For reasons requiring a whole different post, I was awake most of last night. I tried my usual go-to-sleep things… reading actual paper pages, singing along to whatever songs are floating around in my head, praying for as many people as I can think of.
It was the last one that started me thinking about Holy Week, because this year it was all about people. I have been learning a new congregation, getting to know new people, and doing things with them that we’ve never done together. I found myself thinking back to some of those moments that I wished I could snap a photo, or grab some video…
On Palm Sunday, our sanctuary was transformed by the presence of several pair of 5-6 foot palm fronds arching over the center aisle. There were others on the chancel and over doors, but these arches were quite something as you walked in from the main entrance!
And they were quite something as I attempted to make eye contact from the pulpit… and as the offering plates were passed… The looks on the faces of the ushers as they peered through then pushed aside the palms, trying as hard as I was to sing the Doxology instead of giggle.
Wednesday night was Pancake night – and Ranson Hall rang with laughter as more people than usual enjoyed the weekly fellowship time. Something about pancakes for dinner just makes people happy. I heard more stories… and the light in their eyes as they remembered breakfast for dinner with parents, children, grandkids…
Thursday night at Maundy Thursday, we shared communion by intinction for the first time in the seven or so months I’ve been leading worship. What a privilege to serve each person as they came forward… just weeks earlier, I had places ashes on many of them. Tearing the big loaf of bread, smelling the juice, saying the words, calling them by name, all while thinking about the night that Jesus said those words to his followers, looking them each in the eye.
But the image I don’t want to forget are the hands reaching out to steady a father, a husband, or a friend whose vision or balance isn’t what it once was. Other hands tearing a piece of bread for the spouse whose hands shook too much or hurt too much, before taking part of the body for themselves. These gestures were so familiar, so intimate, that I know they were done instinctively. What would this world be like if our instincts ran more toward that sort of love and service?
By the time I reached the sanctuary Sunday morning, the table linens had changed from black to white, and the flowers were arriving.
About mid-way through Lent the worship team came up with a solution for my Easter Lily allergies. We pulled out all the old vases from storage and put them out – empty – on tables Palm Sunday. We invited every family to “adopt a vase” and bring it back filled with their favorite non-lily flowers – fresh or silk, store-bought or gleaned from their yard.
Here’s my contribution:By the time service started, we had 2 dozen or more contributions, some large, some small, all beautiful. This is just the pulpit side!
The joy on people’s faces as they placed their contribution on the tables, each adding something just a little different. And the conspiratorial gleam in BH’s eyes as he carried in his purple carnations and “apologized” as he walked by for forgetting to pick up lilies before they sold out.
Then there was the tray of communion cups that somehow got hung in the tray above, splashing a bit as I pulled them apart… the smiles on their faces assured me that grace and humor abounds in my elders, too. The blood of Christ poured out for us, indeed.
And then there was the last stop before heading home for Easter lunch. I took a small vase of roses to the rehab-nursing facility, where one of our members is for physical therapy after a long hospital stay. On my way to her room, I said hello to a couple who must have been in their 90s, residents sitting in the hallway. He saw the roses and asked if he could smell them. They had such a beautiful fragrance that he immediately urged his wife to smell them as well. Oh, the longing in her eyes as she wistfully asked “What are you going to do with those?” I wished they weren’t spoken for!
They brightened up M’s eyes as well, as she breathed in the sweet fragrance and took in the coral and yellow and red blossoms. Those eyes still have to do a lot of the talking, since the stroke, and on Sunday they revealed Easter joy and hope.
Rummaging through all those memories, it turned out there was a lot of joy and hope crammed into the last week. And a lot love. Not a bad way to drift off to sleep, really.