Smoke has always risen. Yesterday it curled upward from the top of our altar in the cathedral nave as we held open our church for prayers during the election.
Smoke will rise again today too. That’s what smoke does. It rises.
All day long, we sat in that cathedral church and we prayed – some for him and some for her. We prayed for the people voting for Hillary and we prayed for the people voting for Donald and we prayed for the people not voting because they would not or could not. The new sound system of the cathedral nave takes music from an iPhone, so we plugged in and played something gorgeous, just because we could.
We raised the flags outside and we draped a table filled with candles in red, white and blue silks. We said the Eucharist and we said the prayers – ancient, soothing, calming. We gathered and we ate and we drank.
All day, a curl of smoke from the incense burning on the altar curled up into the rafters of the great nave of our cathedral. That too was soothing.
Smoke rises. It rises after the election of a president and of a Pope. It rises from a fire as children roast marshmallows. Smoke rises after the burning of a village by the winning troops. Smoke rises from the candles of a Shabbat service in a Jewish home. Smoke rises from burnt love letter and burnt speeches. Smoke rises from dinner on the grill and the clothes of plague victims. Smoke rises from the warming fire as Peter betrays Jesus and from the Temple offering bowls. Smoke rises. It rises from forest fires in which Bambi roasts alive, frightened, separated from her mother, and it rises from factory fires smelting steel to build a new orphanage, and it rises. And it rises.
And, I believe, that God smells fires. God has always smelled them. God has smelled the happy fires and the sad ones. God has smelled incense from Italy’s altars and from Haiti’s burning rubber around men’s necks after a regime-change. God has smelled the smoke of a baptismal candle and of a seared wound to stop the bleeding. God smells it. The smoke, I mean. As the smoke rises.
May God protect us all today as God did yesterday. May God protect those who rejoice today and those whose confusion is legion. May God smell the smells of our fires – rejoicing fires of victory and also the fires of burnt hopes, smoldering. And may we, God’s people on earth, do our best to simply live kind lives today. May we neither be smug nor revengeful, neither triumphant nor dismissive. May we get very quiet, we people of God. May we simply live, even if we need to break that living down into 15-minute intervals, one at a time at a time at a time.
God, has smelled smoke for billions of years from this planet. God smells the different kinds of smokes the way my black lab Kai smells different kinds of grasses. Nodding. On to the next smell. On to the next. Curious. Then on to the next. And the next. being kind and smelling.
What do we do today? We who rejoice and we who dismay? We live. We make good, kind choices. We walk forward and we question our anxious thoughts:
“Is It true?
Can you be absolutely sure that it is true?
How do you react and respond when you think that thought?
Who would you be without that thought?
You say he or she is ‘such and such.’ Can you find that evil in you yourself?”
Today we smell smoke like we did yesterday and will tomorrow. Its source may be different but its content remains the same from ages of ages. Carbon. The stuff of everything.
So pray. Love. Listen. Walk.
And let smoke rise to our God today as we light our prayer candle. Let the One Who is, Be – the One who inhales our prayers and exhales the assurance that all manner of thing shall be well. Weird. But well.