Friday, September 19, 2008
Everything is Sacred
What is it with me and hot-button topics this week? I know I should be sharing CD reviews and pining about the Braves waning season, just to assuage those reluctant of controversy, but here I go with sacred cow #2: religion.
I received an email from a very nice lady at our church opining our inability to be at an 11am service this Sunday because Grady has a baseball game at noon, and thus, he and his coach (that'd be me) have to be there at 11:30. She kindly tried to offer solutions, involving Wendy, a change of clothes and a hot PB&J in the car, but I told her Wendy had to be at work, and we'd just have to miss this particular service. The reason this date was so important to her was that they were presenting 3rd graders with their very own Bible in church, and she saw this as a rite of passage on the same strata with being Mitzvahed.
She was very nice, but her regret came with a gentle chiding about how important sports have become in our culture, and how 'kids these days' aren't as involved in church as they used to be. Then there was a follow up letter sent to all parents of 3rd graders, with a reinforcement of how important this Sunday is, as the Bible is, after all, "God's Word" and receiving their very own Bible is the opening of an amazing world of Truth to the kids.
Eh. That's a conversation she and I are best off not having. I'm a fairly liberal theologian. In fact, the best way for me to stay tethered to the Christian angle of my faith is to write off huge chunks of the Bible and a fraction of church doctrine as 'man's misguided interpretation of what God wants'. I know, I know - "Hey Tommy, enjoy hanging out in hell with Scorsese and Lennon."
Anyway, I was starting to feel 'tsk-tsk-ed' about all this, even though we're racing from a kids' Sunday School service which I'm leading (and having to fudge my own theological dogma to even share some of the notions with kids), then to two baseball games, then home to host an evening of dinner with three other couples and their three pairs of kids. Busy? Yes. In the mood for subliminal guilt? No. Surrounded by the Holy all day? Hell yeah.
I know I've still got the Universalist philosophy running through my veins, but I really wanted to invite this lady to skip church and come to Grady's ball game. She'd see something just as holy on that ball field as she would in the front pew on Sunday. Truly, a 6-4-3 double play, pulled off by 8 year old boys, is Grace, pure and simple. And our dinner party - the laughter of friends, communing over food, taking shelter from the storms of life for a couple of hours to connect with each other - why, Jesus would show up for that just to turn our filtered water into Cabernet. I'm sure of it.
One of the hardest tasks we face as spiritual beings on this earth, and one that I have always struggled with when the 'church card' gets played, is that divinity - call it God, nature, or human endeavor - surround us constantly. We just spend most of our time dodging it or neglecting it.
What's Sacred? Philip Roth's most visceral words on the page, every note the morally questionable Miles Davis ever played, my son telling a joke, my daughter's laughter, my wife's hand on my cheek, packing my kids' lunches in the morning, a strong cup of coffee, a morning run, the hawks that fly over our neighborhood, the smell of fresh vegetables on the dinner table, kind words passed between friends, impassioned debate over who to vote for, the smile of a stranger, an imperfect yoga pose, Willie Nelson's soul, Keith Richard's scarred fingers, Mandela's existence...and don't get me started on sunsets, full moons, and Emmylou Harris' voice.
Sacred? We've got our Bible, thanks.
For me, "Faith" can never be a fixed notion. It's an eternal game of tag between me and whatever or whoever God is or isn't. (God, btw, looks like Meryl Streep in my mind - a pillar of gentility, grace, and strength, and capable of flawless accents). Some days I'm seeking Eastern Enlightenment, other days God's mercy, other days, I'm a evangelical agnostic, shouting out "I'm not sure, and neither are you!" And that's the journey. Beware those who tell you they have all the answers and can quit seeking. We're here to seek, methinks.
On good days, I recognize that.
Sunday is going to be a good day. A holy one. Be it at the diocese, in the dugout, or at the dinner table.
Maybe the greatest form of prayer is just to recognize we're living one.