obscure blessings, purple rain and the mysteries of faith...

Today I mostly just wanted to be still, play "Purple Rain" over and over again, pray the Psalms quietly in chant and then share some music at today's "street meal/ eucharist." But that wouldn't be professional, right? As worship leader, one of the commitments has to do with putting your personal spiritual needs on hold for a time while helping others journey through the liturgy. So that's what I did. I got distracted right after the opening hymn by something - who knows what - and skipped the children's moment only to discover the err of my ways half way into the morning prayers.  They say that confession and humility is good for the soul. So, I owned it, grouped and prayed: Oh well, Lord...

That led to a congregational conversation about why we do things liturgically (one of my band mates later said, "So that we can know when the pastor goes off script, right?!") There was sweet music and prayer. But about two thirds of the way into my message I realized it was too long, too complicated and too late to change directions. Not a train wreck, but way more than most wanted to digest at 11 am in the morning. I kept self-editing as I plowed on to the conclusion trusting that even during the times I feel the worst about things someone inevitably tells me, "Thank you, man, I really needed that."  (I doubt that happened today.)

Once upon a time I heard Jeremiah Wright tell a group of African American pastors in Cleveland the story of what his mother told him when he first got into the "family business" of preaching the Gospel. "Do you think Ted Williams got into the Hall of Fame for hitting a home run every time he went to bat? Do you think that Picasso never tossed a painting into the trash? Do you think you are better than these giants? Look, Ted Williams made it into the Hall of Fame by getting on base once every four times at bat! And Picasso? He threw away more than he ever hung up. So, once you give it your best shot on a Sunday morning - and it isn't a home run - let it go. Give it to God with honesty and conviction and leave the rest to the Lord."

Confirmation class followed with great questions about discernment and trust from our teens. Once again I realized I was only partially clear in explaining how interpreting the 10 Commandments is a life's work. I had better luck as we wrestled with the Apostles' Creed. We trust God because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; and we trust Jesus, because he has sent the Spirit to encourage and lead us when we need it the most. That is why we celebrate the Holy Trinity: one connects us to the other in the mystery of faith. When our discussion was over, two of the little girls ran up to me - all dressed in purple - and said, "James, don't you just hurt because Prince died?" I nodded and smiled in gratitude as they ran off in a flurry. This was the true blessing of this morning for me. Then it was an hour of music practice for a 2 pm outdoor festival sponsored by the Cathedral of the Night. About 120 people showed up for songs and bar-b-que to say nothing of the distribution of the watermelon. Not exactly a traditional Eucharist, but totally right for a cool, bright Eastertide day in the Berkshires and I was glad to be a part of the festival.

Truth be told, however, I would have still rathered to listen to endless versions of "Purple Rain" because my soul hurts at the death of Prince. Miles Davis described him as a combination of Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Charlie Chaplin. That cat could play ANYTHING - and do it with finesse, grace, creativity and humor. So, I'm going to pour myself a "toasted lager," do some "Purple Rain" prayer and practice right now and give thanks for the blessings of this day because while they were mostly obscure to me,  that is another part of the mystery of faith.


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