Friday, April 08, 2011

after one year ordained

Word and font and table.

I'm mostly a Baptist, these days, and when I got ordained, there wasn't any super-clear sense of what it was about. (Well, I was clear about it, but I didn't assume that anyone else was.) But I grew up United Methodist, and they're big into commonality and sharing senses of things, and there was a predominant sense that when one was ordained as an “elder', one was ordained to “word and sacrament” which is to say preaching and communion and baptism. So, I still at least partially think of it in those terms, though much of the preaching and communion I did was before I was ordained, and all the baptisms I've done so far were before I was ordained.

But in any case, as I reflect on the year anniversary of my ordination, here in the not-quite-warm part of spring in Chicago, in a year of tsunamis and revolutions, I'm coming back to those three, and three accompanying dreams.


In the first dream, which I had well over a year ago, I am preaching in an unfamiliar church. At first, people are sitting up front, but then they are sitting farther back. Of course, (this seems obvious in the dream, and it's obvious to my ministry- but more on that later) I leave the pulpit and start preaching at the front of the pews. (Or maybe I am already preaching at the front of the pews, as my childhood pastor taught me.) The people keep moving back, and soon I am halfway up the aisle, because they are sitting in the back pews of the church.
Eventually, of couse, they leave the church, but I follow them, and eventually I find myself in the lawns and orchards outside of their houses, while they try to eat their lunches and read their papers, preaching outside their windows.
When I woke up from that dream, I found it a little sad. But after talking it over with my spiritual director, I thought it was pretty cool, actually. These days I think it is awesome.


In the second dream, which I had a week or two before my ordination, Rachael and I are helping to run some youth or church or education event, which is to say any of dozens and dozens of things we've done, together and individually. Somebody mentions that nobody remembered to bring communion elements- juice and bread. So, I make a grocery store run, but for some reason I have to sneak out, like I'm in a spy movie about someone who's not very good at being a spy.
When I come back, I want to go in the front door of the church, but the lawn and the church building have tilted ninety degrees, so that it's a sheer, grassy wall instead of a lawn. In the dream, I feel nonchalant about this, though I am not much of a climber in real life. So, I shift the plastic grocery bag with the bottle of juice and the loaf of bread to the crook of my elbow, and begin to climb. I scale the lawn, and pull myself up the now-horizontal pillars on the front of the church. Rachael helps me climb up through the doorway, and then we go about our work.


Look: everybody who knows me well knows that I play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. Something about connecting to a realm of fantasy, or cooperative storytelling, or magic or something, makes me want to do it once a week, for a few hours, with some friends. When I don't play for more than a week, I start to have dreams about it. Or I remember my dreams about it better. Or, I have whatever dreams I'd otherwise have, but they have that kind of mythic medievil fantasy tone to them.
In any case, in my dream, I am in some sort of magical or mythic world, and in that world, I am released from slavery. In the dream, I am both the person being released from slavery, and the person who breaks me out. In this world, one of the markers of being an enslaved person is that you're not allowed to have a name, so the closing, climactic scene of the dream is when I-as-liberator carve an initial into a metal ball or helmet as a gift for me-as-liberated. The carving is a letter, maybe a W, and the letter is a name, and the name is freedom.

Word. Table. Font. Preaching and communion and baptism. These three are not even close to the fullness of my call, but it's true that they're part of my call. (Nevermind that I think they are all part of your call, too.) But they stand for larger things, too.
Preaching like I pick up the phone at my office, and somebody wants to come volunteer with us. Preaching like it turns out the hotel workers union needs somebody in a clergy collar to show up and sit with them during contract negotiations. Preaching like dancing, preaching like shooting the breeze with my housemates in the kitchen, and preaching, yes and fully and difficultly and most lovingly, like preaching.
Table like just ordinary sharing food with people, table like deliberately pouring the communion juice so it overflows when I'm officiating as a guest preacher. Table like spending all afternoon making ridiculous pancakes on Shrove Tuesday with my friends, buying candy bars to put in the batter. Table like dinner at the shelter amidst the voguing. Table like sharing coffee and cookies late at night on the street with people experiencing homelessness, and maybe more than that, being so bold as to share coffee and cookies in the suburbs with people experiencing wealth.
And then the font. Sometimes, when I go to a new place, to a meeting with the bank manager that could help our program or to preaching at a new church, and I need to feel a little more centered, I put a little water on my forehead. Font like Jesus keeps re-newing me, whether I like it or not. Font like having a new title in my name that makes people read me a little bit differently, and deciding when to use it. Font like newness and rebirth. Font like the work, and font like the freedom. Font like healing me. Font like liberation.

In some ways, I am only a year in: it's a year since my ordination, anyway. But however you count it, here I am. One of the characters on 30 Rock psychs himself up in the mirror before a big presentation, and I decided to try it, before a church womens' event out by O'Hare. I shifted the rearview mirror of the borrowed car, and looked myself in the eye.
“Okay,” I said to myself, “This is the work you were born to do.”

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