Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Parade Gone Bad

In a matter of mere hours now, Palm/ Passion Sunday will be the focus of Christians as they prepare for Holy Week.
I have mentioned here that there has been very little about Lent that has felt like Lent to me this year. In fact at church last year's Paschal Candle is still burning, I wonder, “Will this be the chain smoking Easter?” Symbols tell a story.

Easter is my favorite of the Christian Holy days. I think it might be because I can wrap my arms around the cross more tightly than I can wrap them around the cradle. There is a reminder of hope for me when I close my eyes and see the cross that I'm embracing. For me, at the beginning of those 40 days of Lent the cross is rugged, rough and ugly, by Easter it is gold, bright and precious. I understand the grace that was created there. I grasp that grace is not something that I have to hope for, I don't have to hope for God's love, it's here. I've heard so many say, “I hope that I get to heaven.” Christ professing people saying this? I cringe. I know that when it comes to my turn at the judgment that I have the best representation that money cannot buy.

That is the difference between hope and grace to me. I referred in an earlier entry to the Guild of St. Jude, The Men of Hopeless Causes. While it seems like a good name for us I have to remind myself that no situation under heaven is truly hopeless. I know that, I've seen the evidence.

The parade of palms, the passion story on this Sunday. The Chrism on Wednesday; that day that we are reminded of the symbol of healing in the oil of anointing. No magic, no mystery, but a symbol of the healing that God wants us to have. Maunday Thursday, the reminder that in the symbols of bread and new wine we are in the presence of the Lord and he's making a new promise to us at an intimate dinner party. Friday Good as one pastor friend of my used to call it; that day when we see that the anguish of life has an earthly end. The hour of, “it is finished.” and the miracle of the most holy place being revealed to us. The Vigil of Easter, that anticipation of Good News, the lighting of a new fire that we use to light a candle marking the new day, the candle that lights the way through the fog and mist and takes us to a garden where the greatest of miracles has occurred, the empty tomb and the shouts of Christ is Risen! It is the week that proves that our feeling of helplessness has been dispelled along with our sense of hopelessness.

There is so much darkness in the world it seems and yet that new fire on Holy Saturday isn't like one Lucky lit off of the last one, but a new fire, freshly laid, intense in it's burning, the white hot coals that provides for us a source of brightness so that we can see our hope coming, illumined so that we can see it more clearly.

I think of the events of Holy week, the way the parade of Palm Sunday turns ugly as the stories of the week progress, betrayals, soul selling, flashing swords, the washing of feet, an intimate dinner party between friends, and denial. Power hungry religious types, corrupt officials, the washing of hands, the agony of a son tortured, the pain of a helpless mother and the bewilderment of faithful followers.

All of this leading to a cross, a murder, is it any different than some of the places right here in my city on any given week? And yet, through all of this a flicker, a spark. A light in the darkness that shines on the seeds of hope and promise, it seems so very far away and yet I'm confident that the seeds will sprout.


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