Urbana 12 began with a man on a scooter, one foot on the deck, the other toeing the pavement as he glided out of the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis and through the streets of Toronto. It’s amazing the wonders one can work with technology and a well-told parable that winds its way through the lives of 16,000 people gathered together in one place for five days.
“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.”
At Urbana, the man on the scooter, the servant, kept showing up at every session. We saw him knocking on doors, learning Korean, interrupting people in offices and cafes, chatting with them on park benches. We were with him in spirit as he offered invitation after invitation, cringing with the rejections, applauding the acceptances.
He kept reporting his progress back to the master via Skype. How many people he was inviting, who was coming, who was not.
I’ve started to think of that scooter as a sort of sacramental vessel. The servant as its holy roller. Sacraments are things of mysterious and sacred significance, acts of spiritual grace. They are not static, but move in and around and though us. It’s hard not to be changed when we come into the presence of sacrament.
There have been many sacramental moments during Urbana 12.
The Join In, when people moved throughout the Dome filling bags and boxes with items of compassion bound for Africa, was sacrament. The lighting of glow sticks, when hundreds of people affirmed and reaffirmed their commitment to Christ, was sacrament.
Our offering of more than $800,000, gifts of cash placed in buckets and transferred through technology, are practical sacraments to be used by the people of God all over the world.
We wrote sacramental commitments on pieces of paper. Pens, scratching out promises to go deep into a life of mission and sacrifice, to be people of invitation and hospitality and love. We shared communion, the bread and wine passed hand over hand among thousands in the vast Dome, a massive movement that worked itself out quietly, mysteriously, gracefully.
A sacramental scooter. A parable of a banquet. A great invitation.