I crouched to try to capture it. The simple profundity of leaves, strung up, waving, up, up on a strong spring breeze towards a blue sky.
We went on our own treasure hunt to look for the leaves and our search yielded squeals of excitement as we found more and more, an abundance of shapes and colours and sizes. There was sheer glory in the diversity of them. We had read the story: humble, healing Jesus riding into town, all the hearts that leapt at the sight of him, voices raised and palm leaves waving: a collective act of praise and worship. Our party bags loaded with leaves, and the careful tying of the coloured threads, were our own small acts of delight and praise. “Hosanna'” the children sung, and I watched their smiles as I thought again of how much metaphor can be found in nature.
Another day, and we sat under a cacophony of birdsong; picnic blanket on the ground; a centre piece of small sandwiches shaped like hearts and “rolly pollies”; a collection of soft toys with their little plates and orange squash poured from a miniature teapot. It was perhaps a contrast from the dinner in the story with its sombre revelations as bread was broken and wine poured out. Yet there was a communion in our little meal too: a love and tenderness, a simple sharing, a connection with the picture in the children’s Bible.
Later that evening, I stood in our room and looked out of the window at a huge, shining moon. A quiet moment in the human heart can hold so much: tenderness, love, loss, memory, hope, sorrow and joy. More metaphor! That big, bright moon: so strong, reflecting the warm light of the sun in spite of all its own dust and dark places, in spite of the night around it. I thought of Jesus in the garden, praying through the night, sorrow, passion and pain pouring out in the dark, cool garden. God made so very human. Human made so very divine.
The next day the children made their habitual climb of a farm gate on our daily walk and we looked out towards the hill we have climbed a few times now. The children remember this fact with great pride and wonder. I remember one of the climbs particularly vividly. A school trip for our son, a night walk, which we naively brought his younger sister along to. At first I felt this decision a great success, as she marvelled at the twinkling lights of the town below and pointed up to the stars. Soon, though, it grew darker, colder and steeper and her little legs became tired and her body shivery. I carried her until we were nearly at the top, anxiously holding her close, worried about the temperature, but unsure what to do. I decided to turn back alone with her, with just my phone torch, and quickly regretted the decision as the bright crowd of lights going onwards faded further from me and my own seemed increasingly dim. Up there on the hill in darkness and wind, I felt very lonely. I was terrified for our daughter, but it was for her that I also kept going, for the thought of bringing her safely home into light and warmth.
Jesus on his uphill climb and descent into darkness was doing that very thing for each one of us. He didn’t just carry a wooden cross up that hill; He carried the weight of the world. He stepped on into the lonely darkness, carrying us, close to his heart, with that singular thought of bringing each of us cherished children home, into the light.
Easter is a time for reflecting on our humanity, I think, and on our place in the world, and on what we believe about Jesus. This Easter was a special one for me. I didn’t go to church this year, not on Easter Sunday, not in the conventional sense of the word anyway. But this Easter time, church was my garden, my room and the farm gate. Where can you find Him in the tenderness of the day-to-day?
1 Kings 19: 11-13
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”