White Collars, iPads, and Ripped Jeans

Right now I’m experiencing an interesting convergence with my devotions and my day. I’m at my local coffeehouse and with one eye I’m reading my Bible and with another eye I’m watching a young priest sitting near me. He is about my age and he’s meeting with a group of people, undoubtedly from his congregation, much like I would do on any given day.

The following reflections are a work in progress. I’m only musing.

When I saw him walk in with his full priestly garb my first thought was how underdressed I am right now. Granted, this is my day off. Yes, I’ve showered, but I just threw on some clothes consisting of faded jeans with a huge rip in the knee, thrashed shoes with a tear in the fabric, an Athletic Booster t-shirt from West Salem High School, a black hoodie with some skater logo on it (all in an effort to look relevant to the kiddos), and a Nike baseball cap. I’m a walking billboard – my life is a product placement.

Then there is the priest – the man in black. He’s in pressed clothes, dress shoes, overcoat and even a classy top-hat (admittedly, I am a bit envious of that). In stark contrast, a bright white collar peeks out to confirm all questioning of this man indeed being a priest.

He and I serve in similar roles, but you wouldn’t know it.

More musings that are converging…

During this time I was reading my Bible on my trusty iPad. This digital device is absolutely amazing. I’m typing these thoughts on it right now. While reading my Bible off my iPad my gut started feeling weird, and I couldn’t really explain until right now why I wanted to have my actual paper Bible in my hands instead of the iPad. When I switched to reading from my tried and true NIV, leather bound copy of the Scriptures, I felt better. I felt like people around me would notice it and would say, “Oh, he’s reading a Bible.” I didn’t do this because of pride or be recognized. I did this because over the years many a conversation have been struck up by people saying, “I see you’re reading your Bible. Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

This has become my…well…my white collar.

When I read the Bible from my iPad or iPhone I’ve only had people say, “Hey, that’s a pretty cool dealio. How much you pay for that and what kind of tricks can it do?”

Now, I’m not a legalist. I’m about as far from that description as could be imagined. I don’t think the words of Scripture are more holy on parchment then on a glossy screen. I don’t subscribe to the notion that a person is more righteous when wearing slacks and a button down shirt vs. jeans and a t-shirt. I’ve been around that block in my past and it’s not a good trip. It’s religion, and religion kills.

More musings that are converging…

Today my devotional reading is Ezekiel 44 and interestingly it’s about the priestly garments. Coincidence? I think not. The bulk of chapter 44 deals with what the priests and Levites are to wear in the temple (inner courts) and outside the temple (outer courts). Verse 19 says: “When they go out into the outer court where the people are, they are to take off the clothes they have been ministering in and are to leave them in the sacred rooms, and put on other clothes…” It goes on to address hair length, wine consumption, marriage and divorce with a culminating statement: “They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.”

As a student of the Bible I can say with a level of confidence that the Older Testament finds it’s fulfillment in the person of Jesus in the New Testament. The external requirements of the Older Testament points towards an internal work of the Spirit. For example, the law of circumcision is now a physical representation of the work of the Spirit in the HEART. In a nutshell, Jesus wants our willful surrender not our wardrobe. He’s not much concerned whether we read Scripture from paper or a computer. Jeans or slacks? Not major issues for Jesus.

But are they issues for me? Do I need to do certain things personally? Do I sense a desire to read from my paper Bible because it keeps my heart focused (it’s so easy to check Facebook or read email from my iPad)? Does it add a level of accountability for me to have people SEE me with a physical copy of the Scriptures? In other words, does the priest wear the white collar so that he’s reminded that he is INDEED A PRIEST? Are there disciplines that we think are FOR GOD, but actually are FOR US?

Musings.

5 comments

  1. Debbie Fischer says:

    Very insightful–thank you! This inspires me to be more intentional and more aware of the unspoken “message” I am sending to myself, as well as to others. And I never really thought about the tendency to be side-tracked to another site when reading the Bible online–true at home or away.

  2. johnfehlen says:

    Thanks for your comments Joe. It was wonderful to see you in the great NW at conference. I’m using your recommendation today – reading from my leather Bible while my iPad sits nearby. Conversations start up with BOTH!

  3. Joe Wittwer says:

    I thought of a great solution…I am going to take my leather Bible and my iPad to the coffee shop. I’ll be like a priest…only totally hip.

  4. Joe Wittwer says:

    John, great musings! I’ve been reading my Bible on my iPad too…but since I read it at home, is that OK? If I read it in public, I promise to take my real Bible! Seriously, I loved the idea of a print Bible being our “white collar” when we are in public. It does provoke some conversations…but mostly with Christians. I wonder if it prevents some conversations with unbelievers? I don’t know…
    Joe

  5. Sarah says:

    Interesting! I’ve had similarly odd “gut” feelings about the translation of the Word of God into “New Media.” In general the over-reverence of temporary objects or traditions (ancient scrolls, relics, sacraments etc) worries me because it gives us an excuse to ignore heart-holiness in favor of sanctimony, if that makes sense.

    STILL! Maybe it is the ritual of it, the deliberate deviation from an ordinary routine in order to kind of sanctify it…maybe it’s totally just a psychological thing. Interesting, I’m totally blogging on this :o)