Tomorrow is Pentecost, so my mind is filled with rushing wind and dancing flame and thoughts about the flow of energy — God’s and ours. But the wind stirred an old memory, an old conversation that I need to discharge here, lest it get in the way of the sermon.
(and there is a trick about preparing sermons — you must first get rid of all the preachable thoughts you don’t intend to use…)
The conversation took place years ago, in my first year at university. I have no idea what led to it or what it was about, but it began something like this:
‘What about passion then? Do you think it can be good? Or is it always dangerous?’
There were three of us in the room, with certain predictable roles.
The questioner was expert and guide, agent provocateur.
I was Miss Manners — the one with a rather prissy sense of New England propriety and decorum. The sort that spends hours embroidering large red A’s for the Hester Prynne’s of the world.
And the third often tried to make Hester Prynne look like a shrinking violet.
Given the casting, I knew what we were each supposed to say. But I was equally sure I had no idea what I thought. Passion just wasn’t part of Miss Manners’ curriculum. Not a category of thought ready to be discussed.
So seventeen years later, I find the answer pressing its way into a sermon.
Passion is often good. And always dangerous.
Though it is even more dangerous in its absence.
Let us hope it blows in on the wind.
Addendum: if any of you don’t know Hester Prynne,
stop now, turn off your computer, and go read The Scarlet Letter. Right now. Today. Indeed, let’s make it required reading for all Anglicans by Lambeth 2008. That should help sort out the debate.