Friday, March 27, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
The first step, I realized, was to find an appropriate method of burning. Based on the experience of a pastor at another church, whose identity shall remain anonymous, I knew that two things were essential:
- Not to burn burdens in the sanctuary itself. That can create a lot of smoke, set off fire alarms, and produce the fire department. That can be a real mood-breaker during Ash Wednesday services. "Remember that you are dust, and to [LOUD SIREN] you shall return."
- Not to use real paper, which also produces voluminous smoke. See above.
I needed flash paper, which would vanish into thin air the moment it was lit. While googling for a flash paper source, I quickly recognized that magicians have the corner market. After an extensive search, I finally tracked down a magician on the eastside who operates a shop out of his home. Let's just say that if I ever tire of pastoral "hocus pocus," I could make decent money selling magic supplies.
I had one of those weeks where selling magic supplies didn't seem half-bad. I was suffering from ecclesial malaise -- weary of the church, the call, the endless moments of service. In spite of the tears, the venting to friends, the prayers, and the complaints, I felt like a mouse caught in a glue trap in the church's kitchen. I was still alive but unable to move.
I handed out rectangles of flash paper to the youth, who spent time reflecting, praying, chatting when they were supposed to be silent, and writing their confessions. We ventured to the courtyard. We sang, prayed, and set our papers aflame.
I don't know if you've ever used flash paper, but it's pretty fun stuff. When you set a corner of the paper on fire, it burns brightly for an instant. The key is letting go at just the right moment. POOF! The paper is engulfed with one or two flames before disappearing completely. No ash. No residue. Nothing remains.
We went around the circle. "Cool!" one person exclaimed. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. "I'm scared!" another said. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. "Whoa, stand back!" In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
My turn finally arrived. My paper began to glow. I had to let go.
Friday, March 13, 2009
How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you!
How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you!
I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence.
You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand sanctity.
I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful.
How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.
No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, although not completely.
And where should I go? To build myself another church?
But I could build one only with the same defects, because they are mine:
Defects which I have inside myself.
And if I built one, it would no longer be the Church of Christ.
I am old enough to understand that I am no better than other people.
Friday, March 6, 2009
As loquacious as I am throughout the day, I don't like to talk to people first thing in the morning. I can be very grumpy toward anyone who crosses my path. When I was in kindergarten, my mom used to wake me with a lovely rendition of "Morning Has Broken." I was so nasty to her that my maternal reveille was soon replaced by an impersonal alarm clock.
If I were in charge of the world, the workday would start shortly before noon and end about 9 p.m. I'm in my prime in the late afternoon and early evening, just as others are slowing down.
Since the world is not likely to conform to my recommendation, I'm learning to cope. I'm certainly never going to be a morning person. But my seminary roommate, who knew how horribly rotten I could be in the early hours of the day, has said that I've greatly improved. We traveled together again last summer, and she was shocked at how much more sociable I was upon waking.
I will never be ready, however, to sleep in a toaster.