• What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who only has eyes, if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he is a poet, or even, if he is a boxer, just his muscles? Far from it: at the same time he is also a political being, constantly aware of the heartbreaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people, and with a cool indifference to detach yourself from the very life which they bring to you so abundantly? No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war. Pablo Picasso

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We’re All Fronds Here

I sometimes feel Unitarian Universalism gives me sort of just the right amount of leftover Christianity for my own aesthetic sense.

I’m not one of those pagans who went through a nasty breakup with Christianity, with all the serious issues and rage that comes with that. I just didn’t fit, even with the church plays and the children’s choir and the learning the steps of how to light the candles and bring out the offering plates to the ushers. I listened to the sermon, swinging my feet, and looking at the stained glass panels in the chapel of the church I attended as a child, or the huge window in the back with its many, many figures, and it was a warm and friendly place, and I was welcome, but I was always a guest, never belonging.

(I often feel that way. Just passing through.)

And there were times I felt what I suspected was the Holy Spirit, come upon me: when I could lean into the music and feel it swelling. But the sense of belonging, the sense of presence, it was gone as soon as it came. Communion gave me bits of bread to squish into lumps before eating, and no sense that maybe I oughtn’t. The stories were full of things that felt like they left me out.

So there was the music, and there was the starry sky, and those things I knew to be holy. Everything else left me rather at a loss.

Time passed, I wandered, I became something other than what I had been, and I still found my holiness in the music and the starry sky. Christianity was a place I had been, and I valued where I’d been, but it wasn’t ever a place I belonged, and I took pieces of it and repurposed them to be something that did belong. (And for a while, I wore a Methodist cross intertwined with a treble clef, along with other things. The cross, the flame, the music.) I studied it, from the outside, peering at the scriptures, the interpretations, the history; I have so many books, a shrine of books, peering at those pieces, making sense of the shape of them. The institutions of the Church are interesting, but there is primordial stuff underneath, and I do like that primordial stuff underneath.

Which is all a longwinded way of noting that today is Palm Sunday. Fronds and all (mine is a bit tatty).

And the parish minister, back from sabbatical, got up and spoke, and after talking about what she did on her spring vacation, tackled the matter of Palm Sunday, of radical welcome, and of disruption of overwhelming power through parody, ridicule, and street theatre.

She counterpointed Pontius Pilate’s grand procession with horses and chariots and grand display with the street preacher parade of a man on a juvenile donkey, his feet dragging in the dirt, approaching from opposite directions.

And I said, “Huh.” Because that’s something I’d never heard in a Christian service, that pointing up the parallels, the inversions, the Jesus as the Lord of Misrule, deliberately counterpointing Pilate with his own groundswell of the dispossessed. I found myself pondering Purim and other inversion festivals as she spoke, and spoke of a place for Mermaids, and sanctuary, and all of those things that are an underlying nature of faith as, itself, a form of protest against unjust power.

And that was church. It feels like the right amount of the thing. UUism has Christian roots like I do, but it has, at least in places, wandered more than a bit afield, and if it is not all about the starry sky, at least my church has the music.

Half the congregation congratulated me on selling a story, I swear. (I mentioned it at the ‘joys and concerns’.)

I took the girls out to lunch, and we discussed Palm Sunday and Passover, and had an ethical conversation about the Plagues of Egypt, and they are full of thoughts.

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