I grew up in the Lutheran faith, part of a family that was in church whenever the doors were open. When we went on vacation to Myrtle Beach, the first thing we did when we got to town on Saturday afternoon was to drive by the Lutheran church so that we would be sure not to miss the service on Sunday, then we'd go do the grocery shopping. We were that kind of family.
As an adolescent, I found this diligence frustrating, but as I look back, I understand how much this early experience of the church formed my poetic practices.
Lutherans are very liturgical--when Luther broke away from the Catholics, he didn't go far. I grew up listening to passages from the Bible that would give me a wealth of images later. I watched the sanctuary change as the liturgical seasons changed. I listened to the music change. I internalized the rhythms of great hymns and Psalms. And I also came to realize the value of a commitment to be at church, no matter what your emotional temperature registered.
Just because we had doubts about our faith didn't mean we wouldn't go to church. We could have rollicking debates about the church and its past mistakes, but every Sunday (and some Wednesdays), we had an appointment at church. My writing life is similar today. I will write, even if I don't feel like it. I will write, even if I'm convinced that I'm churning out drivel. I have made a commitment, and I will show up.
And I still go to church, even though I had a period of time in my 20's, when I didn't. I missed it, even when I tried to convince myself that I didn't. I missed the rhythms. I missed the comforting sameness of the liturgy, which seemed strange to me, because I hated that sameness when I was a child and asked, "Why does it always have to be the same each Sunday? Can't we do something different?"
I feel like a religious life makes me more alert and aware and I glimpse connections that other people don't. For example, this week Maundy Thursday and Passover intersected, and yesterday, I saw such interesting images that I hope to weave into a poem. When I went out yesterday morning for my run, the moon had two rings around it--one a pearly white, and the larger one, a light green-purple. The full moon looked like a far away Communion wafer. When I drove home after Maundy Thursday service last night, under a full moon, I noticed that the whole sky was full of feathery cloud formations in the shape of giant wings.
[Some background for the non-observant: Maundy Thursday celebrates the Last Supper which many theologians see as a Passover Seder meal (which becomes the sacrament of the Eucharist), Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, and the commandment (maundatum, the Latin word that means commandment, which gives the day its name, Maundy) to love one another.]
During this Holy Week where one of the huge worship days is the Good Friday service (which commemorates the Crucifixion), I keep thinking of the captain of the freighter ship who offered himself as hostage to Somali pirates so that his crew could go free. I keep thinking of captives of all kinds, especially political prisoners. But juxtaposing a political prisoner with the Crucifixion probably won't yield many fresh images; writers have been doing it for centuries.
No, back to rings around the moon and feathery clouds and Maundy Thursday. Any connections to the Exodus story? Let me ponder . . .
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