One of the different experiences I have had in life is experiencing Mardi Gras (and the lack thereof). Growing up in New Orleans, for those who are not from this neck of the woods, Mardi Gras Day is almost as big as Christmas in New Orleans. Not only does the city build up toward Mardi Gras Day (much as most of the country builds up toward Christmas) but on Mardi Gras Day itself, the city shuts down from all normal business. No school. Most businesses closed. Even most major streets are blocked off. Crowds head for the parades and those that can’t often watch them live on television. Mardi Gras Day is an all day, and late into the evening event (like Christmas).
It was a radical change for me in regard to Mardi Gras when I went to Louisiana Tech in north Louisiana. While Mardi Gras was well known there, and north Louisianians would frequently travel south to celebrate it, that only happened on Mardi Gras day. There is no Mardi Gras season per se in north Louisiana. On Mardi Gras Day, we would hear the Mardi Gras songs on the university radio station, people would hold parties, and wish one another “Happy Mardi Gras” but it wasn’t quite the same as being in New Orleans.
And then, later in life, as I lived in Texas, Alaska, and Ohio I found people still knew of Mardi Gras but frequently thought it was something that went on all year long in New Orleans. The idea of Mardi Gras being a season, leading up to a Mardi Gras Day, was not common knowledge.
I look back at this now and consider this all normal as Mardi Gras is just an area tradition (in the U.S. celebrated from Mobile, AL to Lafayette, LA) and is famously celebrated in other areas of the world, such as in Rio de Janeiro. But I increasingly see a parallel with Christians who participate in church frequently. Outside of the church, we may run into folks who know much about church and actively consider themselves Christians. They may even participate in worship on occasion. But their experience of the faith differs from our own. We also will run into folks who may know something of church and our beliefs but do not consider themselves Christians and never attend church. Our common experiences will diverge even more strongly from them.
I love inviting folks to Mardi Gras. Even if they say, “no thank you” it often sedgeways into some interesting conversations. Likewise, the only real answer to bridge the gaps in our experiences and outlooks is to invite folks to experience what we are experiencing. They may not be interested and say no. They may come but only for a time. Some may even come and stay. But no matter what, asking the question can start a dialogue which is an excellent opportunity for discussion and dialog.
We live in interesting times. If we are going to invoke the Almighty to guide us, the best way to do that is together in some manner or form. And if we all contain the image of God, which the Bible says we do, that means our conversations need to extend well beyond those who are well churched.
I hope you have a Happy Mardi Gras next Tuesday. I also hope you have or will find a worship service to participate in this week. Most of all, I hope you talk about your worship experience well beyond the church.
Until next time,