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Monday, January 11, 2016

Odd Ministerial Request #327: A Blessing for a Snowboard

This was passed on to me through our fellowship in Brisbane this past week:

"My name is _____________ & I am wondering if it is ok/allowed to have my snowboard blessed?
I am a good humble man who was born & raised a Mormon but now as yourself's (sic) have a 
more liberal look on life.
If this is rude of me to ask I apologize. I ask because it would mean a lot to me to have snowboard
blessed before my journey to Japan.
I hope to hear back from you guys"
The sincere tone and sense of child-like trust prompted a typically binary response in your humble scribe.

On the one hand, I was strongly inclined to disabuse him of the notion that some words written by someone he'd never met would have the least effect on the performance, efficacy, or indeed safety of something he's proposing to hurtle down an ice-glazed mountain upon. I was going to say that he if he wanted to be blessed in this endeavour, he'd do better to bless himself by taking lessons, wearing safety gear, or maybe not undertaking what amounts to 'extreme sliding' at all. Snowboarding is a dangerous sport.
Further, I thought it my duty to develop his 'liberal look on life' by suggesting that he liberate himself from magical thinking (surely a persistent hangover from his lapsed Mormonism). That blessings are mere well-wishing, and you don't need clergy to do that. I have no magic powers to spread over the board like wax.
And yet...
On the other hand, liberal ministry (and contextual theology more generally) has to begin where people actually are, rather than where one would wish them to be. Anybody in a place of spiritual transition is a delicate alpine flower that wants slow and careful opening to allow them to adjust to environmental conditions that can be as harsh as a winter blast to a new awareness. Besides, if blessing his snowboard gives him relaxed confidence in its powers, he may ride better.  
Thirty years ago, I was trying to learn to ski in Saas Fee, Switzerland (on a glacier no less). I resisted the extreme sliding with every fibre of  my being. I trusted nothing--not the snow, or the ice, or the skis, or the poles, or myself, or the instructor. And for that lack of letting go... I fell. I fell often and so hard that my instructor told me he'd never seen a person hit the ground so hard and get up again. 
Finally, I twisted my knee hurtling through an appalled crowd and into a snow bank, and gave up to drink Gluwine in the chalet. 
If my correspondent trusts in the efficacy of blessings, maybe I might be good enough to overcome my own peevish lack of trust that "there are more things in heaven and earth..."
So I sent him this:
"May this board that carries me, carry me for joy: joy as pure as the snow it glides upon.

Let forces of gravity, friction, and torque work in harmony with the sparkling miracle of my inner ear's balancing act,
Like a spirit level on the moving ship of my soul's deep delight.
 May it ever keep me mindful that the joy of living gleams just at the sharp edge of risk.
And at the end of each day's use, may I be thankful for its part in my safe return to the level plane of home."
There's no God in it for my snowboarding friend. None at all. Or is there? When we put aside our Pharisaic insistence that our way of seeing the world is right, and just try to use what gifts we have to help someone take the next step in something like comfort and perhaps joy, maybe that's all the God we get to know.
Someone said 'God comes into the world disguised as your life.' The me that tried and failed to ski thirty years ago could not let go, and so he crashed and crashed and quit.
This me can let go, a bit. And I know which feels better, and makes the downhill plunge that is called 'life' a bit more fun. Fun and...what's the word?...Blessed.

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