Friday, February 27, 2009

Wednesday of Ashes

Ash Wednesday has come and gone, and this year, despite good attendance and wonderful fellowship it seemed at times the service would go to ashes…!

It began even as I entered the narthex amidst more chatter than usual in the sanctuary. Then came the news that one of the choir members had fallen ill! The lector for the day would have to take him home and would not be back on time for the reading! How unfortunate, thought I, scrambling to replace the lector seconds before the service !

As the processional hymn started all seemed well until the solemn Kyrie, great at rehearsal, was disrupted by what seemed to be a malfunction with the keyboard; it would not play and then would not stay in key so that the musician had to stop and start the song again…! That was awkward…and no fun for the cantor, but things happen…was my thought! Just then the brass processional cross came tumbling down on the communion rail, as the altar boy and deacon rushed to replace it! The cell phone rings coinciding with the crash gave the whole scene a B comedy movie feel …give me a break!!!!! Poltergeist? Coincidence? A comedy of errors ?

I fought the temptation of throwing in the towel on the service and quietly exiting via the sacristy into my getaway vehicle…but realized the escape route was blocked by a cadre of giggling altar boys! Distracted, and a bit frustrated, I decided to pray, aware that it can be a little awkward to do certain kinds of prayers in a formal Episcopal service. Fortunately, by that time, there probably was little left to lose as far as the aesthetics of the service and besides…the devil was going to be mentioned in the gospel anyway! Our common extemporaneous prayer did get the service back on track somewhat. It flowed well through the imposition of ashes, litany, communion to the final prayers, though not without distraction.

As the day has evolved, all the happenings on the Wednesday of ashes service seem to have a lesson about life and Lent we would be wise to heed. Spirituality can not always be tastefully choreographed into neat disturbance free slots nor a flawless dance of liturgy, readings and song….things happen!

Lent presents us with the challenge of prayer, study, works of mercy , closeness to Christ, all while balancing family, chaotic schedules, bills, work, home situations, crying children, sick loved ones, none of which lends itself to a picture perfect, flowing day of spirituality! Israel’s trek for 40 years to the promised land was certainly not a tasteful affair and Jesus own 40 days in the wilderness were marked by hunger, thirst and a non heavenly spiritual visitation!

Can I still find God, love and serve him without the mood music, bells and smells, solemnity, and the other trappings we associate with things spiritual in our tradition? Is my faith mature enough to see God past inconvenience, distraction and humanity? Is it God or those things I associate with worship which are a comfort to my soul?

These are all good questions for Lent prompted by our Wednesday of Ashes!



1 comment:

Merry ME said...

I was at the service and the first thing I noticed was not the solemnity of the season but the busyness and sound of the children. For about 10 seconds, I wondered which I like more - this "noise" or the brass and tympany warming up at the Cathedral. People were not quietly preparing themselves for the service, instead they seemed happy to greet each other in the name of Christ and friendship. Again, not the way of the "high" church but full of "spirit" none the less.

When the cross fell, I imagined the devil running out the back door (the same one Seraph was considering to make his escape!). Was it the presence of the spirit or cacophany of laughter, off key song, and babies crying that sent him packing?

I wonder what it must have sounded like in that first church on the day of Pentecost. Did babies cry, altar boys stir in their seats and the choir sing flub the tune? That service might not have run smoothly but it's clear the presence of the Lord was in that place.

When Wednesday's service ended, I felt blessed. Thanks be to God.