Early in my pastorate at Irvine Presbyterian Church, I stirred up a storm by what I wore—and didn’t wear—when I preached. As it turned out, congregation members were impressed by what they called my “flashy ties.” In actuality, I was wearing what had been normal in the church in Hollywood where I had served as an associate pastor. But my “flowery ties” were a bit much for the simple-stripes taste of the Irvinites.
More controversial, however, was my decision not to wear a clerical robe when I preached. Partly, this had to do with the heat in our un-airconditioned worship space. But, mostly it had to do with my sense that Irvine Presbyterian tended to regard its pastors as the only true “ministers,” thus minimizing the calling of the laity into the ministry of Christ. I believed that my choice to not wear a robe would underscore a right biblical theology of ministry. It did this, though with great controversy and complaint. For years, some church members continued to express their unhappiness that their pastor was not wearing a robe when he preached.
At this point in my life, I’m less worried about what pastors wear when they lead worship. I’m much more interested in what all of Christ’s ministers—namely, all Christians—”wear” each and every day. Using the language of Psalm 132:9, I want to ask myself: Am I clothed in godliness? I want to ask you the same question.
The Hebrew word translated here as “godliness” is more often translated as “righteousness” (tzedeq). It refers, on one level, to right living, to acting in a way that honors God. But tzedeq is a relational concept, which begins in our right relationship with God that is expressed through right relationships with others. Thus, to be clothed in godliness means living each moment in a way that reflects the presence of God in our lives. It means treating others in a way that glorifies God and reflects his own character.
Do I put on God’s righteousness each day? Do I wear it to work? Do I wear it at home? When people see me, do they see God’s presence and power?
QUESTION FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How would you answer the questions I just asked of myself?
PRAYER: Gracious God, sometimes we can worry way too much about what we wear, our physical clothing. Help me to be even more concerned about whether or not I’m dressed in your righteousness. May I seek to honor you in all that I do, each moment of each day, in public and private, in work and in rest. Be glorified in and through me, O God. Amen.