And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons. 2 And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty. 3 And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office. (Exodus 28:1-3 KJV)
(Accidentally read the King James as I had it up in Bible Gateway to copy something for a funeral the same day. Some interesting things that aren’t as clear or obvious in the more contemporary renderings.)
Connections between garments that are “holy” and “glory and beauty.” Similarly parallel or even causation between the wise-hearted and being filled with the spirit of wisdom (as opposed to NIV which seems to make the issue more of skill although wisdom is mentioned).
The command from God regarding Aaron and his sons that they may “minister unto me in the priests office” frame the instruction for making the priestly garments. Something about the garments matters to Aaron’s and his son’s performing this ministry of serving in the priesthood. The garments are part of his consecration, his and their being set aside for the work.
For most of my ministry I did not wear a robe in worship, even after my ordination (in my tradition those ordained as elders wear stoles as well as signs of their authority and the yoke of ministry placed upon their shoulders). The exception was weddings and the occasional church funeral when asked to dress such.
In my current appointment as pastor I have worn one as my predecessor and those before him did. I have noticed it has changed me a bit – in how I think about worship, about forms and rites and how we order things on Sunday morning. Last week I was blessed to assist in the funeral rites of my best friend’s mother. The service was an Episcopal one and I found great power and experienced a profound sense of the Spirit’s presence in the ritual of the service and particularly of Communion.
We Protestants with our minimalism and our comfortable clothing may be missing some of the sense of beauty, awe, and transcendence that beautiful garments suggested. I don’t have this figured out but these words about Aaron’s garments grabbed my heart the first time I read them today.
Lord of Beauty and Glory and Wisdom – the clothes do not make the person I know. Your word reminds us that you look upon the inward, upon the heart. But these words about the garb of the first priests, the beauty and the glory they brought to your people remind me that it art and wonder have a place in our worship. Make me wise-hearted that I may appreciate and seek such beauty – the beauty of you in the forms and symbols of your eternal beauty and you transcendent glory. Amen.