Last Sunday, I did not begin each service with, "Happy Easter!" The men were starting to look a bit jaded with that greeting after seven weeks. Things were looking a bit different. I wore a shiny red blouse. The altar cloth was sequined spandex, red, of course. There was a new red candle and dark red (dried) tulips. And a birthday cake.
It was really a Mother's Day cake, but I'd taken off the little plastic doo-dad that said, "Happy Mother's Day" and brought along birthday candles.
We talked about the origins of Pentecost, the spring harvest and road trip festival of Jesus' time. The volunteers who'd tackled the first reading in each service were congratulated for getting through the "Parthians, Medes, Elamites" and assorted others.
I'm grateful for the similar experience every Sunday we gather. We're not "Parthians, Medes, or Elamites," but the truth is that we come from every one of the 39 counties in the state, from a wide variety of states, from different countries (Russia, Cambodia, Mexico, and Belize were represented that day), from different gangs. We speak different languages, had different life experiences and run-ins with the law. Yet, on this given Sunday, we're all gathered in one place, wearing grey or orange depending on the unit, listening to God's word, praying, and sharing communion, no matter what might divide us at other times.
At the end of each service, I lit the birthday candles. Everyone stood and, in our best Spirit-filled voices, we sang "Happy Birthday" to the church. Best singing I've heard in a long time. Very fun.