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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, November 02, 2003
    Fireworks and holy fools
    "The Fool, the artist, and the priest, are the victims of the radiance of life," wrote Cecil Collins. This weekend I've reflected on holy foolishness while staring at the night sky beneath a radiant firework display; I've tried cultivating holy foolishness among our holidaying parishioners in a programme of laughter and openness; and I've laughed my way to Shropshire and cried my way back, spooling over-and-over in the car cassette Mike Yaconelli and Stewart Henderson's Greenbelt 91 talk on Jesus the Holy Fool.

    How odd my previous two blogs fit so well together, the almost random choice of Collins and his vision of the fool with the tragically random, sudden loss of Mike, whose vision shone with the foolery of Christ, God's conjuror, one-liner supremo, master of comic juxtapositions. The fool, the artist, the priest: funny, each of these describe Mike Yaconelli.

    Juxtapositions, of course, is a word Christ and Yaconelli would never use - instead they'd tell an upside-down story to set off fireworks in their listeners' hearts and heads and have them howling in delight as their vision of life changed forever.

    I spoke of Mike in our closing meeting today, a holy time as folk shared more deeply in a group than they ever had in my experience of our church's life. And, apppropriately, I got it wrong. I said he was self-depreciating. Only later when someone asked me what I meant, did I realise I should have said self-deprecating. Not someone who wore himself down: no, stupid - Mike was never a wearer-down, always a builder-up. I meant someone whose vision included the lovingly-honed gift of being able to laugh at one's own quirks and failings. While keeping to the fore a wonderful sense of self-worth through knowing oneself loved by God.

    All this makes me remember the truth Yaconelli always held as self-evident: that laughter is heaven's language. Religion without fun is religion without God. There is scant comfort in losing Yaconelli save an awareness of the breadth and depth of the community mourning him, to which I gladly belong. But this weekend as our seventy shared fun and laughter, tears, tiredness and imperfections together, and in our songs and prayers put God at the centre, I felt Mike wasn't far from any of this activity. As his star shone above, I felt that in our humble little way we were keeping his holy foolish fire burning, gathered around a bonfire beneath the colourful flashes of an All Saints Day display.