A relative handful of folks gathered in our sanctuary this evening at 7:00 for one of the Lenten-Easter season’s “special mid-week services.”
Three of the small churches in town have collaborated on these special services for at least the past 20 years or so, and take turns hosting one of the days – Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, or Good Friday – each year. This year, we had Wednesday.
The choir was bigger than usual, because choir members from all three of the choirs sang together on the anthem, which we’d been practicing in special sessions for a couple of weeks.
What do we expect to happen at one of these worship services, or any worship service? Something extraordinary? Maybe. And probably everyone who has been to church enough has experienced something extraordinary, at least once or twice.
But often, as tonight, we may not notice anything out of the ordinary at all, in spite of the “special mid-week-ness” of the event.
The choir members have the usual inexplicable confusion about how to line up exactly the same way we always do to process in so that we are in the right spots in the choir loft. We sing a hymn we know; someone reads a passage of Scripture from Matthew that we have heard before and think we understand; there are words. We get ashes, and the logistics of getting out of the choir loft and around the sanctuary and back into the choir loft from the right direction and in the right order don’t leave a lot of mental space for noticing the deeper spiritual significance of the Ritual or the Ashes or the Beginning of Lent.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ,
to observe a holy Lent
by self-examination and penitence,
by prayer and fasting,
by works of love,
and by meditating on God’s word …
(Book of Common Worship, 250)
The most dramatic thing about this evening at church is the car accident in the parking lot, but thankfully, no one is hurt, although people are shaken up; people are drawn away to assess the situation and to wait for the tow truck; there is a great deal of checking with people to make sure everyone has rides home and transportation to wherever they need to be tomorrow; there are hugs and reassurances that everything will be OK …
And somehow in the midst of the ordinary human problems of singing still-unfamiliar music and dealing with the kind of crisis that could happen to anyone anywhere any time and being out of synch with our normal weekly routine, those words must have registered. Enough to surface again later, as an echo, or a reminder:
Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?
(from Jan Richardson, “Blessing the Dust: A Blessing for Ash Wednesday”