Beloved People of St. Martin’s,
We have now begun our first Lenten season together, and I am so looking forward to sharing this journey with you. We had a wonderful time at the Shrove Tuesday pancake supper, and the sound of children running and playing with each other made my heart sing. Yesterday’s Ash Wednesday services, and our offering of Ashes to Go brought special blessings. The literally hundreds of waves and smiles I received from passersby on Clayton Road were heart-warming even as the temperature was not. But the conversations I had with people who stopped in made everything worthwhile.
Everyone who stopped was on their way somewhere else when they took the opportunity to pause and reset their orientation from the everyday rush we all feel to the promise of God’s mercy. And isn’t that really how all encounters with the sacred begin?
Some people were new to town. Some were our own parishioners who couldn’t come to services. Some people were former church-goers, and some got tears in their eyes at the imposition of the ashes. Some people were on their way to work and couldn’t afford to take time off to go to worship but were so appreciative for the opportunity to mindfully enter into keeping a holy Lent. I saw one lady look excited as she was driving by with her father, and then she came back after running their errand. An hour later she came back with her daughter and mother.
These beautiful encounters are powerful reminders to us all that relationship is at the heart of every sacred encounter. Even desert hermits engaged in seeking a powerful connection with God through the Holy Spirit. But for the vast majority of us, relationship with God is rooted in relationship to others, as we mutually support each other, listening to each other’s stories, and supporting each other on the journey.
That is why I want to encourage you to go today if you haven’t already and sign up for the Syrian supper that we will be holding on March 14. The deadline officially is today, and it’s important that the cooks know how much food to buy. We are only the second Episcopal parish to host a Syrian dinner, and the other parish sold out.
The Syrian supper event is more than simply a chance to sample some delicious Mediterranean cuisine. This is an opportunity to engage in some of those holy and sacred relationships, to break bread and form fellowship over our shared stories, to learn about the resilience and endurance of our brothers and sisters who have endured great hardship to make their home among us. It’s a chance to learn about the hopes and dreams of our newest neighbors, who have been drawn to our country in search of peace, security, and a sense of belonging.
Someone once said that 80% of life is just showing up. I’m not sure about his math, but I am certain that at least another 19% of life is in paying attention and being present in the moment, with hearts open. We are all pilgrims, drawn together by common dreams, supporting each other through honoring each others’ stories along the journey. Come join me in celebrating the stories of our newest neighbors on March 14, and be enriched by wonderful food and fellowship.