Someone planted a fart machine in my office. Who does that to their pastor? It can be controlled by a remote control, but it is also slightly possessed and goes off randomly. I need to find where it is hidden, but that would also involve cleaning my office, and I don’t feel like it.
And it makes me laugh.
I’m going to admit it. I loved the sixth grade and I’m not sure I ever moved on. I love fart jokes and you might be judging me right now, but Martin Luther was kind of obsessed with “breaking wind” also.
One of my favorite quotes from Luther is, “I resist the devil, and often it is with a fart that I chase him away.”
Lutherans don’t worship Martin Luther, and we acknowledge that he was a crass man with some great faults, but he understood the power of music and humor to chase away sin and despair. Martin Luther often used bawdy humor to ridicule death and the devil.
(Please don’t get distracted by “devil” language. I think most of us can acknowledge the presence of evil and despair in our world; how you deal with that ontologically is between you and your faith leader.)
We had to turn our heat on this past week and it feels like the passing of a season is near. The seasons of summer, tourism, snowbirds and college kids bring a certain amount of grief as they pass into the next phase. As we slowly climb out of the pandemic, it too feels like the passing of season where we can finally grieve all that has been lost and missed.
As a pastor, let me point out the obvious, there is a lot of grieving going on right now. It sometimes borders on despair, hopelessness, and meaninglessness. I taught a kid at summer lunch the word “nihilism” so he had language to talk about the nothingness that seemed to surround him as he thought about his past and looked to his future. He answered every question I asked with “nothing” so it seemed like a ripe opportunity to expand his vocabulary. Sometimes you need language so you know you are not the first one to experience whatever it is.
Stop judging me. We talked about other stuff too, but I know I can’t talk anyone into being in a different place than they are, I can only love them where they are.
But, that kiddo is not alone, and the nothingness frightens me far more than the grief. The clinging to nothingness as well as the anger bubbling up in so many places makes me feel like we’ve forgotten to keep farting in the devil’s face and have instead climbed into cozy companionship and lashed out at each other.
Our grief is real and despair or anger are often ways of trying to escape the pain with a little dose of control. I’m going to offer a third option; I have a fart machine I’ll sell you.
Humor or music are tools where the holy spirit can give some healing in the midst of pain and possibly even a little peace. If you don’t want the magical machine, then try singing more or listening to music instead of the news. Pay attention to what hurts your heart and wail away. Reach out for help on this really hard journey. The Suicide Prevention care-line is 1-877-266-4357 or get involved in a faith community or civic club. We need communities of people who love us and are willing to hide flatulence makers in our messy offices.
•Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor for Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.