The church still smells of last night’s feast-- of bacon grease and pancake mix. It hasn’t yet been replaced by the holy smell of an old church. The tacky green and yellow and purple jester’s hat that I wore still sits on my desk, ready to be retired for another year, but it’s not done with me yet. “Remember”, it says to me. The sounds of the party have not yet left the building, still echoing the noise of laughter and fellowship and community. Usually the church is silent throughout the week, save for the occasional creak or grown of a building that’s seen so many years. The colors have not yet been changed in the sanctuary-- if you were to walk in, you might convince yourself that we were still shining in the light of Epiphany, instead of starting to trudge toward the cross of death. The ashes have not yet been made ready, maybe because I’m not ready.
What a jarring thought to realize that on this holy and somber day, the church still bears witness to the party we had last night. It’s like the church is holding on, not yet ready to let go. “Don’t you know it’s over?” I started to ask the church, but of course it doesn’t know. I wanted the church to feel somber and reflective, so that maybe I would too. But the church still seems to want to celebrate, and maybe I do too.
Quickly, though, the preparations will be made, the smells and sounds will fade, and the church will shift from a season of light to a season of dark. The party can’t last forever.
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” are the words I will weep to say over loved ones tonight, but I’d really much rather say “Remember that there was life and fellowship and joy--even in this place.”
The church doesn’t know the party’s over and I, for one, don’t plan to tell it.
Little church, hold on for me. In the dark and quiet days of Lent, I might just forget. Hold on, because it’s good and pure and holy, because though we pack away our Alleluia’s, they are not lost to us. Hold on to the celebration, beloved church, because we yet have much to celebrate.
"Graceland" is the name of my favorite song and album. It's by Paul Simon, but more importantly, it's what "home" sounds and feels like to me. We always listened to this album as we traveled from my home in Tennessee to my parents' childhood homes in Florida. But today, it's also a pretty good snapshot of my theology. Somewhere I really believe that the Christian journey is all about a wild trip to Grace-land. As I see it, Grace-land is the place where God is waiting to meet even us–with all the baggage and brokeness that we tote with us. Grace-land is the place where we will be received with open arms, even though our attempts at “getting it right” have been miserable failures at best. But, I think, every step we take is a step on the journey to Graceland.