Twenty-four hours separate one of the most outlandish global parties and one of the most somber religious observances on the Christian calendar.
Many of the same folks show up for both.
Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday”, is the last hurrah for those who observe Lent-a time of reflection, self-denial and preparation before Resurrection Sunday.
It’s a giant party-food, fellowship and fun-a wonderful way to celebrate the blessings of this life.
Ash Wednesday, by contrast, is an invitation to remember that “from dust you came and to dust you will return”.
None of us get out of here alive.
Even where the Gospel is preached every Sunday there are those who forget this life is hard and often full of pain and suffering.
If your experience so far has looked more like Mardi Gras and less like ashes, well, then-be thankful.
But don’t be deceived.
“From dust you came and to dust you will return.”
For some of us it was a similar twenty-four hour turnaround that upset our world, tossed us headfirst into the waves of sorrow and burned that truth into our hearts, not just dabbed it on our foreheads.
Sometimes I feel excluded from fellowship with the saints because I can’t join in the celebratory spirit of a worship service.
When the hymns only focus on our “victory in Jesus” my heart cries, “Yes-but perhaps I won’t see the victory this side of heaven.”
When the congregation claps and dances to feel-good songs that celebrate the sunshine but ignore the rain, my eyes swim with tears because I know the reality of a downpour of sorrow.
Because sometimes praise is a sacrifice.
Church needs to be a place where we can share the pain as well as the promise that Christ will redeem it.
Jesus Himself said, “in this world you will have trouble”.
So I can’t claim allegiance to the Church of the Perpetually Cheerful.
I want to create space for the hurting and broken and limping and scared.
How about a new denomination that acknowledges the truth that life is hard.
Instead of the “Overcoming Apostolic Praise-filled Ministers of Eternal Optimism” I would name it the “Trudging But Not Fainting Faithful.“
By all means enjoy the “Fat Tuesdays” in life.
Drink them in, dance, celebrate!
But remember that it can change in a heartbeat.
And that it HAS changed for many of us.
There is hope.
All is not lost.
But in the meantime, it’s hard.