Occasionally I have more fun than is humanly reasonable in a worship service. Yesterday was one of those. Yes, it was our Mardi Gras service and the music was fun and the kids were great, but what threw me over the top was a woman that I’ll call Laverne (sharing publically in worship is one thing, and sharing publically on the internet is another, so I’ll go with a pseudonym for today). During our time of Joys and Concerns, Laverne shared her joy of music and how much it had lifted her spirits this last week when she’d blasted the sound track to Mama Mia on her stereo and danced around her living room in her underwear. For one brief moment I felt like the talk show host whose guest has just said something so extraordinary that they have no clue how to respond.
Thankfully, I recovered my poise and my wits enough to continue to draw on Laverne’s experience as an example of the spiritual path that is often denied, or at best eyed dubiously. You see, for centuries the Christian Church has denigrated anything “of the flesh.” “If it feels good it must be a sin,” has almost been a church mantra. Instead, the church has split off the body from the soul and decreed things of the spirit to be the true (or at least higher) path to the Divine.
Interestingly enough, I don’t believe Jesus saw it that way. In part of the scripture we discussed yesterday, Matthew 11:18-19, Jesus says, “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He is possessed.’ The Chosen One comes, eating and drinking, and they say, ‘This one is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'” John the Baptist walked the ascetic (self-sacrificing, self-denigrating) spiritual path and Jesus lived more holistically – integrating body, mind and spirit. Jesus just appears to be frustrated that people can’t seem to get on board with either path.
I know we’re embarking on Lent this Wednesday, which automatically sends people into a more austere spiritual mode. Everyone starts asking, “What are you giving up for Lent?” If that’s what really brings you closer to God, then go for it. I myself haven’t had that experience. Perhaps Lent should just be about intentional spirituality. Chose a path, don’t sit on the sidelines. Don’t just sit and pick apart everything you see, jump in and live into what is right for you. Take the more simplistic, ascetic route and give up coffee, or wine or meat on Fridays. Join a Lenten study, or a yoga class, meditate or read daily devotionals, or commit to going to worship all season. For me, I’ll probably invest in the Mama Mia soundtrack and start dancing. Thanks Laverne!
Blessings on your journey,