Bloody Palms

Jim calls these the “Dog Days of Lent,” and boy, is he right. As you know, I’ve been over any delusional sense of my own spiritual fortitude ever since The Infamous Latte Debacle of week one. I’m just not that good at being anyone’s superhero of discipline, even though I am passionately committed to the power of habit as a means of grace. But now it feels like the rest of the congregation has finally joined me in the doldrums, and we’re all just sitting in mud and ashes, ready for joy again. Proverbs 13 tells us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick,” and our hearts are sick and tired of lenten waiting. We want to celebrate the resurrected life through the season of Easter, with all its robust feasting and restful enjoyment!

And yet, there’s still that persistent cross with its long shadow looming in the foreground of life, casting darkness over everything in its narrow path. It’s why I’m grateful that just before the ultimate Lenten darkness of Maundy Thursday and languishing despair of Good Friday, we celebrate Christ’s ¬†triumphal entry with Palm Sunday. Even though there remains a cruel irony lurking beneath the surface of colts, hosannas, coats, and branches, these images still point with stunning brilliance toward the fulfilled longings of every healing heart: that the rightful King shall be enthroned and reign forever, and we along with him!

That same proverb from before also tells us that “desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” If I can dare to see a tree that curses the man who hangs upon it as the hinge upon which all my hopes and longings hang as well, then even the cross of death becomes a tree of life. Even a broken body can be nourishing bread and spilled blood the wine of sacred ceremony. Even my failed attempts to control the world and people around me; my guilt and shame and fear and sorrows – all my needs and neediness – can exist in the shadow of the cross as sign-posts of the Kingdom. And I can begin to hope again.

Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

– Josh