“Drop in from 3:30 – 7:30 for ashes, prayer and communion.” And they did. First, the brand-new grandmother on her way home from work. We prayed for her daughter-in-law, whose feet and legs are so swollen she cannot hold the baby and stand at the same time. Then, after school, the mom and two kids; we prayed for the dog who’s in heaven and the grandfather with Alzheimer’s.
They came. The mom who wanted prayers for strength and encouragement, and the daughter who wanted help with a middle-school friendship gone awry. The two men, Jeff and Jonathan, from out of town, here working a construction job. The couple, core members of our church: she just started a new job; the stress is so close to the surface that tears ran down her cheeks. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Two women came straight from bridge club, one wheezing because of the cold. “God bless you on your Lenten journey.” The little boy named Ben who couldn’t stand still for a minute, but wanted ashes on his forehead: “May God be with you every day for 46 days, until we celebrate Easter.” One woman who will be getting married here later this year: “No prayer requests…everything’s great,” she said with shining eyes. “The bread of heaven, the cup of blessing.”
Time opened up for conversations normally rushed or emailed. “Kelly, when I saw the snow today, I thought of the Simon and Garfunkel song, ‘I am a rock,’ then of the John Donne poem, ‘No man is an island,’ and that led me to think of our church and all we’re trying to do to promote good in the world, especially in the midst of this nasty political season.” “May God be with you on your Lenten journey.”
The youth group filed in. Ashes on the hands, mostly. They stayed and prayed with the women from the exercise group. “The body of Christ, broken for you; the love of Christ, poured out for you.” It’s the first day of Lent. We prayed together: “May this season of Lent truly be for us a season of spiritual growth: a journey inward to find where God is at work in our lives, and a journey outward towards friendship and service.” The four hours in the chapel, witnessing the prayers and the tears, the shaky hands and the pimpled foreheads, were a perfect way to begin this holy season. “Remember you are dust…”