I wish we had known each other when we were both younger, and I was living in Little Rock. My church had a tradition on Shrove Tuesday of gathering together for a pancake supper cooked by the men of the church. Of course there was a seniority system for the cooks. At first, the younger guys began by washing dishes and cleaning tables, but over the years as we got much older we were promoted to cooking — first the grits, then the sausage and bacon, and finally flipping pancakes. This was great training for my sabbatical and cooking for 300 every Sunday. The Dean of the Cathedral had a band and the music filled the Hall as children danced, people chatted, and we all filled ourselves with pancakes and syrup. Then at the end of the night we gathered up our children and headed home filled with a spirit of community that nourished us for the next 40 days.
This bit of nostalgia comes back to me every year at this time knowing so many of us have gone our separate ways, and yet the memories of those events still provide me nourishment. Shrove Tuesday is like your Sufi waves hitting the surf. Each wave is new, but contains a little bit of the past. We face this upcoming Lent with such optimism, knowing this will be the year that our fasting, meditation, prayer, and resolve to do something positive will be accomplished. Today we don’t worry about the hurdles of temptation we will have to get over or the drumbeat of negativity that we will have to mute. Today we celebrate the opportunity to begin the journey. For a few like me the chance just to participate has special significance. I think of the runner about to start his first marathon or the pitcher on the mound on opening day. Before the race or game, they thank God just for the chance to run the race or play the game. Appropriately, they are not thinking about ‘hitting the wall” or “getting in a jam.” Tomorrow it starts, but today is the celebration of the chance to participate. Eat hearty, sing and dance, and be thankful that the journey begins again.
Your friend, Webb