It’s Holy Week. We’re preparing to celebrate Easter, Christianity’s best-reasoned and worst-celebrated holiday. I’m planning on wearing my pastor’s collar all week.
I feel unsure about this. My usual uniform for my many years of college ministry was shorts, tshirt and a baseball cap. Now as the pastor of a local church, I try to spruce it up a little with pants. I know, that’s not very spruce-y. But I have lost the cap and rarely wear shorts.
This week I’m wearing a collar because I want to identify myself as someone who actually believes that Christ’s life, death and resurrection happened and that it makes a profound impact on history, life the world and even how I dress.
But I’m uneasy. I have a doubting, fearful heart. Though I stand with the church and perhaps for the church, I stand with shaky legs. I stand on firm ground but with weak knees.
Just yesterday I arrived at church later than I had planned. As I drove up I saw a man walking near our new building. I parked and walked to open the doors. He stopped in the middle of the road, right on the yellow stripes and looked at me.
“Will you give me a ride?” he asked. I hesitated. I didn’t want to. I had things to do. Important things. God’s things. He continued, “I just got out of the hospital and am walking home.” I asked him where he was going and he told me near 16th and MLK – several miles. I didn’t think he would make it.
I took him. That’s not the point of the story. It only cost me a few minutes really. My heart didn’t want to take him. I didn’t want to give help or mercy. I had a morning’s plan, and I needed to prepare to preach and teach the gospel of grace for City Presbyterian Church.
“O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does not evil to his neighbor, not takes up a reproach against his friend…” Psalm 15:1-3
David doesn’t describe me in this psalm. I fail every test along the way with neighbors and friends, children and wife, coffee shop patron and conference attender. I wish I could say I was happy to take Christopher to his house. I wish I could say the little things that went wrong with the service didn’t bother me – they did. I wish I could be a better person and love Christ and his church more each and every moment.
I’m not wearing this collar because I’m a good person. I’m not a good person. I’m wearing it because I have been convinced that Jesus Christ is really real and he really came and died and rose again. I’m convinced that he is who he said he was – the Son of God who came to save sinners. That he seeks and save the lost. That he didn’t come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. I’m convinced that he will come again to judge the living and the dead. I’m certain that he does so in justice and mercy. I am sure that he gives forgiveness, hope and life to those who find themselves in him.
David describes Christ. I’m wearing the collar because of grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. I’ve been strangely called to ministry in his name, not in mine – thank goodness! May we find him this Holy Week, me and you.
If you don’t have a place to worship, join the crazy, messed up, mean-hearted rest of us who need grace too at City Pres at 10am Sundays at 829 NW 13th. May the Lord meet us there and everywhere this week and every week.