Tonight, the parish I serve, the faithful and Spirit-filled Grace Church, Oxford, had a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper. The kitchen was filled to overflowing with the fixings for the meal, which, in true Grace fashion, also included chocolate cake, apple pie, and yogurt and berry parfaits. There were more griddles than I have ever seen in one place, each seemingly with a team of folks attending to the pouring and the flipping and the plating. We had Mardi Gras beads and beautiful placemats decorated by some of the children in Sunday School the other day.
We had a good crowd of diners, with some of the regulars, as well as some friends of the regulars, and a woman who visited us for the very first time because she was invited by an acquaintance in a yoga class. We got the usual mix of photos, candid and posed, smiley and goofy.
Once or twice I found myself standing off to the side, just watching and listening, feeling myself smiling, and feeling the smile infuse my heart. The sense of joy and friendship in the room was almost palpable. There was lots of laughter from “children” of all ages and the sounds of the young ones playing together. Young ones who met for the first time today shared the toys and negotiated the rules of games. The not-as-young shared easy conversation at the tables, while those in the smallish kitchen worked together with a rhythm and flow that seemed almost choreographed.
The kids and I blessed holy water. I am in awe of their innocence and reverence, which made the moment seem all the more sacred and holy. I wish I had a picture of their fingers in the water, faces looking seriously up at me, syrupy breath, beads, and all, as I said the prayers. I know it would be a picture that would forever remind me of how truly blessed I am to be called to do the work that I do, work that almost never feels like work.
There is so much blessing in inviting and welcoming the sacred and holy into the midst of a simple meal, with an origin most people probably have forgotten. It seems a splendid irony that we gathered to share this meal, made of those things that traditionally needed to be used up because they would spoil over the 40 days of Lent, and were fed with true fellowship, the kind that lives on in changed hearts and lives forever. This truly is amazing grace.