Tuesday, February 08, 2005

When I Saw Them Last

Read Psalm 42

When I last saw them, they were fresh and green, alive in the hands of the children as they paraded down the center aisle of the church, reminding us of that grand celebration which welcomed Jesus into the Holy City. The palm branches were visible reminders of that brief moment of joyous hope in the journey of Jesus and his friends, before every dream turned to ashes.

Now, almost a year later, I find them on the top of the shelf in the chancel closet in the back of the sanctuary. They have lain there all these months, forgotten, drying out, curling at the edges, turning brittle to the touch. The palm branches are visible reminders of the days and months which have passed since that happy parade, days filled with celebration and joy, certainly, but also days of arid faith, days of being forgotten by our friends, days of once vibrant lives turning brittle.

Perhaps that is why the words of the psalmist resonate so much with us. We know what it is like to thirst for God. Our lives are so parched by living in the desert of loneliness and grief, our throats and lips cannot speak God's name. We are so starved for relationships with people who would cherish and care for us, we turn to God for assurance that we will find such a family. We place our trust in leaders and institutions which only disappoint us, that our only hope is found in God.

So, as I burn those branches today, in preparation of our Ash Wednesday service, I will try to remember. I will try to remember when God wiped up my tears and used them in the waters of baptism. I will try to remember the songs God sang to me in the dark nights of the soul. I will try to remember how God has healed all the wounds of my heart which threatened to destroy me.

And I will hope in God.

Prayer: We have come full cirlce, God of every moment, and once again prepare ourselves for that journey when Jesus models for us faithful obedience. Help us to remember that his hope was all in you, and you did not desert him, disappoint him, or forget him. Be with us in our journey, that we might become as hopeful and faithful as our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

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