Friday the 13th! Pi Day… 3.1415! Beware the Ides of March! St. Patrick’s Day.
The concentration of these fun, playful, popular — though essentially insignificant days — has gotten me thinking. We need more of this! In fact, I was disappointed when the parents of 8 y/o Max, grinning a proud gummy smile, told me they don’t do the tooth fairy!
Same applies to our faith! Where’s the fun? …playfulness? …sense of humor? Lent seems like a good time to do a collective assessment. My niece shared a photo on Facebook of their family attending Friday Night Fish Fry in Omaha. Everyone looked like they were having so much fun!
Coincidentally, we looked for a fish fry in Minneapolis last evening as well. A couple of churches came up in our Google search — clearly skewed to the “more Catholic” St. Paul side of the metro. Mostly, they were restaurants and taverns. We chose the St. Clair Broiler over the Grandview Pub because I preferred the family atmosphere over a bar. But, hey, this seems to be where folks prefer to spend Fridays in Lent. Our server at the Broiler even told us how their consistently good business really spikes on all-you-can-eat fish fry Fridays.
I hope our churches are paying attention! People are hungry! We are looking for nourishment in the context of community. I think Pope Francis is on to something — if you are not a person of conspicuous joy you are not really a very good Christian! Our churches can be so lifeless! Our gatherings so scripted, staid and subdued! Where’s the life?
Secular culture is pulsing with stories, rituals and mythology — black cats, Pi Day, Shakespeare’s admonition to be careful tomorrow, green beer, tooth fairies. These are more than frivolous. They are fun, expressive of human imagination and hold us in community. They express the longings and appetites of the human spirit for story, meaning and relationship.
I grew up in a church awash in Ember Days, feast days (St Richard’s is April 3), May crowning, summer camps, pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, St Vincent de Paul Societies, Legion of Mary (for men, BTW), “open gym”, block rosary, you name it! It was fun, secure and a wonderful time and place to grow up. I found God there!
To be clear, I am not pining for a return to the 1950s. God forbid! Resuscitating past patterns and repeating old scripts is definitely not where it’s at though many will try! Where is the imagination? …the vitality? …the energy? ..the Spirit? WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE? We are hungry and will find nourishment. Jesus went out to meet them!
My intuition has a sense of what we need to be about as communities of faith. It comes from secular culture not from my two graduate degrees in theology! It comes from the Ellen DeGeneres television show!
As a nation, we do not need another PBS special of Jackie Kennedy giving a tour of the White House or Nancy Reagan unveiling new china for the Presidential dining room. Though it’s not my musical style or within my range of talent, we need Michelle Obama dancing “Uptown Funk” with Ellen [link]. Whether I prefer it or not, this is expressive of the future that is calling. It’s expressive of the fun, vitality and energy for which our collective spirits are hungry. This is the kind of First Lady we need now — one who can give expression to our future and offers leadership by showing us the way.
I get a sense that Pope Francis “gets it”. But he leads on the global stage where he fights a whole lot of lethargy and entropy. So do we! Yet, each of us needs to bring this vision and spirit to our communities and locale. We will surely crash if we keep looking into the rear view mirror. Resuscitating old ways of doing things is a waste of time — “See I am doing new things!” says our God.
People vote with their feet. Sometimes, we even dance!