awww. here is our little caedmon in a great onesie (read: t-shirt for really tiny people) that has a picture of a bulldog on it and says tough guy. it's adorable. it really is. but it's wrong.
he's not so tough. i mean, think about it. he weighs something like 8 pounds. his fingers are the size of that little spring rod that holds your watch strap to your watch (you know the one that is nearly impossible to fix when it breaks because your adult fingers, big as hot dogs, aren't able to hold it properly...). if his arm swings and strikes you, it feels, if you feel anything, like a medium-sized gnat settled on your skin. are you getting my point? he's not a tough guy.
his shirt just says he is.
here is another little dude. this is jackson a long time ago, blessed with incredible super powers. he can fly, fix things with only his vision, and bring peace to the world.
actually, his powers are quite limited to running away from you at speeds you could not imagine those little legs going, breaking anything in sight, and bringing chaos to the home. now, while this may seem incredible, its really not. he is not a superhero.
his shirt just says he is.
i was thinking about this yesterday when i went golfing. well, to be honest, i use the word golfing very loosely. more accurately, i used long metal sticks to swing at little white balls which i sometimes actually hit. when i hit them, they usually went flying into places where i couldn't find them. i did all of this while wearing a white glove on my left hand. only my left hand, mind you. why i did this, i don't know, except that this is supposedly what people who play golf do, and maybe it helps you to find your little white ball more easily when you hit it into the environmentally protected wetlands. so there i was, standing in these vast rolling hills of unnaturally short grass, ripping up the beautiful earth with my metal stick, all in an effort to put a ball in an ever-evasive hole. we humans come up with the weirdest ideas.
anyway, i digress. three of us went to the course to golf (or to wear a shnazzy left-hand-only glove to look like you are golfing, in my case) but before we started the 18-hole walk of shame, they gave us another golfer who would be going with us. now you have to understand that our group consisted of galen, the senior pastor of our church, joel, the director of youth and young adult ministries, myself, the associate pastor, and, at the last minute, joe, the very tanned, italian-looking man with a colorful vocabulary. and by colorful i mean that i'm pretty sure that he covered all the bases: every foul word i can think of he used (in a more or less complete sentence).
now, to be honest, i really don't have a big problem with this. it doesn't bother me or offend me like it does some people. i have, at some level, come to terms with a culture who speaks this way more often than it doesn't. we could debate this some other time. what struck me as interesting was that i was wearing my clinton united methodist shirt. i clearly wasn't wearing my "i'm an awesome golfer shirt," as evidenced by my continual trots into the thick forest to waste time looking in vain for lost golf balls. i also was not wearing my, "please feel free to speak with a broad range of profanity around me" shirt. but i was wearing a shirt that used the word 'church' and had a cross on it. it didn't stop joe from heavily using one end of the language spectrum. which was fine by me because i hate when people change their behaviour when they find out i'm a pastor. i'd really just rather people be real with me. but, i digress.
i am preaching this sunday about how we are known to others: to our community, to our co-workers, and to our friends. what is our reputation as followers of christ? this is a topic that has walked with me through the years, as i have grown into new ideas and a more mature faith. i used to think that people would know i was a christian because of the way i dressed. all i needed was a cross or a scripture, or a catchy saying, and i would be an effective witness for jesus christ. back in those days, i would have worn something like this little beauty that i googled this morning:
wow. we humans come up with the weirdest ideas. like maybe, if we put an image of christ's hand being pierced as he died for us on a 50/50 cotton blend t-shirt, we will make a difference.
caedmon is not a tough guy. jackson is not a superhero. i am not a golfer, and none of us are defined by our clothing, no matter how much we might wish we were. we will be known by our relationships, how we interact with our families, with our friends, with our neighbors, with the 'others' in our lives. we will be known by how we show love (or fail to). actions speak louder than t-shirts. or left-hand only gloves.