Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Holy Weekness

It is Holy Week, and I find myself in Florida once again. For that reason I have not been able to attend worship with my church back home in New Hampshire during most of this Lenten season. We have tried attending churches here in Florida, but so far we have not found one that is both theologically and physically welcoming. By that I mean both open-minded and scent-free.

I am senstive to many manmade chemicals and artificial fragrances. Unfortunately I passed that trait on to my daughter, who gets severe migraines when exposed to chemical odors. She can’t step foot inside a church in western Pennsylvania. I can tolerate low levels. But my, how these Floridians love their colognes and perfumes! I can barely see the preacher through the haze.

One time we tried a scented church in Florida; it was shoulder-to-shoulder crowded and smelly. We sat in the balcony because there were less people. It was like sitting in a “non-smoking section” (remember those?) back when people pretended secondhand smoke would stay in its assigned part of the room. At another church we walked out during the worship service, explaining the reason for our departure to the ushers on the way out.

The last time we tried an in-person service here we ended up sitting behind a glass wall in the entryway with the ushers. They set up special chairs for us. I appreciated the effort, but it felt like we were sitting at the back of the bus. 

Last Sunday I really wanted to attend a Palm Sunday service in person. I searched online for the possibilities and decided on a nearby Methodist church that looked sparsely attended. I even noticed that some people were wearing masks, which was a good sign. But we changed our mind at the last minute. For this reason we have been worshiping online or privately for most of Lent.

Nevertheless we have been observing Lent. I find symbols of Lent in nature. Palm trees fill the grounds of the condo complex where we are staying. The trees waved their palm branches on Palm Sunday, as I joined in singing Hosanna. As I walk the beach each day I imagine the Via Dolorosa that Jesus traveled on his way to the cross. He suffers today with all those who suffer in the world. “As you have not done it to the least of these, you have not done it to me.”

I will not be attending Maundy Thursday Service or Good Friday Service in a church building this week, but I will be observing Holy Week nonetheless. Holy Week is a state of mind. It is an identification with the life, death and resurrection of the Crucified and Risen One. When we realize our identity in Christ, we join with him in the suffering of the cross and the joy of resurrection.

On Easter Sunday we plan to attend an outdoor sunrise service on the beach. People can wear all the scent they want. (And they do!) But it is manageable. The salt breeze blows most of it away. We attended this service last year, so we know it is conducted by an evangelical ministry in a style I call Pop Christianity. That type of theology and music are not my first choice, but I am attending nonetheless. For the Risen Lord will be there on the beach, just as he was two thousand years ago.   

1 comment:

PLH said...

You really nailed the description of an "Open Minded" church and the difficulty of finding one you are comfortable in.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.