We had a great turnout for Shrove Tuesday Pancakes. We always have a great turnout, because we Presbyterians firmly believe that "If you feed them, they will come." And God knows, we all want to be fed.
But Ashes just aren't as much fun as pancakes. Who wants to think about sin and mortality. Even syrupy sweetness can't make that palatable. Still, a few will come. Maybe they come because they want to support the preacher. Or maybe because the doors are open, and they feel like they should be there. Or maybe because it's strange and different, or because it's a statement of who you are to wear a cross on your forehead. Or maybe because they want what's real--even knowing that Ashes aren't nearly as much fun as pancakes.
I always want to make a "no ashes, no pancakes" rule, or ask faithful pancake seekers to promise to show up for ashes too. I want people to realize that the journey to the cross is hard, and that it isn't paved with pancakes. But of course, I don't say that. Because, every year, as I wear my "St Pious--keeper of all things" hat, I realize that I'm not a saint, nor am I pious, nor should I be the keeper of all things. And so every year, I have this fight with myself. Apparently, at least on some small level, I value works--even though I preach grace.
But Christ takes me anyway. And just as I take off my Tuesday Jester's hat, and put on my Wednesday robe, I remember the words I will say. "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the good news." And I have to repent and believe the good news that God didn't come for just the ones who show up every time the doors are open. I have to believe that Christ didn't come just for the ones who are brave enough to receive ashes on their foreheads, but just as much for the ones who are too scared to think about their lives that way.
"My grace is sufficient" are the words that never fail to echo in my ears. Sufficient for pancake eaters, for ash wearers, even for pastors who forget, and would like to make rules about how to be holy.
"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.