On approaching Palm Sunday

“God is not going to abandon creation, nor the people up for trial in criminal court, nor the Shiites, nor the communists, or the warmongers, nor the greedy and corrupt people in high places, nor the dope pushers, nor you, nor me. Bitter tears of repentance may be shed before we can join the celebration, but it won’t be complete until we are all there.”

Madeleine L’Engle wrote these words, and they resonate with me at this time.  Her words sound like words of Lent, of desert and dry and barren places.  “Bitter tears of repentance may be shed before we can join the celebration.”  Has our Lenten time gone that deep?  Have we done the work so that we, too, may join the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection?  Lent is our time of preparation for exactly that – our time of preparation for Jesus’ ascension into heaven and into our lives.  Have we prepared?  Have I prepared?

I know in my head that God is not going to abandon creation.  I fear in my heart that God will indeed abandon ME.  “We have not loved you with our whole heart, have not loved our neighbors as ourselves…. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.”  And then, dear Lord, we do it all again.  We abandon God, ignore the needs of our neighbor – quibble, in fact, about who our neighbor is — and what is our responsibility, anyway?  “We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent.”  I cannot imagine how to repent enough to join God in the heavenly kingdom.  I can imagine that God wants to save all of creation, redeem the world in a vast and generic sense.  What I find hard to believe is that God will actually redeem me.

So I want to stay in Lent a little while longer.  I am not looking forward to Palm Sunday.  I want to stay in Lent where there is some appearance of safety, another chance to examine my ways and maybe, just maybe, repair them; prepare myself for Easter.  I want to shout –no, do not throw palm branches at Jesus’ feet!  Do you know what you’re doing?  NO!  No.  no.  The burden is far too heavy.  Do not throw the branches, do not do this again.  And again.  What have we done?

To accept Palm Sunday means to accept responsibility for killing Jesus, to crucify him again with those things which we have done … or left undone.  I am not prepared to handle such a huge responsibility.  My own faults, in light of accepting responsibility for crucifying Jesus, seem much easier to handle.  In that way, Lent is a safe place.  Stepping beyond Lent takes us into the realm of a faith we cannot see, a place of glory that we fear we do not deserve.

Preparation is our task right now.  We do not stay in Lent forever.  We risk wallowing in sorrow, worshipping our faults when we stay in the desert of Lent too long.  But we must go into our desert places, find that spiritual dryness before we can flood it with God’s grace.  Take this chance to prepare for Palm Sunday and all that follows.  Prepare to walk with Jesus.  Remember that Lenten disciplines, giving something up, taking something on, are about our relationship with God.  Those disciplines are also about freedom.  When we discipline ourselves to spend time in prayer and study, we free ourselves to hear the word of God in our lives.  We prepare ourselves to walk with Jesus – before, during, and beyond his crucifixion.  When we take a few moments of quiet time, we give ourselves the opportunity to have a relationship with God, or to repair what may be broken.  We give God the chance to fill those holes within us, those holes that tell us we are not worthy to talk with God.  We can NEVER do enough or say enough or repent enough to “be worthy” of God.  We are worthy of God because we live.  We are worthy of God because God creates us in God’s image.  We are worthy, and God alone, through the resurrection of His Son, will make us whole.

This week, my beloved, prepare.  Think about the weeks to come.  Think not only about Easter dresses and Easter food, but Easter joy and the walk that is ahead of us in order to share that joy.  Pray.  Create some silence.  Listen.  Pray again.  Find in your heart the courage to accept that Jesus dies for you, not a generic creation or a concept of faith, but for you and for me.  Prepare, beloved, to take this walk with Jesus so that we might find the deep and abiding wholeness of life with him forever.

“God is not going to abandon creation, nor the people up for trial in criminal court, nor the Shiites, nor the communists, or the warmongers, nor the greedy and corrupt people in high places, nor the dope pushers, nor you, nor me. Bitter tears of repentance may be shed before we can join the celebration, but it won’t be complete until we are all there.”

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