Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Lights in the darkness

Jesus Christ, you are the light of the world...
...the light no darkness can overcome;
Stay with us now, for it is evening...

...and the day is almost over;
Let your light scatter the darkness...

...and shine within your people here.
(The opening of "Evening Prayer," from Marty Haugen's
Holden Evening Prayer
It's been a frustrating 24 hours - but it's also been a great evening.

Having ranted about my former school last night, I was all set to continue blasting the ELCA for a couple articles in The Lutheran magazine about Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life - articles which I really feel just prove how out of step this denomination is with Christ's call to the church. So by the time I was done reading their nonsense, trust me - I was smokin'. (Trust me - that article is still on its way...)

Added to that, continuing work on electrical power systems where I work during the day today meant that there was no power to one wing of the building - which also meant no access to our shared server files (where, of course, all my critical data is stored) or the internet for the entire day. By 4 PM, I'd done all the useless make-work I could ...and besides it was starting to get cold, so I went home an hour early. It wasn't a bad day - after all, no one was drunk, high, shot at, or naked in public, and no obscenities were used in any memos - but it was frustrating.

However, the day's blessings were two-fold - both taking the form of warm floods of memories. First, in shopping over the weekend, I found a blast from the past in a bottle of Yoo-hoo chocolate drink. Now, you may never have even heard of this stuff - it's got a kind of cult following. But Yoo-hoo was a big deal in my mother's family - she always loved chocolate drinks (even the ghastly diet chocolate soda, which I'd rather suck drain-cleaner than drink). I don't think I'd had a taste of Yoo-hoo in 25 years - if then - but I resolved that I was going to buy just one Snapple-sized bottle for old-times' sake.

So instead of Oreos or Thin Mints after my salad topped with cocoa-chipotle-mole' chicken (a leftover from our Chocolate Fest), I settled down with some relaxing Windham Hill music, a copy of the New York Times (the physical paper, not their e-nonsense), and my bottle of Yoo-hoo. I almost drowsed off, so high was the serenity quotient (or maybe it was just my blood-sugar levels hitting exponential notation...). It's not something I'll do every day - but just for a bit, Mom (and an easier, softer time) felt a lot closer this evening.

Then, about 9:20, I walked down to the seminary to meet with another old friend. Back in 1992 or '93, my dear friend Don Pieper introduced my congregation to Marty Haugen's Holden Evening Prayer, and I just fell in love with it (as hundreds of thousands of people around the world have done). Haugen composed the work as part of his musical residency at Holden Village, and it originally was simply titled "Vespers '86." But thousands of visitors to Holden carried the music home in their hearts, and the evening prayer service became a staple of worship, particularly in the ELCA Lutheran community.

When my first "home congregation" in Kansas was on its way to schism, the one thing that all sides found in common was the beauty and simplicity of the Holden service. One of my most beautiful memories is that of our "Diaspora" group, gathered around the pool at Bev & Jerry Amundson's home in Shawnee, KS, sharing the Holden service as floating candles drifted around the pool in the deepening dusk, driven by the circulating currents under the surface. The group of 40 or 50 communed each other in a great circle around the pool, passing bread and grape juice from person to person in an outdoor Eucharist that was truly an expression both of the Body of Christ and "the priesthood of all believers." And I was honored when, two years later, we repeated that service as I headed off to seminary...

The LSTC community has chosen the Holden Evening Prayer as a weekly vespers service during we gathered this evening around flickering votive candles on the floor of Augustana Chapel to sing, and to pray. I saw a few faces of students I hadn't seen all semester - and a number of old friends...and it was very, very good. I have no problem admitting that there were a number of times that tears trickled unbidden during the service - and I didn't mind a bit. Tonight, I was surrounded by people who knew me, here...even a few crazy enough to hug me. But somehow, all the deep, close friends with whom I've shared the Holden Service over the years felt just a little closer in the words of the songs, and the glow of the candles. And the presence of friends, both present and across the globe, brightened the evening immeasurably.
...Now as evening falls around us,
We will raise our song to you -
God of daybreak, God of shadows,
Come and light our hearts anew.

1 comment:

New Life said...

Oh man, I remeber driving to the coast of South Carolina as a kid for family vacations and stopping for gas in a small town where we'd always get an ice cold Yoo-hoo.