April and I met on Twitter and her guest posting came about one night from a bet on who could guess the movie quote I posted. What started out as a joke prompted this series.
I love the different posts that have been coming through since I started the series. Here today is April’s post. Won’t you welcome her.
Every month I get together with a group of pastors in my denomination. We all minister in churches in the same geographical area, and most of our churches are rural. Being a part of this group has been critically important for me – important enough that I go even when I’m so busy it would make more sense to stay in my office and work on my to-do list. During our meetings we usually share what’s going on in our ministries, take time for learning something together, and we pray for each other. There have been tears, and we have done a lot of laughing. It’s a true Christian community, and every month I long for our time together.
This month, we shared about the journey of Lent and the joy of Easter in our congregations. I shared with the group that our congregation would be doing Holy Humor Sunday for the first time this year. Holy Humor Sunday (also called Bright Sunday or Laughter Sunday) is observed on the Sunday after Easter. It’s not really part of the liturgical calendar, but it has a lot of history. Holy Humor Sunday is about inviting the joy and laughter back into worship and into our lives after a trying and emotional season of Lent. One way congregations have done this is by singing Easter Carols – Christmas carol tunes with Easter lyrics.
This led to a rousing discussion about the way hymn writers often used popular tunes, and about how Martin Luther used well-known drinking songs as settings for hymns. We joked about the meter of “A Mighty Fortress” lending itself well to pausing for a swig in between lines. Yet, Martin Luther’s hymns are well-loved today. If you go into a nursing facility and sing hymns with the residents, many of these hymns set to drinking songs are so hidden in the hearts of the saints that even when other memories fail, the words to these songs come bubbling forth from their lips as though they learned them not long before. Is it the singable tune that is sacred? Is it the lyrics that make it sacred? Or is it something else?
This intersection between the secular and sacred is one of the holiest places for me. I guess you could say that this in-between place is sacred in itself. Something mysterious happens here, something that reminds us that we are not the keepers of the sacred. The sacred isn’t hidden in my ability to write a memorable song. The sacred cannot be contained by the words I write on the page. Somewhere in the midst of the act of word and music coming together, something sacred is taking place. The ordinary is made extraordinary. The earthy is made transcendent.We can’t put our finger on just what is taking place, but we know it is other-worldly. And it causes us to give praise.
For me, sacred is found in that in-between place. It takes place when the simple is transformed. It happens when someone makes a decision to live differently than she did the day before. It happens when we sing holy words to old bar tunes. We find it as the sun first crests over the horizon. We find it in the morning silence right before the joyful buzzing of kids getting ready for school fills the house. It comes to us when the mundane somehow turns magical. It happened when a feeding trough became the cradle of the Son of God.
I can’t put my finger on what makes something sacred. Sacred comes from God, and somehow as the bearer of God’s image, I engage in things that are somehow made sacred – even though I’m not the one making it so. And in those moment of sacredness, I feel tremendously grateful to have been given a front row seat to what is happening in the world. And when God uses me to bring about something sacred, all I can say is, “Wow.”
April has served as a co-pastor with her husband Jeff for 7 years. They are raising two fantastic, school-age children, which keeps life fresh, fun, and a bit chaotic at times. April enjoys running (at a snail’s pace), baking bread, reading (theology and children’s books), crocheting, and taking pictures of nearly everything.