Even Stephen … May 7, 2012

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Possibly one of the most arduous treks across this great country would be the stretch of miles along I-20 between Dallas, Texas and El Paso. Historically I have chosen to make this journey at night to avoid the heat and glare of the day. One time as I sojourned on this particular piece of real estate, I saw lights in the distance. I was approaching the small city of Odessa, and as the brightness grew in size, I assumed it WAS Odessa. But as I came closer, I saw that it was an edifice, the size of a city itself–actually invoking a sense of awe, which grew in intensity as I came closer. For me, it merged the sensations of Christmas, Las Vegas and the Beverly Hillbillies–for it was an oil rig. The largest one I had ever seen. 

Black gold.

Texas tea. 

Suddenly my nostrils were assailed by the burn of that unique, pungent odor — and it smelled GOOD. Now, there may be folks who would disagree with me, but I like the smell of fresh oil being pumped from the earth–the very energy of both power and also of prosperity. It was a visceral moment on a very long, dark journey.

I had a similar sensation yesterday doing two performances at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church of the Valley in Palmdale, California. As I shared, I literally witnessed minds opening–like lubricating the gears on a bicycle with oil. For truly the main problem I have with traditional religion is that the inevitable result of repetition is the literal numbing of  people’s minds.Once-meaningful liturgy, through repetition, becomes mindless drone.

I would like to encourage churches everywhere to make two simple changes in the format of the church service: to replace one liturgical recitation with a moment of personal testimony from a parishoner, and during the passing of the peace, instead of offering one another a “peace be with you,” instead offer the exhortation: “Be of good cheer!”

Because just as repetition produces rusty mental gears, the sharing of personal experiences generates the oil of gladness. After all, Jesus said that in the world we WILL have tribulation. Our only job is to “be of good cheer.” That’s it. We don’t have to solve every problem today–and his job was to overcome the world. We don’t have to do that, either. We only have to understand that our place in the great scheme of things is to avoid repetition, share personal experiences and receive the good cheer that results.

Yesterday, as I witnessed lubricated gears beginning to move and saw the resulting good cheer, I saw that there is another, final culmination in the process–the oil of healing. Yes, mental freshness produces good cheer, which fosters the environment for healing–be it depression or terminal cancer.

Similar to the awe I sensed as I drove past the Odessa oil rig, with its power and energy, I felt the same wonder yesterday at St. Stephen’s Lutheran, viewing–and feeling myself–the energy of the oil of lubrication, the radiation of the good cheer and the power of healing oil passed among my brothers and sisters and back to me.

We try to make it hard. We talk about “contemporary” and “traditional.” But it is really just giving good people a chance to lubricate their rusty gears and then feel the oil of gladness and healing. After all, like the Tin Man, we all need a good oiling now and then.

Why not take the steps to make it happen?

  

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