Last night we held our Ash Wednesday service. It’s one of the “special” (i.e., non-Sunday) services that we hold each year and that I am responsible for. The format stays pretty much the same, although some things do shift a little.
It seems that every year, this day–and this service–fall during a time frame when I have what seem like a million other things that have to be done…and that someone wants “yesterday.” So I always feel a little stressed and frazzled going into it.
I am glad that the format is basically the same, but that doesn’t mean that I can go on auto-pilot, because what I share needs to be made fresh and appropriate to each year. Sometimes I have a fair amount of time to plan that out–sometimes the world rushes in on me, and I find myself wondering “What on earth am I going to share this year??”
That was where I was last night. That…and wondering what size our congregation would be. It was a little different congregation this year. We had about 40 people present–with more children than we’ve had in the past. And that made a difference–a difference in a positive way. It made me stop and think about our companionship with each other on this Lent journey.
- One young boy came up to me and wanted to know if he could help. I had just given out the last scripture reading, but we were able to shift things around so that he could share by reading the first scripture of the evening.
- Another little girl came up when we were doing the ashes and wanted to know what that was. I explained briefly and asked her if she wanted a smudge on her forehead. She nodded and moved her bangs so I could place the ashes on her forehead.
- We make a “spiritual travel packet”–a little cloth-wrapped package of four herbs and spices (anise, mustard seed, sage, and cloves) that remind us of various parts of Jesus’ journey. One little girl who was trying to make hers was obviously going to drop everything because her hand just wasn’t big enough to hold it–and so it became necessary for me to stop what I was doing and help her…to become her companion at the time.
- My 13-year-old grandson became the companion of a couple of the little ones there–shepherding them through the process and the activities.
We shared some of what we wanted to release this year for Lent. Not “give up”…but release to make room for God to do “a new thing” in our lives. There was pain in some of the sharing–not that people shared details, but in their one- or two-word statements, pain was obvious in their voices and their body language.
Yet as we worshiped together, we found ourselves drawn together into a closer community. We found support…companionship.
The journey through Lent is not always easy. Sometimes we are called into places and situations we would rather avoid. But in our sharing last night on Ash Wednesday, we committed to God and to each other that we would go where we are led…that we would support each other…that we would be companions on this journey that leads us to the cross–and through the cross to the Resurrection.