Church started with a smile for me today.
After our call to worship, opening hymn, and prayer of confession, someone reads the Psalm of the Day, which today was Psalm 133:
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded
the blessing, life forevermore.
I was listening, not reading, and was very taken with the image of the oil running down off the top of Aaron’s head. It sounds like they emptied the whole bottle on his head, leaving it to run down the sides, perhaps filling up his ears, and (at least in my imagination) down his face until it seeped out of his beard, all of it ending up dripping down on his collar and probably ruining his robe. Though I’m not particularly an oil and lotion person, the image was moving to me. Then came the next line.
What I heard was, “It is like the Do of Herman.”
There is the Tao of Pooh – now there’s the Do of Herman, I thought. Next I wondered who Herman was and what exactly he did to make his “do” so important. The contrast between Aaron sitting and letting the oil roll down over him in quiet abandon to the moment and Herman only being known for what he did also jumped out at me. Wherever Herman is, I hope he’s finally been able to quit doing for today and can get some rest.
The Do of Milton knocked out my usual and always enjoyable Sunday afternoon nap because I had to cook for a wedding at the Inn. Ginger and I ate lunch together and then went about our separate “dos.” I got to the Inn about one and dove into the list of things we needed to get ready. Alfonso and Pedro worked alongside of me most of the day. For someone who speaks a limited amount of English, Pedro has an amazing vocabulary when it comes to American popular music. He sings along and knows all the words, even though he doesn’t necessarily know what all the words mean. My favorite is hearing him sing along with Gnarls Barkley, “Does that make me crazy?”
While we were plating up the first course, Pedro looked at the others in our assembly line and said, “What’s wrong you people? No one smile. No good. Only Milton and me happy everyday.” I’m always happy to work with Master P.
No two ways about it, I’m a messy cook. Well, perhaps a better way to say it is I get messy when I cook. By the time the day is over, I’m wearing small pieces of everything I made like merit badges proclaiming my accomplishments. Some marks are more permanent than others, leading me to change from white chef coats to black ones a couple of weeks ago in the spirit of the eternal question, “How do you tell when a brown towel is clean?” Most of my merit badges became invisible on my new dark uniform and, according to Pedro, the black is quite slimming as well.
For both the weddings this weekend, I had to make pizza to serve at the end of the night when the couple’s closest circle of friends remained to finish out the evening, which meant I had to flour the stainless steel table to roll out the pizza dough, which also means I did a good job of flouring myself in my new black coat. Regardless of my fashion sense or color scheme, I’m going to get messy when I cook. Messy is part of the deal.
Ginger preached on Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet with perfume and then wiping them with her hair, an act that was both beautiful and messy. Jesus’ feet may have been clean, but I assume Mary must have had to wash her hair the same way Aaron had to shampoo to get all that oil out. She did a wonderful, extravagant, messy thing – the stuff real relationships are built on. As Ginger said, “Intimacy is messy.”
She also opened her sermon recounting an experience we had in Israel several years ago that bears repeating.
We spent about ten days in Israel and Palestine with a tour group of Christians mostly from mainline denominations, going to a number of sites of interest to our faith. As our tour guide often told us, most all of the sites had churches built over them and many of the sites were not the actual places where the events took place, but the “traditional” site, which I took to mean the place where it was most convenient to build a church.
When we stopped at the Jordan River to see where Jesus was baptized, the spot was not exact and was not covered over by a chapel. There were some seats and some changing rooms and a small concrete walkway down to the water’s edge that made it easy to kneel and touch the water, or, as we had planned, to be baptized. Our little band gathered around and read scripture together and then we very quietly and reverently came forward in single file for Ginger and Skip, the two ministers leading the trip, to mark our foreheads with water.
Shortly after we began our time of worship, another bus pulled up that was carrying a Pentecostal church group from somewhere in South America. From the place where the buses parked to the water was about fifty feet of gentle slope leading to the river. The group got off the bus singing hymns and clapping. Their pastor was wearing his robe and was leading the group. About three or four steps from the bus, he broke into what Ginger referred to as “a middle aged sprint” for the river and, without breaking stride, left his feet when he reached the concrete walk and leapt spread eagle into the river, gloriously belly-flopping and sending quite a wake our way. His congregation was not far behind, running and jumping into the water, and then they clapped and sang and splashed in the water like kids at bath time. They didn’t think about getting back on the bus in wet clothes or what was coming up next. They were in the water with Jesus and they weren’t going to hold back a thing.
Get wet. Get messy. Dive in. Have fun. Crack open the perfume and stink up the place.
Seemingly unusual messages for Lent, perhaps, but I think not. Does that make me crazy?
That’s a good kind of crazy, for sure.
Sometimes I think authentic living and authentic faith is messy and crazy….