For churches that observe the season of Lent, I have found over the years that some find these “40 days plus Sundays” that lead up to Easter to be a solemn time. With its emphasis on self-examination, and perhaps self-denial, it reminds us that unless we prepare in the shadows, the light of resurrection will lose its power. Thinking of this, I sat down on one Lenten afternoon and put these thoughts in a poem. Perhaps the lines that follow will help explain the spirit of the season.

On Ash Wednesday
I was serving the gluten-free
body and blood (love takes all kinds of forms these days),
as I watched ash-smudged souls walk the aisle
to have death washed off them with wine.

The music was somber, fitting I thought,
for an occasion so full of dust and shadows.
Out of the corner of my eye,
I saw a friend who goes to a church I’ll not name
but where they play rock and roll Christian music
and lots of people come,
young ones, hungry ones.

I could tell that the ashes upset him, confused him
as did the music, somber (again), and in a minor key.
Smudges of death and sad music
are not welcome in some places;
after all, the world knows enough sadness.
So we sing alleluias in a major key,
trying hard to chase away the dark.

But it’s Lent, I think. It’s good for us to walk through the valley,
to linger in the lengthened, shadowy places.
It’s good for us to sing songs as sad as grief
because those places are there in us,
and if not visited, they are lonely places.
Don’t worry, my friend,
there will be time for alleluias.

One morning, past the dark places
there will be a sunrise,
a morning after,
that explains everything.
Wait, my friend, for the alleluias,
wait in the dark,
for the wait is worth it.