The California super bloom is speaking theologically, just in time for Easter. What is it saying? Here are a few things I hear.
What does it mean that when Jesus entered Jerusalem the week he was crucified, the crowd "took branches of palm trees" (John 12:13) to welcome him? What do we make of the moment when Jesus curses the fig tree? What does it mean that the Bible begins with a “Tree of Life" in Eden (Gen. 2:9) and ends with a "Tree of Life" at the end, a tree whose leaves "were for the healing of the nations" (Rev. 22:2, 14, 19)?
In the Christianity of my childhood, Easter Sunday was Cadbury eggs, brunch and celebratory church services full of rollicking hymns like “Up from the grave He arose.” In my adolescence and twenty-something years I became fond of celebrating Good Friday, a part of Easter weekend largely bypassed in my childhood. With its mournful tone and quieter focus on the cross, Good Friday was almost more compelling to my melancholy self than the joy of Easter.
Lord, bring us to our knees. Quiet our hearts. Away from the onslaught of screens and tweets and texts, focus our eyes on you. Abide in our perceptions, as we taste and see and hear that you are good. In the stillness of dusk, on ever lengthening days; serenaded by car horns, engines, buzzing iPhones, birds, distant planes, and the mystical fugues of February vespers... speak to us oh God.
This, I think, is the greatest, most mind-blowing quality of God's grace, while at the same time being the hardest for humanity to swallow: His grace is sufficient for all, and it saves unconditionally, based not on our merits or relative levels of moral stature. We're all sinners, fallen short of the glory of God and alienated from him, and thus we all need exactly the same grace from Him to repair the breach.
We praise you for the wait, oh Lord.
For the now: the darkness building all around, the tornadoes, the terrorism, the fear.
For the not yet: the reconciliations to come, the healing, the sunrise, the joy.
I think it's important to have restraint. If there's one thing I've been learning—and want to keep learning—it is the importance of being slow to speak, but quick to listen. I want to be a better listener, a better perceiver, a better interpreter of the world and its beauties. To take in more than I churn out... and then to churn out only after a thoughtful period of processing and active listening... that's where I want to be. As a blogger, as a friend, as a follower of Christ.
Lost in the shuffle of the furious Bell debates is the reality that the most important object of our focus and energy should be the person of Christ: Who he is, what he did on the cross, and what he continues to do in and for the world.
I don't really listen to contemporary Christian music, but I LOVE hymns and older Christian spirituals. And during Lent and especially during Holy Week, I've been retuning to these sacred songs--some old, some new--that speak of Christ's passion and our hope. I've compiled a playlist of some of my favorites this year, most of which can be purchased on iTunes.
I went home for Easter weekend. Home to Kansas City, where my family lives. I'm writing this in my old bedroom, where most of the stuff I've collected over the years but since forgotten about still resides. It's always a little weird coming home--such a flood of memories. Looking through old yearbooks, scrapbooks, and faded photo albums of almost forgotten family trips, birthdays and azalea festivals. So much has changed since Easter '89. Relatives have passed away, I have two college degrees, 9/11 happened, etc.
I always wondered why it was called “Good Friday.” I mean, Jesus was brutally tortured and hung on a cross. There were dark skies and earthquakes and torn veils. Seems more like “Bad Friday,” doesn’t it? Really, has humanity ever had a worse day? The one time the God of the universe was actually walking around in human form on earth, and what do we do? We kill him. That’s pretty bad.
In terms of how we live, what we long for, and what we find beautiful—so often the nexus of it is something that is absent. Absence drives our existence more than just about anything. Absence, I suggest, galvanizes us in our protestations against apathy, malaise, and debilitating continence. It gives us a reason to be passionate, to burn brightly and agonize over things like truth and beauty. It gives us hope; and we need hope.
The middle of Lent. 17 more days until Easter. It’s a time of waiting, anticipation, sadness and hope. It’s wearying and rejuvenating in awkward intervals. It's Psalm 88 one minute and 89 the next.It’s life.
Things feel rather hopeless these days for a lot of people. The economy is horrific, many are out of work, the weight of existence bears down in customary fashion... And yet in this period of Lent--as Christians quietly prepare themselves for the remembrances that are Good Friday and Easter, hope seems to break through the bleak landscape. Christ is hope; Christianity is, if it is anything, a belief in hope. So often we Christians get sidetracked and come across as dour, judgmental, "get me out of this earth and take me to heaven" downers... which is why more and more people (especially young people) just tune it all out. Why believe in a religion that forsakes this world and looks forward to its demise and an otherworldly heaven? Is not this world worth anything? Why was it even created?
Growing up, Easter was Cadbury eggs and pastel ties. It was The Ten Commandments on TV. It was hymns like “Low in the Grave He Lay” and “In the Garden.” It was Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. And it was Cadbury eggs.