What a long line at WaWa this morning! I was there on my daily visit to buy coffee, and although it was rush hour both on the road and inside the WaWa there was only one register open. Thankfully, a guy appeared to open another one. I made a move to get into the new line, and a road crew member wearing a reflective vest got there at the same time. Not just because he looked like a linebacker, I waved him in front of me.
“No, no.” He said. “I just want to ask you a question.”
“Okay,” I answered, not sure where this was going.
“Was Lot Abraham’s son?”
An easy one. I’ll take Bible for $200, Alex.
“No, they were related. But Lot was Abraham’s nephew.”
I started to walk away, my duty done. But he wasn’t. Done, I mean. “Who were those people who came from Lot? Descended from him?”
Suddenly I had another Jeopardy flashback – the first time I rang in my first game – I stood there the same as contestants I’d made fun of on TV with blank stares like they had no idea why their podium had lit up – “Who did that?” Now I was one of them. I had nothin’. Those few seconds as time ticked down to Alex’s “Ooooh, sorry” were both too short and forever.
I had nothin’ for the man in the reflective vest, either. I racked my brain. “I don’t know. It’s in Genesis, though.” *
“Oh, okay.” He said. And he walked out of the store.
So, that was not the best example of why I wear a clerical collar. But, does sort of illustrate why I wear the collar most of the time (on days I work, anyway).
Lots of Lutheran pastors choose to make wearing a clerical collar the exception rather than the rule. And that’s fine. I understand the reasons for not wearing one – it can be off-putting, especially to folks who haven’t been around churches much or at least in churches where pastors wear clerics.
But I do have my own reasons for my choice. It’s not because it took me 9 years of part-time study to finish seminary and I earned it, by golly! No, that’s not it. Nor is it a desire to exhibit some kind of spiritual authority or to get leniency from State Troopers. Nope, in fact I drive more carefully when I’m wearing the collar because I feel like I’m not just representing myself.
It’s also not that it makes hospital visits a lot easier because you don’t have explain to medical staff why you’re showing up. Although that is a benefit.
The primary reason I choose to wear a clerical collar is something I heard a pastor say a long time before I was one: “I don’t take off the collar when I go to the store; you never know when someone there might need a pastor.”
If I hadn’t been wearing the collar, I probably wouldn’t have had the discussion a while back with the Sandwich Artist (that’s really what they’re called) at Subway about how she drifted away from her faith and how she was feeling like she really needed a blessing right then. I wouldn’t have had the encounter at another WaWa with the Assistant Manager who had a few things that were bothering him about the Bible. And I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to pray with the Grocery Store checkout lady who was feeling overwhelmed with health and family issues.
That is why I wear a clerical collar. Most of the time – not on my day off, not around the house, not to bed (the plastic tab wouldn’t be real comfortable). But out and about on days I’m not off . . . you never know who might need a pastor.
And while I’m on the collar, some folks have asked why I wore one on Jeopardy, but only on the second of the five regular shows I was on. Well, they want you to wear different clothes every “day” (although five games are taped in a day, you bring several sets of clothes in case you win so each game looks like a new day). I didn’t wear it for the first game because I had no idea how I would do – I wanted to embarrass only myself if disaster struck. I wore it the second game because I had won . . . and who knows if there would be a third game.
And something about the collar before that second game as I described it in the blog I wrote about my Jeopardy experience:
As you can see in this picture, I did wear a clerical collar the first of my two games on the J! Tournament of Champions.