After Everyone Has Gone

candle smoking 2

After everyone has gone
I linger in the dark
like the tendrils of smoke
drifting from the Christ candle
from all those candles
Blown out
but not extinguished

I have collected all the colorful
Christmas Eve programs
strewn like confetti
on the worn wooden pews

I have switched off the lights
balcony, back hall,
front and rear chandeliers
choir loft and cross spotlight

The only light
streams in through the clear glass windows
glowing streaks of starlight, moonlight, ghostlight,
God light

I kneel by the table overflowing with blood red poinsettias
not such a bad place to end my busy days
kneeling here at Jesus table
where all are so warmly welcomed

Kneeling

Is so uncomfortable
I’m never quite sure I will be able to rise again

God chuckles

and lifts me up on eagle’s wings
for one breathless moment
I sail soaked in star shine
Glimpsing
All that has ever been
All that is
And all that will ever be

I blink

I sigh

There is only a toy manger
with a baby doll inside
smiling sweetly at me

Feeling slightly silly

I smile back

For one more stolen moment
I linger in the dark
after everyone has gone

But I am not alone.

The Open Door

the-open-door

There was a day not so long ago when I was feeling discouraged.
Grumpy even.

I was feeling sorry for myself,
muttering around alone in the sanctuary picking up used tissues,
tossed music, broken candles, crumpled bulletins,
broken crayons, discarded inserts,
and all the detritus of weeks of winter worship.

I was preparing the way for Easter coming.
The stone rolling away.
The tomb yawning open.
Jesus set loose once again to be among us
until the end of days.

I had the church door open to bring in a breath of spring on the way.
And because the door was open,
there were suddenly two strangers in the sanctuary with me.
A young man and woman appeared excitedly exclaiming as they looked around at the beautiful wooden beams, the glowing stained glass windows, the gleaming organ pipes. They asked me if they could pray for the church. They said they were on a mission to go around town and pray.

I found myself feeling suspicious.

I wondered if this was some sort of scam.
I wondered if they hadn’t expected to find someone muttering around alone in the sanctuary and had made up something to cover their surprise.

I wondered what they were up to.

And then I wondered how I could be so cynical.
Standing in the sanctuary.
Standing in this place where people have gathered to pray together
for over 100 years.

“Yes,” I said, “Please pray for our church.”

The three of us took hands, and they prayed.
Out loud with great exuberance.
They prayed for the life and mission and ministry and people and programs and heart and soul of the church. They prayed for our neighbors and the town and the community and our country and for the whole world.

And then they asked if they could pray for me.

I felt the spirit flowing through our small circle carried by their enthusiasm.
I felt Jesus present in their great daring to pray with strangers.
The spirit was flowing and when they finished praying for me,
I prayed for them.

Tears in my eyes.
Cracks appearing in my hardened heart.
I prayed for us all.
Amen

They smiled.
We hugged.
And they bounced out as energetically as they had come in.

The spirit was flowing.

I felt peace as I basked in the warm flood of colored light streaming in through the stained glass windows. My heart was burning warm within me.

I felt full.

As if I had just finished a delicious meal of all my favorite foods.

As if I had just recognized Jesus in the breaking of a loaf of bread.

Or, in the faces of a young man and a young woman who came into my church
asking me if they could pray.

The spirit was flowing.

Jesus set loose among us.

All because

I had left the church door

open.