It's spring. The air is soft. The trees are in bloom. And God's creation is filled with the chirping of sleepy Vespas and the roaring of Harley Davidsons waking up from their winter hibernation.
This seasonal ritual is honored every year in one of the most unexpected of places: a Baptist Church in midtown Manhattan. Crazy? Not really. There is a long history of bikers in the bible. Who could forget Elijah: "a hairy man, with a girdle of leather." (2 Kings 1:8)
Each year in late May the police block off the street in front of Madison Avenue Baptist Church and the bikes line up. After a worship service framed around "all things biker" (including a choral rendition of "Ride on King Jesus"), we retire outside to do a blessing of the bikes.
I never prepare a formal blessing, but prefer to base my prayer on each rider's request. Some people want me to pray for safe riding, others want good weather and smooth roads, still others have more personal needs. One gentleman shared that he was in remission for an aggressive form of cancer and that he hoped his riding would not only bring health to his body, but a sense of joy and passion to his family as they watched him try and regain his life.
The blessing is not only for the riders, but for all of us. It reminds us that the sacred can be found in the most unexpected of places: at work plowing through piles of reports and messages, at home trying to establish some -- any communication with our teenager, in the line at the unemployment office, at the doctor's office waiting on test results, or on a 2005 black cherry Harley Davidson Road King with bored out cylinders and custom pipes. It's all holy.
Whether you are a biker or spiritual seeker or both, join us this Sunday (if not in body, then in spirit) to bless the bikes and sanctify our daily journey. And may you always keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.
The blessing of the motorcycles will be held at Madison Avenue Baptist Church at 11am, Sunday, May 22nd. The sanctuary is located on Madison Avenue between 30th and 31st Streets in New York City. Bike parking will be available on the East side of the street in front of the church. www.mabcnyc.org