Like Cyrus, I’m not a preacher anymore.
After lunch with some friends, I sat for an hour in a stupor, then headed to a long Elder’s meeting. Just after 8:30 I arrived at home, where I threw in a science fiction movie I was curious about, but ultimately uninterested in. After flipping channels for awhile, I headed to bed. Just before sleep, I chatted online for a few minutes with a former student who is writing his dissertation. He gave me the names of some no-doubt great plays to read. Maybe I’ll hunt one or two of them down before the day is over.
Now it’s morning, and my computer screen is on the fritz again. It went haywire last Friday, but after 24 hours righted itself. Thought I was out of the woods on that one, but guess not.
A blonde runs by, jogging, her Ipod strapped to her arm, ponytail bouncing. A man hugs his son goodbye, and leaves the young boy alone in the coffee shop, where he will wait until time to wander over to the bus stop. The pediatician who comes to Javasti’s almost every morning is with her husband and son this morning. I think of Honduras when I see her; she has told me several times of her medical mission work there. The espresso machine here in the coffee shop is one of the few like it in the world, I hear, it’s craftsmen meeting some relational disaster that derailed their company, but that assemblage of snatches of two conversations I overheard as I waited for my latte may be a complete misreading of the random nouns and verbs I picked up.
A slide electric guitar picks up my mood, hillbilly rock the music of choice this morning.
I’ll meet a friend for lunch, an accomplished artist-friend my preacher-life caused me to neglect, and then, later in the afternoon, I’ll pick up a fellow actor-traveler who saw a major tragedy among his friends (a devastating suicide) several years ago and we’ll spend a couple of hours hanging out, talking shop no doubt about the touring life, bringing comedy and drama, as he does, to church events and camps; high quality solo performance Jesus theatre.
High quality solo performance Jesus theatre.
There’s a phrase. Could apply to preaching maybe, though if it did, would it refer to blistering critique or enthusiastic applause? Depends on what you think theatre is.
One woman told me yesterday more preachers should go to acting school. She was referring to my tendency to briefly inhabit the characters of any given biblical story. Yesterday I was a child teetering on the edge of a cliff considering leaping into a parents arms. I’ve been Jesus reclining at table, lounging on the floor of the stage. I’ve been a huffing, puffing Rich Young Ruler just arriving at the feet of Jesus, hoping to get some reassurance about the quality of my religious life. And yesterday, perhaps in as symbolic a gesture as I could find, in one of the services, I tried to grab the Holy Spirit from the ether and stuff Him into my chest, a demonstrably futile gesture.
The physical work of preaching is indeed a performance, at least the way I approach it. But to say that implies no falsehood or pretense or hoped-for applause. It represents a very particular kind of laying down of self, delivering all the life you can through the use of the body and voice and emotional structure, trusting that Spirit is in some inexplicable way, doing the driving, both in the delivery and the reception.
For the moment, I’m done. Weary, too.
Other stuff for the day after being a preacher: the trip to Apple Genius Bar, memorizing lines for Enchanted April, rehearsal of the same, maybe a work out, maybe some clothes folded, and hopefully, a bit of talk on the phone with my wife. Reflecting over what it will mean to stand before God, and have Him question me about the period of time between November 1, 2007, and August 31, 2009. His is the only critique that matters.
I’d take any flicker of His smile.
Both my children texted me before I launched my last sermon as a real preacher, wishing me joy and fearless passion. Both texts hit me hard, made me feel very loved.
Why God would give me this opportunity, I will never know.