At the end of the homily I wrote and delivered at my friend's wedding three weeks ago, I reviewed the love songs from musicals we'd listened to as teenagers. While you here in texas were singing the chants of your favorite football team, we were singing, "All I Ask of You" from Phantom and "Love Changes Everything" from Aspects of Love. But throughout the brief homily I delivered at Moxi's wedding, I didn't use those songs or other grandiose love songs, rather, I chose "Being Alive" from Stephen Sondheim's musical, Company. It's a song about a man deciding that indeed he wants someone to sit in his chair, to hold him too close, and to ruin his sleep. As far as love songs go, this one may be the most unromantic, but it's my favorite.
I guess that's because I don't often find love in grandiouse acts of benevolence. Rarely does someone rescue me from a mountaintop as I dangle from a broken rope. Rarely am I the love interest of some soldier leaving for war who writes me endearing love letters from across the ocean and weathers gunshells and grenades just to talk to me on the phone. Rarely does a phantom of an opera fall in love with me and i must be rescued by my childhood sweatheart. Rather, I find love in a gentle smile, an unsolicited kind act, a day spent playing cards with friends, or reading side by side with your favorite person on a couch or at the beach. This is how we do life together. The highs, while important to teenagers going to Youth Camp and Winter Retreats are nice, but they will not sustain adults or children. We thrive not on the momentous but often on the insignificant. In my sermon I said reminded the bride and groom that "the holy and the mundane... sometimes they are indistinguishable."
The weekend following the wedding, I taught a Disciple Now weekend for seniors in high school (Wyatt Park Baptists, think "Spark"). Students gathered at a churchmember's house with a leader to have bible study, recreation, do service projects and inevitably, drink Mountain Dew. The theme of our weekend was friendship and to kick off Friday night's discussion, each groups watched Stranger Than Fiction.
You've seen it, I'm sure, and if you haven't you ought to. It's an excellent story about narrative and well, stories, but not necessarily fictional ones. It's about our stories as individuals, communities, heros and nobodies.
And as my former pastor used to say when we studied our God in the Movies series in big church, "I'm about to ruin the story for you," but hopefully you'll forgive me.
At the end of the movie though, the author (who has been narrating Harold Crick's life throughout the film and thus causing Harold great dismay) ends her book with these final thoughts. Accompanying them are visual images of the different friendships formed in the movie and how they have essentially affected one another. The narrator writes,
"As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be ok. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren't any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin (the camera cuts to Harold's girlfriend gently putting her face next to Harold's hand which is cast and in a sling), or a kind and loving gesture (the camera goes to Harold's best friend who has just received from Harold a brochure to attend Adult Space Camp), or subtle encouragement (the camera shows the Narrator's assistant putting a box of Nicorette gum on her dest), or a loving embrace" (we see a child and a father embracing - you get the picture), So the narrator says, "And, fortunately, when there aren't any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true. And, so it was, a wristwatch saved Harold Crick.
I've got to tell you, the more I learn about life and happiness, it's those things, "the nuances, the anomalies," the subtleties, the mundane moments, the seemingly insignificant occurences that I am thankful for.
Obviously I work at a church, so I spend a lot of time giving. It's my job. And so sometimes I forget that I'm at church. I call doing church, "work" and being with church people, "my job,". Sometimes I forget that church is church too, and not just your church, but mine too. And so when my last boyfriend broke up with me, my heart melted when four people from church showed up at my door the next morning (a work day, mind you) with donuts (yes, I ate three), flowers, condolences and love.
And while they've probably all forgotten that insignificant day, I treasure it. I give thanks for it.
I treasure the squeal of joy when one of my college students realizes I've sent a care package and runs down to the dorm's mailbox to get it. I give thanks that I have a job where I can love on others. I sigh contentedly when one of my cats, even the man-eating-devil-cat curls up in my lap on the couch and purrs contentedly himself. I give thanks for my Austin family, even if they are mostly felines. And while I may sigh jealously and pout loudly on the phone as my family relays stories of eating at my favorite restaurant in St. Jo and watching the snow fall, secretly, inside I smile. Because I'm giving thanks that I have a family that I miss and wish I could see more often. I love scrapbooking and reliving my mini-memories all over again. I love planting cactii and pretending I could have contributed to the Garden of so long long ago. I love reading Faulkner in all his dysfunction. I love eating outside at Opal Divine's. I love watching the various dogs walk by at Joe's Coffeeshop. I love bubble lights and bubble baths. I love playing rummi with my good friend Chris and watching Westerns with my new friend Jeremy and listening to my best friend Michelle say the potential boy and girl names of the little baby growing in her womb.
And all these moments, while they may not be monumental, may nevertheless be holy moments where authentic community happens, faith exploration happens, unity of body, soul, mind and earth happens, peace happens, happiness happens... and I give thanks.
I give thanks.
Thanks be to God.