Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ring Around the Collar

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. 8But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23

I have a clerical collar.

I used to wear it all the time.

The reasons were less theological as they were practical.

See, when I started out in ministry, I was a bit of a baby face - I know that's hard to believe.

Going into hospitals to visit folks, especially in ICU, I grew weary of suspicious looks from nurses who couldn't quite buy that I was the pastor of the folks I was trying to see, and having to provide a business card to verify my claim and purpose.

But, in my collar, you'd a thought I was Moses parting the Red Sea. No problems.

I found the collar a part of my "uniform." I'd wear it on holy days, at funerals - especially funerals for clergy colleagues.

I don't wear it so much anymore. I still have it, I just haven't felt the reasons to wear it as compelling as once they were. In fact, the reasons I wore it in the first place should be judged and judged harshly.

If my sole motivation in wearing it was to make it clear to anyone who saw me that I'm clergy, so that I may have access and favor, then shame on me.

If I wear it in the company of the hurting so that in me they may find a safe place to belong - that feels right. I began to notice that whatever my motivations in wearing it, the responses of those who saw me in it grew to be of great interest to me.

Some thought it was another expression of what they perceived me as a "closet-Catholic." Some mocked it and laughed. That never really bothered me. Truly. Those who know me also know that I have never given a damn about what people thought of my attire.

Since I've not worn it much in the last few years, I've begun to wonder why. And in this I'm coming to a newer, and I hope more honest understanding of this garment. If the collar is a ring, and the wearing of rings denotes covenant, promises made, vows even, then I get it.

So when I wear my collar again, and on whatever occasion that occurs, know this - I wear it not to show you that I am somebody, but like that ring on my finger that reminds me I'm promised to my wife, so, too is that ring around my collar reminding me to Whom I've vowed my life. And, just as it is the case with my marriage, life in that covenant carries with it requisite attitudes and actions that are manifold expressions that each covenant is more than perfunctory and vital to my very being.

What are the "outward and visible signs" of the sacred covenants you've made?

No comments: