Chaplain’s Corner: CLXXVII

“Dressed for Success”

When you change your life, you change your clothes. That’s not always true.  But most of us have experienced life transitions that required us to adjust our wardrobe.  During over 40 years as a Pastor in a parish setting, I went to the office every day wearing a long-sleeved Oxford button-down shirt with a tie.  My slacks were always clean and pressed.  I wore a sport coat or suit and my shoes were always shined.  Blue jeans and shorts were off limits. I love ties so I always welcomed a new necktie.  For years on Sunday mornings, I donned a black Geneva preaching robe, and wore different colored stoles, red, green and white that signified the changing seasons of the church year.

Over 6 years ago I came to Westminster Village as the Chaplain and retired from active congregational leadership.  This is a different environment for ministry- much more casual in dress but so very meaningful in a variety of ways.  Here I wear just a shirt with my name tag.  I can even wear athletic shoes and on Fridays I can wear jeans.  I love the nature of my work here at Westminster and the clothes seem to go with the more casual, comfortable way I do ministry now.  Lots of daily interactions with residents and those in the Health Center.  Even in CooperVista where people come in for rehab, I enjoy the one-on-one relationships.

As you might guess, this new life calls for a change of costume.

I still have many favorite neckties and I still preach at Presbyterian churches on occasion so my black robe is handy for funerals and Sunday worship.  But when you change your life, you change your clothes.  I know some Ball State professors who farm now and have transitioned from sport coat to muck boots and blue jeans.  What used to hang in your closet will never suit you when you take up to a new vocation or retire.

That’s what the Apostle Paul says in Colossians chapter three.  Here’s how Eugene Peterson renders verses 9-11 in his paraphrase called The Message:

“Don’t lie to one another.  You’re done with that old life.  It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire.  Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe.  Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with His label on it.  All the old fashions are now obsolete.”

Here’s what come next in verses 12-14:

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.  Be even tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.  And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.  It’s your basic, all- purpose garment.  Never be without it.”

Deciding to follow Jesus is not a matter of a few minor adjustments here and there.  It requires a fundamental transformation of mind and heart.  Our never-ending call to dress for success-the particular kind of “success” entailed by letting the life of Jesus increasingly shine through our daily lives.  God promises that he has given us everything we need to pull that off.  And we can be grateful that we’ll never have to wear muck boots for Jesus.

Ron Naylor, Chaplain