he goes into the hospital people know he's not an insurance agent. He never has to explain that, like his Baptist pastor friends do.

Our Lord lets his people be seen as His in all sorts of different ways. May we rejoice to make Him known.

No comments: