" H e y   A l l "
           Notes from the Vicar of Grace
              inclusion service discovery gratitude
The Rev. Bill Harper

Hey All.


All Dressed Up

OK, here's one of those arresting questions: does our outward appearance reflect our inner reality?  And I'm not talking about outward style, clothes, hair, that sort of thing.  What I'm wondering is whether or not other people can sense that there is a working, living, alive "soul" within us, and that they can see that soul and spirit simply through the way we appear in the world.  I wonder .  .  .

So recently this question popped up in a particular and unique way.   These last two Saturdays I found myself on the ferry, and wearing the "uniform of my trade."   I long ago stopped wearing black shirts and white, plastic collars on any regular basis.  I gave up the gray flannels and tweed coats that blended so well with the black and white and I consciously chose some other "look" or persona.  And I've been more comfortable, in my clothes if not in my skin.  But there are  very particular occasions or circumstances that can invite me to button up that black shirt and fasten on that stiff collar.  Participating in an ordination is one such occasion.  The other is being called to a hospital room for someone who has simply and directly asked for "an Episcopal priest."  And so I found myself, on these two occasions, sitting in the Galley looking, well, "priestly."  Or different.  And maybe even a bit awkward.

Of course on both days I was indeed noticed.  Friends looked, and looked again, and wondered aloud about "the formality."  I felt some odd need to explain.  But it was from the kids that I experienced a more resonant response, and one that seemed somehow harder to explain: "why are you wearing that?" I was twice asked.  By young kids.   Kids who have known me through baseball and youth sports-and not necessarily through what I do for a living.  "Why was I?" I asked myself.  How was what I was wearing in any way a reflection of what might lie under the clothes and below the skin?  Was my outward appearance a sign of something true within-or was I just putting on "the cloth" so I wouldn't have to go any deeper?  It's a tough question-and one that I wrestle with all the time.  I want to be seamless-to show on the outside who I am on the inside.  But I am far more fragmented than I will ever really admit.

The old (and seemingly true) definition of a sacrament is "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace."  In other words, what's on the outside is a sign of what's within.  A loaf of bread is good food.  Nothing less.  Nothing more.  Unless it sits on the altar, in a room with hungry people-and then the outside speaks to what really lies inside.  Far more than food, to be sure--but nonetheless, food indeed. 

And Where are we Going?

So what, indeed, is inside of us?  What can others see by looking?  If there is an image of God within us, then perhaps we would do well to let it shine-let it be seen.  Or, to put it another way, are we ourselves sacraments?  Are we outward signs of an unseen grace?  Imagine that.  And if we are, then what?  I'm just wondering . . .

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