This has been a full week of church! Kitchen renovation committee on Monday (thankfully, my attendance was not required), Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, HOPE meals on Wednesday followed by our Ash Wednesday Service, and tonight, handbell practice.
Some might say that not only has this been a full week of church, but it has been a week full of too MUCH church. In fact, because I have been at church at not at home in the evenings, I canceled by piano lesson today. No sense in having a lesson if I have not had time to practice. That cancellation prompted me to think about how my life is completely centered on the life of the church. This is not new. I grew up with a father who served as minister of music and a mother who served as church pianist/organist. Here is what that is like. Family dinner times are set by church events (and seldom are family dinners not interrupted by calls from someone needing a key to something). Vacations are planned around church events. Weekends are defined by church events. Social life is often limited to church events. Hobbies are pursued that fit around church events. Holidays are celebrated within church events. Holidays are also interrupted by emergencies resulting in additional church events.
When church events called, we were present and accounted for!
Sound oppressive? Well, sometimes I do feel resentful about things like canceled piano lessons, but after our service last night, I felt so very fortunate that my church attendance today is mandatory…by nature of my job. I am fortunate because whether I like it or not, my attendance puts me in a different rhythm - the rhythm of the church year. For instance, I’ve started Lent now. My head was marked with an ashen cross and I was told to “repent and return to the Lord.” Not only that, I had the honor of marking the heads of others – from the tiniest of children to our oldest members – it was a powerful moment of connection and community. We really are all in this quest to live lives of faith together. We really are! If not, why would any of us bother to show up for something as silly as having ashes put on our heads? We show up because in these ancient practices, we chase Jesus. The church year and all of is events is where our lives and the life of Jesus cross each other.
We re-live his story as we remember his story. We find our place in his story. And, somewhere in that, our spirits get re-formed and reshaped. Joan Chittister wrote, “In the liturgical year we walk with Jesus through all the details of his life – and he walks with us in ours.”
So, although I am tired today and ready to head home instead of playing bells, I am thankful to be in this sacred rhythm. Thankful to be moving through Lent, intentionally doing the hard work of spiritual formation (and all of the little deaths that come with that), and waiting for the Resurrection. I am thankful that I will then wait for the wild and wooly Spirit of Pentecost. Thankful then to wait through the lessons of Jesus and to grow in ordinary time. And, thankful then to prepare to meet the newborn presence of God.
The church walks me through all of that. Some days, it feels like too much. Some days, it feels like not enough. But, my hope is that as my calendar builds itself around the community of faith, maybe my heart will do the same.