Thursday, March 27, 2014
I made an exception on Ash Wednesday this year because two of my dear Chinese students invited me to a basketball game as their guests. But I felt strange on the morning of—. Something in my Spirit hungered for the familiar but unsettling words when the ashes are drawn across my forehead, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Is that weird or what?
So I searched for a noon service. Of course--who better to turn to than my Catholic brothers and sisters? I jumped in my truck and took off for the Basilica, downtown.
Already streams of people were flowing in from everywhere—just like going to a game at Target Field. Lots of young people. For the next hour I sat among hundreds—at noon! In a Church. On a Wednesday. In the middle of downtown Minneapolis. Surrounded by rich smells of incense and monastic-like music, dawdling along in an un-hurried pace, in an other-worldly setting. It was a “perfect storm” that recharged my spiritual batteries.
The enormous height of the ceiling kept drawing my eyes and mind... up. And there, all around us, were brothers and sisters from centuries gone by looking down on us from their painted faces in the stained glassed windows perched high above our earthly worship. The sweet haunting verses that were being chanted from somewhere unseen floated out upon the assembly and imbued our collective spirit with a touch of the heavenly realm. Sweet.
Words were spoken and read and preached and sung and prayed. Words were used to confess wrongs… things that we wish we could have back to do over again, but can’t. But then, sweet life-giving words were issued to wash clean those areas where the enemy had once again infiltrated our spirit and stained the spiritual garment in which we had been “clothed with Christ.”
Something in my body and spirit becomes aligned when I kneel for prayer and confession rather than sitting or standing. Kneelers invite that posture before God. It’s really something to behold, when you look out and see hundreds of people kneeling in a posture of humility, even in our Madison-Avenue 21st-century world of suits and skirts and jeans and sweatshirts. No matter what your stature in the world, all are the same before Christ. Hmmm. If only….
I remember the young woman who could not kneel on her left leg – a sports injury? She sat on the aisle so that when it was time, she could kneel on her right leg with her left leg extended out into the aisle. No excuses I guess. This was important to her.
I faded into one of the human rivers that streamed out of all eight doors in all directions back into the world, feeling full and fed with the Word and the Word-made-flesh that was given up in death—even for my sake. Amazing… that the God of the ever-expanding, 9 -billion-year-old universe would notice me, hear me when I speak, speak into my life when I hurt or am lost, and even die for me in my place. Really?
It’s still hard to grasp the reality of that Act on the cross. But … now I’m getting ahead of myself. That Act is still ahead, on Good Friday, still another 39 days ahead on this year’s 40 day journey.