Bumper stickers: I love them, and am always buying them though seldom affixing them to the actual bumper of a car. Rather, a succession of ironic, witty, or just plain weird stickers have adorned cork boards in various offices and cubicles, excepting of course the years of obligatory Honor Student stickers, followed by, “My Daughter and my Money go to UT”.
Of the current two on my car, one bumper sticker has become a sort of guardian angel, an irony itself since it was mounted with more self-regard than makes me comfortable now. While we were living in Ft. Worth and attending the wonderful St. Christopher’s Episcopal, the decision was taken to follow the ECUSA and incorporate a rite for same-sex marriage because “It is the right thing to do,” according to Fr. Bill. It made me so happy and proud of us. I thought of the very real pain people I loved had felt because of the Church, and stuck that sticker on my car confident when anyone walks into St. Christopher’s, they are welcome. And they are!
This is what I saw when Paul parked Sunday morning at our new parish:
And throughout the service, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Someone in the sanctuary not only wanted to make me and people like me cry, but has a conscious knowledge of pain already experienced, and wishes more upon us. For the Christian bearing that bumper sticker, a benefit of one potential outcome of the next election is that it will make others unhappy enough to cry.
Did he/she/they kneel beside me at the altar, where we received the Holy Sacrament of Eucharist? Play the guitar during the hymns? Hand me a Service Bulletin? Pass me the Peace? Someone in the sanctuary who has heard the readings during Holy Week, when Jesus instructs his disciples on his last night on earth, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another,” John 13:34-35 demonstrably wishes me and people like me, deep unhappiness.
And my brain is straining to square these two: the presence of someone who feels the words of that sticker strongly enough to mount it prominently high on a Cadillac Escalade and move it through the world to be seen, and who also believes in Jesus enough to kneel at the same altar and receive the same sacrament in devotion to the same, peace-bringing Lord as I. Are the sticker’s sentiments left conveniently in the parking lot, so the driver may come to the altar and receive? Because in receiving, we are one people and yet, that sticker assures me that part of Us wants to make Me cry. Again.
Following the way of Jesus is always enlightening, but not always easy for me, because it’s a constant struggle to not be a jerk. In it’s simplest form, following Jesus means not being a jerk to our fellow man, which runs contrary to my nature often enough, but most especially when I’m driving.
This is why the Episcopal sticker on my car serves a dual purpose and it’s also the millionth reason I understand that God has a rich sense of humor: the unintended consequence of my bumper sticker is it makes me behave myself behind the wheel. Every time I am about to award a richly-deserved raised middle finger toward some idiot on the road, I remember the sticker. It identifies me as a member of something larger and more important than myself, of the Jesus Movement as a whole and lately, Christianity has enough bad press without my help. The sticker stifles the profanity-laced tirades which would be otherwise unleashed at the maniacs on Dallas North Tollway, and it keeps my hands on the wheel instead of gesturing in any of the Universal, “She doesn’t wish you well” gestures I might offer other drivers. Perhaps it’s foolish ego to imagine I could, but I don’t want to make the Church look bad. (Yes, I’m separating the Church from Jesus, because nobody can make Jesus look bad, but the Church has at times looked very bad, yet it remains for most the portal to Jesus, and I guess I feel a responsibility to keep the threshold swept and clean.)
I can compartmentalize, oh yes I can! and occasionally I envision the soul or psyche a bit like the Registrar’s Office on a large High School campus: thousands of alphabetized files on moving racks, files full of our Stuff. Recipes, bike riding, emotional scars, everything tucked into a file and sorted, in it’s proper place, and it makes me wonder about those files, how fat each are and where are they organized, the files of Wanting to Make Liberals Cry Again and Practicing Christian Faith, within the soul of someone sporting that particular bumper sticker? How much distance must one put between those files, so they may co-exist at all?
I didn’t see who got into the Escalade when we left and like Paul said, “It’s better that way”. What do I do if or when I figure out exactly who it is wants to make me cry, again? Jesus would befriend, show such love that the Sticker Bearer might re-think his or her stance on the bringing of tears in the next election. Here is hoping (and praying) I have several weeks of preparation, that I might be less Jerk, more Jesus.