Saturday, May 11, 2013


So many balloons.

We long to bring something tangible. Human begins are wired for ritual and spacial celebration. These things transcend religion and culture. We need to gather when we grieve. We want to offer something that makes our presence worthy and of good use.

The media is hounding three women and their families. They are camped outside, stalking and watching and hovering, waiting to ask them what it feels like to be free. Ha. Sounds to me like they're still trapped behind those balloons and the best intentions of the clueless and curious.

These girls don't need your rained-on dollar store stuffed animals. They don't need balloons that will deflate before the crowds do. They don't need 24-hour news coverage or people treating them like they're still 14 years old.

I don't know what they do need, but that's not my job. There are plenty of loved ones and professionals handy to help them sort that out.

Instead, I am in the business of knowing what the crowds need. I am a public minister, accustomed to facing large groups of people week after week. We are always dealing with a thousand different things, but we are also dealing with the One Common Thing.

People need a place to come together. Some show up because they always do. Some show up because folks count on them. Some can't figure out why they've come - they're just there.

And then the crowd gives me ten minutes to tell them the truth - every week. Every Sunday I stand in front of them and tell them the two-fold truth about this life: It is hard and shitty sometimes. But it is also beautiful and completely worth the mud-wrestling.

We choreograph prayers around the world's aches and pains, joys and dreams.  We pass the plates and collect diapers. We acknowledge that our need to give comes from being made in God's generous image. We hear stories about God's reputation for showing up and loving fiercely. We pass the peace, which is more than Howdy Do. It's a chance to set down our differences and categories. With a touch, we bestow the perfect peace of God, which passes all understanding. We become tangible signs of grace and relationships the world so desperately needs. We break bread, remembering that God makes enough and we are helpers in that "enough-ness" scheme.

We take an hour to find strength in each other and the Great Story. Our holy language is the postlude of our ancestors' traditions and the prelude of our descendants' faith. And something about that fills us with community and purpose that can weather the storms for another six days.

Helium fails, but our need to congregate does not.
May the crowds discover new places to gather and rich gifts to bear.

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