I spent a lovely day yesterday with my good friend, Erika. (And, happily, a good bit of it with Joel, too; besides being exquisitely fun to hang out with, he taught me useful skills like how to play lego video games and wii bowling...)
Er and I build our friendship over shared ice cream cones (with occasional enchilada parties thrown in, but, really, that came later). She walked with me through my own sense of call to ministry and through a variety of other college adventures; I like to think that I was a decent companion to her, too, as she journeyed through seminary and ministry internships and associated challenges. And, almost always, there was ice cream. I anchor our friendship into JP Licks, on Newbury Street in Boston, sitting in the teacup.
Now, in Southern California for the last 10 years, the ice cream more often comes with a walk on the beach or a pier. (Not that the ice cream sharing is as frequent as I'd like, but you work with what you can get...) I count it as sacrament.
Martin Luther, I'm told, did theology with a beer in hand. I'll do it with a cone.
I have no illusions of unraveling the mysteries of why it is so wonderful. I only testify to my experience: that, when contemplated with the cool, smooth, usually-chocolate, creamy sweetness of ice cream, theological challenges always seem more approachable.
Yesterday, contemplating how it might ever be possible to cultivate leadership in a system as diverse and wacky as our church, contemplating how we're called to teach people the openness of our theological tradition and how that can work when we're set in the midst of a culture that makes a whole lot of unhelpful assumptions about what "right" Christian theology is, I felt hope. Talking about our own lives and hopes for the future, I felt assurance.
I also suspect that friendships make ice cream better, and ice cream deepens friendships.
I think I need to take my problems for a walk in the sun, ice cream in hand and good companion at my side, more often.
I also felt new enthusiasm for this work of opening an ice cream shop in my neighborhood. Perhaps its sacred possibilities will be accessible to many who gather there.
May it be so.