Yesterday I dropped my car off at the repair shop – it needed some work. From there, I walked to my next appointment. The day was beautiful, the weather was pleasant. It was a nice day for a walk.

I was wearing my collar (I’m a pastor). As I walked I had an opportunity to think, to observe, to just be. I wasn’t in a hurry – I had plenty of time to get to my next meeting.

I observed things based on encounters I had with people. First, there are many people who I’m pretty sure would never make eye contact with anyone, no matter what. And that’s not even talking about someone saying “hi” as they pass by. These are dedicated and focused people who walk – eyes straight ahead, never acknowledging another human or anything else. I’m pretty sure I could have had a sign on my chest that said “I’ll give you $100 if you say hi,” and these folks would have not done it.

It made me wonder – what’s their story? What’s going on with them? What’s happened in their lives? Have they had a bad encounter with a clergy person? Or is this just the way they normally act?

Other people would wave, say hi or good morning, and a few brave souls greeted me with a “Good Morning Father.” Granted, I’m not Catholic, but it is a nice greeting anyway. The same questions went through me – what’s their story? What’s happening in their lives? Why are they willing to greet me, even with a respected title?

As I walked I encountered a variety of people – no two looked the same.

And as I walked I thought about the public witness of a pastor wearing a collar. There are many Christians who argue that faith is only a matter of personal piety. I don’t agree. If that was the case, then why do we pastors have the option of wearing a collar – a public sign of our faith? What about the prophets who were sent to kings to inform them of what God thought? What about pastors and Christians who made public statements about slavery or civil rights? Faith that is just about personal piety begs the question – what’s the point? And where does that idea come from anyway? It’s not biblical and not Christ-like. The early followers of Jesus lived out the faith in such a way that it had a public impact. Many of them were martyred as a result.

Yesterday was a nice day – a pleasant day. A day of walking, and contemplating, and encounter people. A day of public witness and public presence.