Our incredibly mild winter has forced all the spring flowers into blooming at least a couple of weeks early. Additionally, some things that die in a normal winter here have survived. Checking on my spring seedlings, I was delighted to find that most of the leeks I neglected to harvest in the fall were still alive. It’s lovely when you find something that you’d expected to fade is still alive and fresh.
On Palm/Passion Sunday (April 1), grownups will smile at children parading with branches down the aisles of the church. We will sing songs of joy and of suffering and we will go home with memories of an ancient story that forms our faith.
Mark’s gospel indicates that the witnesses of the first “Palm Sunday” parade shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” [from Mark 11]
That shout in the middle seems a bit odd to me: “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!” New and old coexist in the same exclamation. The people that day, like the church people of our day, went home with memories of an ancient story (that of King David) that formed their faith, and also with hope for an altered present.
The challenge and the promise of a life of faith is to carry forward the old stories and practices into a modern world. The challenge is that they not become stale and meaningless, frozen in time, nor that they lose their message in some new adaptation that doesn’t honor the original spirit. The promise is that we might be able to meet the essence of the old story and to realize that it still lives in new ways.
When the people longed for a new kingdom of their ancestor, they didn’t expect David to return in the flesh. And most of them probably didn’t imagine that a new kingdom could ever be exactly like the old. They hoped it would incorporate all the good things they’d heard about and would bring an end to the oppressive rule of Rome.
When we retell our old stories of palm and cross and tomb, when we reenact scenes from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we hope they’ll take on new meaning for our age. We want them to inspire us to live the way Jesus lived, connected to people and to God. We expect them to speak to modern suffering and injustice. We long to hear in them the possibility of newness and hope. We listen to them again, with both ancient and contemporary ears.
It’s lovely when you find something that you’d expected to fade is still alive and fresh.
Last year’s leeks become this week’s Vichyssoise.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2012