Small pleasures are a gift of God’s giving. Learning to enjoy them is also a gift. Last Friday I was privileged to have part of an afternoon enjoying an appropriate adult beverage with a couple of our pastoral visitors from St. Aidan’s. This afforded the three of us opportunity to chat about the nature of God, God’s community, and authentic witness in compassion and care for one another. Must have really freaked the bartender out! Not your run of the mill pub conversation – but there you have it. Three pilgrims on a journey, a beverage or two, some stilton cheese and olives, and voila – Theological reflection. Don’t get me wrong; these same three people are quite capable of discussing the potential ALCS Pennant race, the pending NHL Season or who we picked to win this Sunday’s games, but on this day there just seemed to be more pressing matters. We had opportunity to share some thoughts about how we see God at work in our community, in our lives, and in the world. For me, it was a special gift.
In the midst of our dialogue one my partners in theological reflection quoted Gerard Manley Hopkins poem – As Kingfishers Catch Fire.
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying, What I do is me: for that I came.
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Christ — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
Pertinent to our conversation was the line “What I do is me: for that I came.” What brought us to that line was a recounting of a Nadia Bolz-Weber’s radio interview on the CBC on Friday. You can hear the podcast here. Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran Pastor of a Church called All Sinners and All Saints.
She stands out as a pastor because of her many tattoos and piercings. I brought up the interview in our bar side chat because I was impressed with one exchange in particular. She was asked by Tapestry host Mary Hynes, “Did you have to check a lot of yourself at the door when you became a pastor?” Her answer was a swift – “No – if that has been necessary I would not have been ordained…I do not have a pastoral persona!” I found these words a comfort. She went on to talk about how she is a human being like everyone else and about how those who were placed upon pedestals have fallen pretty hard. In fact, in her experience, she said, people want authenticity and integrity in religious leaders.
So, with when we delved into what it means to be authentic in ministry, one of my fellow tavern theologians without hesitation recited this great line from that great poem. “What I do is me: for that I came.” We have been all sent. God did not get bored with Incarnation after the Christmas event. God continues to be made manifest as we, the Body of Christ, make real the presence of God. ‘Christ plays in ten-thousand places.’ Gerard Manley Hopkins captures well how God is at work in the created order. What I do is me: for that I came – when we abandon who we are and expend energy trying to mold ourselves to fit another’s expectations, another’s demands and another’s vision of who they think we should be, I believe it not just an offence to our personhood, it is an offence God. We are God’s beloved. We are all sent with something quite unique and quite sacred. What we are sent with is our flawed, imperfect, and vulnerable self. We are sent with our giftedness, and our unique selves. We are sent with the best of who we are and the worst of who we are – and God works with it all. What I do is me: for that I came. Julian of Norwich wrote – “God loved us before he made us; and his love has never diminished and never shall.” We spend too much time being tormented by the notion that our failings or our shortcoming have made us less loveable. God’s love for us has never diminished. It has been with us before we were made – in fact I believe that love that God has for us is not only not diminished – it increases. What I do is me: for that I came.
I am grateful for small pleasures in life. I am blessed to have people who engage in Theology in front of Taps. I offer thanks to my friends for the gift of time last Friday. What I do is me: for that I came.
This relates to a comment in Rob Lemon’s homily this past week about judging people based on their appearance and treating them accordingly. I confessed to a friend to feeling irritated with visitors (ok, Roman Catholic visitors or spouses of Anglicans) who stand with their arms crossed appearing bored, not participating,) and a friend told me that in the one example I gave, this man was very supportive of his wife and of the church she attended. I stand confronted in my error. I also confess that the pastor of the Lutheran church All Saints and All Sinners with her tattoos and piercings would have prompted my same judgments. In a recent post you referred to those who judge dress as inappropriate in the church….You are in the right spot, Kevin. You have always been in the right spot to challenge our prejudices. John and I think of you frequently., Thank you for introducing us to Bishop Spong. We are taking the course Efm in Sun City West. I understand that this course is given in some dioceses in Ontario. Always good to read your posts. Peace, Evelyn Meyer
Thank you for your reflective thoughts Evelyn. And thank you for your kind words as well. I’m so glad that you keep in touch this way. My best to John
Beautifully put, Kevin. I love the idea that small pleasures can yield such big reflections. My sons and I often speak of the little gifts we have in our lives. Our need to recognize them and to be thankful is something I always speak of.
Miss you guys.