the redemption of my preaching shirt

preaching at my home church presents a clothing challenge. less so these days — but this was especially true for me five or six years ago when i started preaching there occaisionally. my wardrobe consisted of “nice clothes”, and a very large selection of t-shirts and shorts. those who preached at my church tended to wear nice casual (which, in san diego language, does NOT mean a button-down shirt, but, rather, a hawaiian shirt). i had one really nice hawaiian shirt that i’d bought on the sale rack of a local golf course — it was one of those $110 shirts, marked down about 5 times, ’til i bought it for about $30.

by default, it became my lucky preaching shirt.

when ed noble (our teaching pastor, and my former co-worker/boss from the omaha days) came to this church, he’s the one who officially named it my “preaching shirt”.

about four years ago, ed and i were sharing a series. i’d preached week one, and — of course — wore “the shirt”. ed preached week two, and i was over in the middle school room. a woman came and found me and said (with a concerned face) that she needed to talk to me about something that was very difficult for her from the previous week. i’d preached on non-conformity, so wasn’t surprised this woman might have a problem with what i said. but then she surprised me: “it wasn’t anything you said — i loved what you said. it was your shirt. i’m really troubled that you wore it last time you preached, and again last week.”

me: “ha! that’s hilarious! ed calls it my preaching shirt!” (can you sense that i thought she was kidding?)

her: “i’m not kidding” (her face made this clear), “you wore it two times in a row.”

me: “but… um… the last time i preached… was, like… 8 months ago!”

her: “yes, i know. but you still wore it two times in a row. and i find it extremely distracting. PLEASE, whatever you do, do NOT wear that shirt next week when you preach.”

needless to say, i was absolutely conflicted. there was such a massive-huge part of me that wanted to wear the shirt just to spite her, and to force her to confront the triviality of her stupid issue. but, then, i didn’t really want to wear the shirt that close to when i’d just worn it, or — i thought — everyone would start mumbling about how that damn pineapple hawaiian shirt must be my only shirt. i had visions of receiving dozens of shirts in the mail from well-meaning church-goers.

i caved.

i hung the preaching shirt on a hanger in my closet, and didn’t wear it for four years.

until yesterday. i was preaching on identity. and as i was rummaging through my shirts, trying to decide what to wear, i saw “the preaching shirt”, and was struck by how that stupid thing and that lady’s stupid comment had played an identity role for me. so i decided to redeem the shirt, and give it back its rightful place.

i even made this story my opening illustration (i have no idea if that lady still goes to our church — i don’t think i’ve seen her in a while), and when i said i was out to redeem the preaching shirt, the congregation broke into applause (while i flexed the shirt — ahnold-style).

the preaching shirt is now wadded up with other dark clothing in the dirty laundry bag. but it’s back. and it’s feelin’ pretty good about that.

7 thoughts on “the redemption of my preaching shirt”

  1. ok, i just realized I have a worship leading outfit, but never called it that until reading this. It’s so hard to find something that works, is inoffensive, doesn’t distract, yet is interesting, and still confortable enough to wear while singing and playing piano, that once I found something that worked, I bought like 4 duplicate versions of it, and I just wear them in rotation.
    Time to go buy a red pineapple shirt, I guess.

  2. Wow.
    To remember what a preacher wore more than half a year before … is she listening to the message or taking notes on the clothing?
    As I sit here and think about it … I think I have two preaching shirts and ties. They’re the ones I think I look the best in and I find the most comfortable. I don’t even think about it – I just tend to grab them on Sundays I’m preaching.

  3. WOW! I cannot even remember what I wore Friday night to church, nonetheless what Marko was wearing, but I remember the message. Hmmm guess clothes aren’t that important to me as long as I am dressed. But then again, I don’t go to church for a fashion show, I go for the message. How someone managed to remember what shirt you wore that far back is crazy.

  4. How bout a Hawaiin Print Robe?

    Consider for a second though that this issue of clothing and preaching is magnified many times for women. The skirt length, dare it be pants?, the color, the collar?, the sleeve length, the transparency etc. As much as I disagree with it I have discovered that my clothing can be a huge distraction from what God is trying to speak through me. I have the challenge of people automatically dealing with the obstacle of gender, age, whatever. . and then to add clothing. . whoa!! An older woman advised me a long time ago to buy dark conservative clothing. and its why I like a robe sometimes. . I try to dress to the context and dont want anything to be an obstacle to “hearing”.

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