“So, is there a monastery in Boise?”
Oh yeah, I so could have played this today.
I was asked by an old friend to come out to a church in Nampa this morning and recite a book of the Bible as part of their kick-off of 40 days through the Bible. Never being one to turn down such a fun gig, I readily agreed. I chose to recite the book of James. He asked for me to be in costume, just for kicks. I rented a monk robe. The other biblical costumes I have are very thin linen and you can’t get away wearing full jeans underneath – so in this cold, the wool of the monk robe is a no brainer.
Opening up the bookstore dressed as a monk was a wonderful start to the day. I answered repeated inquiries about the robe with the answer that “I have had a religious experience this week” – an answer usually met with laughter. Perhaps just a tad on the nervous side.
I have to confess, I like the robe.
Arriving at the church in Nampa, I stood at the back of the improvised sanctuary at a local Christian school with about 200 people engaged in worship with a band on the stage. During the greeting time is when a man walked up to me, welcomed me, asked me where I was from, and upon hearing “Boise” asked the whereabouts of the monastery in Boise – quite seriously. Oh I wish I had been ready with an answer – I could have made up a whole story about my order.
Next time, maybe.
Then I got up and recited the book of James in about fifteen minutes. My pay was a styrofoam cup of ice water and half of a maple-glazed donut. That was perfect. I waited on the donut until I was done. Standing on the stage it struck me: Here is an evangelical (of sorts) boy wearing Catholic garb reciting a book by a very Jewish author (I worked in splashes of Hebrew) in a Charismatic church. That realization delighted me to no end. For a few moments I’d like to think I served as a walking parable of the way Jesus can bring all things – and people – together.
What didn’t delight me was that, this being a charismatic church, someone was on the keyboard through the entire service providing that gentle, mood-setting background music. As I started into James, I wondered if he was going to continue on. He did. “Let the rich bewail their humiliation!” Soft piano background. “Adultresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God!?” Soothing piano melody continues. “Come now you rich, weep, howling for the miseries coming upon you!!” And the piano gently plays on.
Half-tempted to turn to the keyboard man and say, “Really? Mood music for this??” But I just ignored the music. There’s a rich metaphor buried right there, I think; something about how religion so often softens the rough edges of words that are meant to make us bleed.
Then James was done.
I grabbed my styrofoam cup and my half-a-donut and walked on out, making one more stop on the way home at one of our local hospitals. I don’t know if it’s a crime to impersonate a monk, but, my, I was getting all kinds of smiles and tipped hats as I walked those hallways.
I could get used to that. I just might have to buy me one of these.
Thought about dropping in on some diehard Calvinists I know and sporting a thick Irish accent, but thought better of it.
Arriving back on my home turf, still wearing the robe, someone remarked that every time they turned around, someone was buried in my arms as I prayed for them. Don’t know what it is about the robe, but it made me think of another possible bumper-sticker:
“Have you hugged a monk today?”