Continuing WordPress’ uncanny timing of photo challenges with the Christian Church calendar, this week’s theme is “Future-Tense“. In essence, they’re wanting pictures that anticipate something to come; something that’s being waited for; some future thing who’s presence is felt in the picture, even in its absence.
This is most appropriate today, as it’s Palm Sunday of 2013.
It takes some real significance for an event from the Bible to find itself as a major Church Holiday. Considering that, it can be odd that Palm Sunday is one of these: there’s nothing really unprecedented or special about it in and of itself.
There are other places in the gospels where Jesus is proclaimed king, proclaimed Messiah, prophecies are fulfilled, large groups believe in him, and even several times he enters Jerusalem. So what’s so special about this moment?
The reason why we celebrate today at all has nothing to do with the day itself, but because of the events it ushered. It’s significance is based solely on the significance of another; significance that was accomplished elsewhere in time and space and was transferred to this day.
I think you see where I’m going with this.
The same is true of us. Our own celebration and joy is ultimately tied to Another. Our own purpose and beauty is only most fully realized in how events accomplished on our behalf bear upon our lives now. The more our lives are tied to the cross and resurrection–flow from it and lead to it–the more those events actually flood into our lives, imbuing them with all they are.
But this goes so much farther and deeper than these beautiful truths!
The benefits of the cross and resurrection are given not only to humanity, but to Creation itself. The rhythms of Palm Sunday and Holy Week are embedded into the world around us. And that’s why I love the picture above.
One of the reasons why I love Lent and Easter is because, more than any other Church season, they mirror the natural world so well. (How does it make sense to joyfully celebrate the coming of our Lord in the darkest and coldest time of the year?)
As we move through Lent, all around is death in the natural world. You can almost feel the groaning of the trees and the day time, longing to be freed from the darkness into which it’s been imprisoned the past couple of months. It’s cold, windy, and the last gasps of winter are being unleashed on the earth.
And yet, in the week or two before Easter, there’s daylight savings time, and there’s suddenly more light. Spring officially begins, and trees and flowers suddenly start to bloom once more.
This the context in which I took the picture above. Last year, during the end of Lent, I was walking to work one morning, pulling up the collar of my jacket, trying to fight the biting wind on an overcast, frustratingly-cold day. As I passed a small Episcopal church on my walk, my thoughts on the cold and dreariness were broken by a group of petals swirling in the wind at my feet.
Their bright pink color was such a contrast to my heart in that moment. I looked up to see where they were from and saw this tree, exploding with color against the gray sky. And gracefully framed within its branches was a quiet reminder of the Easter season to come: the Cross.
This was a picture of the future flooding into the present; a future secured objectively by the past.
A while back, I posted a quote by St. Clement talking about how the rhythms of Nature show us the Resurrection. This showed how there is a general motif of death and resurrection to life, but what I’m saying here is that these rhythms are not simply symbols of something to come, but are the actual groanings and longings of a Creation that participates in Lent and Easter with us.
And one day, it will participate Resurrection as well.
And so, as we move into these final days of Lent–this Holy Week kicked off by Palm Sunday–let us see ourselves as part of a greater whole–a whole that is much bigger than our own sins and weaknesses on which we focus this season. Let us see the world around us, and within us, and see the quiet “future-tense” carved into our souls’ desires and our bodies’ home.
And then, come Easter, let’s burst into the flowering joy of our souls.
[See my past Weekly Photo Challenges & Sermons here.]
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2 thoughts on “Palm Sunday: Future-Tense [photo sermon]”
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