Back in the day ~ you pick ~ this was a very popular tune and like every other hopeless romantic I loved it...
Small wonder that this melody came floating back to me as today unfolded: I heard that my sister-in-law's father died over the weekend, I met with my clergy support group and wrestled with the joys and sorrows of doing ministry at this moment in time (truly wonderful colleagues) and I prayed about my own path as a pastor. As Epiphany has matured ~ and I've gone more deeply into reflections on our American culture of violence ~ I've had a growing sense that more than ever I am being called into a more contemplative time.
In my weekly note to the congregation, I put it like this:
A book I've have reading in anticipation of Lent, Awakening the Quieter Virtues, grabbed me with these words: "Our larger problem (in an overly busy and noisy culture) may not be the gaining of imitated immoral behaviors, but the losing of subtle, soft-spoken character qualities. The noise of culture overwhelms the less brassy aspects of life, including what I call the quieter virtues: discernment, innocence, authenticity, modesty, reverence, contentment and generosity." I suspect Gregory Spencer is right - I've seen it in my life, in my circle of friends, and even in the wider church. Certainly the quieter virtues stand in vivid contrast to the hype of culture as the Super Bowl draws near, yes?
I must confess that somehow or another I lost track that America's second biggest feast day - Super Bowl Sunday - was coming this week. (And I must say that a holy day given over to manufactured gladiator actions and jinned-up commercials doesn't do much for my heart or soul.) To be sure, I'm not much of a football fan, and after I heard that the Patriots were not going, I really gave my attention to other things. Truth be told, I find it unsettling that this "game" pales only to Christmas as the most popular, widely celebrated "holiday" in our land.
Sure, I've watched some of the half-time shows - I loved Springsteen's performance and got a kick out of Madonna, too (although I thought the Who should have stayed home) and I'm all for Beyonce doing her thing - what's more, the creativity in the advertisements is amazing (although spending this much time, talent on treasure on bullshit is not healthy.) Oh well, different strokes for different folks and all that, so I don't begrudge anyone a good time watching the game and pray those of you who are doing it up big have a safe and joy filled time. I won't be joining you, however, as I sense a growing edge towards something more quiet.
I'm all for getting together with loved ones and friends and partying on like its 1999...
... but this incarnation has never worked for me. I don't fin anything transcendent or healing in the hype - especially as I move towards a more contemplative season in my heart and work. St. Frederick of Buechner put it like this:
There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him (or not) but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compelling and haunting... so listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and the pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments - and life itself is grace.