After worship on Sunday, I hurried down to St Charles Avenue to catch some parades. We parked on Napoleon close to S Claiborne, so we had a bit of a walk to get to the route. But when we did, it was the sounds that moved me: Bands playing, people yelling for throws, horns blowing, horse hooves clopping, lots of normal conversation. It was discordantly, noisily, glorious.
I find that to be especially the case after these past two years. This COVID time has taught me some things, or reinforced things I already knew. I like people. I like their eccentricities and oddnesses. I like that people come in different colors and ages and sizes and personalities. I like when 3-year-old children take the hands of strangers and invite them to dance in the streets. I am that stranger in the picture below; it was good for my soul.
It is hard for me to thrive when people must be kept at arm’s length, or 6 feet away. It is hard for me to feel fully alive when I don’t get to see people’s faces transformed by laughter, or by tears. Not everyone enjoys hanging out with strangers on the street (go figure!), but most of us yearn to be connected with other humans in meaningful ways. Most of us have had some level of challenge in the past 2 years.
When we shared prayer concerns in worship this past Sunday, and different voices spoke of desires for peace, for understanding, for erasing divisions, I was deeply moved. When others expressed concerns for those who couldn’t gather in person because of health concerns, or children confused by a parent’s dementia, or asked for more patience, I knew that something real was happening in the room. And when thanksgiving was expressed for a hundred years of a person’s life and for all of the people who make up Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, God’s Spirit was palpable. We need this connection with one another; we need the deeper communion with God that we receive through these relationships with others who are also seeking to follow Jesus.
Speaking of communion, I think the weekly celebration of communion is one of the most important ways that we’ve stayed connected when we couldn’t connect in some ordinary ways. Please don’t tell my Presbyterian colleagues this, but I think the weekly sharing of communion lends a depth to Lutheran worship that can’t be beat.* I am reminded of these words from Rachel Held Evans, a Christian author who died several years ago while still in her 30s. She said,
This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.
I’m glad to be one of those oddballs, saying “yes” and receiving grace, and doing so for a season at this church in NOLA called Grace.
Grace and peace,
*In case you are interested, a little Presbyterian history: John Calvin, who is thought of as the “Father” of Presbyterians and was a contemporary of Martin Luther’s, believed that we should all have weekly communion. He believed that we need the tangible reminders of Christ’s life and sacrifice if we are to be our most faithful selves. He lost that battle. It was not good for the Presbyterian soul.