Today, we must burn the palm fronds. The fronds we waved last Palm Sunday, that nasty, brutish day. Our Lent begins in winter. It is cold. Bitterly cold here in the American Northeast. Today, we prepare the ashes for tomorrow. We prepare ourselves for our season. We will feel a fleeting warmth as we watch the long sharp leaves glow and curl. And then it will be cold and dark again. Let us begin this season with a flame spent and extinguished.
Does it seem that Lent comes easier this year? The world seems to be a sadder place, indeed. But it doesn’t take much to see these kinds of stories surrounding us all of the time. Maybe we’re finally being shaken out of our comfort zones because we can’t keep ourselves in our neat and tidy lives so well.
In the United States, on the international front, we watch ISIS commit atrocities we thought we’d only see on HBO. In our own country, we march, shouting #blacklivesmatter and #icantbreathe, but what has really changed other than awareness? And the weather becomes harsher. And now men full of rancid rage are executing Muslims in North Carolina and setting alight a Houston mosque. And we mourn and we lament.
We’ve been preparing for Lent since Advent. Christmas and Epiphany serve more as resting points, this year, than triumphalist celebrations. Because Christmas and Epiphany come and go and the killing and suffering continue. Does it seem that everything hurts? But we must not glorify that hurt, turn suffering into a badge of honor. Twenty-one beheaded Copts in Libya. Three executed Muslims in Chapel Hill. We mourn. We scrape for meaning.
At the Transfiguration, when Jesus prepares for the final acts of the show, Glow Cloud God bursts on the scene and says “This is my son. Listen to him.” And while our retina burns are beginning to fade, from a light spent and extinguished, we must remain alert. We must pay attention. Our world is hurting. We are hurting. We must remain aware. We must remain aware of our selves, our actions. As Jesus prepared for this, we must prepare for this. We must listen. We must act. We must go under.
Burn the fronds. Pour oil on ash. Prepare the heart. Raise the hands.
Dusk is coming.