E-Letter 161

Posted by on Mar 27, 2014 in Devotions | 0 comments

I watched the pack of shirtless runners glide by the crumpled purple cloths wrapped around some scrub pines lining the freeway. All eyes of this sweaty fraternity of high school track athletes looked straight ahead, focused on the path of their practice run.  No one so much as gave the purple cloths a glannce, nor, for that matter, the compact hedge of purple violets lining the street like a rundown strip mall.

I angled my car into the church parking lot, jumped out, and crossed the busy street to retrieve the cloths.  A blustery morning wind had swept the cloths from the display of three rough-hewn crosses dominating the front lawn of this megachurch and carried them aloft in a game of freeze tag with dozens of school buses filled with dozing teenagers too disinterested to notice. I gently untangled the mud-spattered purple cloths swaddling the scrub pines and carried them up the stone steps of the church, admiring the sea of faces of upturned purple pansies spilling out from concrete planters artfully placed on every other step. The pastor- young, vivacious, and smelling faintly of a woodsy-scented cologne – greeted me at the door.  “Oh! I was just on my way out to get those cloths!” he said.  “I gotta put ‘em up for the time being, and I wanted to do it before the kids came for the afterschool program. The maintenance guys put the crosses right  in the middle of the kids’ playing field.  Can you imagine?  Do you know how hard it is to play soccer around those crosses?”  I confessed that I did not. “Besides, we’ve got a big, big wedding here on Saturday and the couple wants to take outdoor photographs so they asked me to take down the purple cloths and replace them with white ones,” he continued.  “Why?” I asked. “Purple is the color of Lent.” “Yeah, but they want to remember their wedding as a joyous day, and sometimes you just gotta give folks what they want,” he replied as he took the cloths cradled in my arms and thanked me.

I think about the pressures of this dedicated pastor as I pass the fields surrounding the Mennonite church and notice, for the first time, the purple henwert struggling to hold back the yellow horde of wild mustard plants threatening to overtake the fields. It is so difficult to stay grounded in the realities of the Lenten season when creation itself invites us to open our eyes to the dazzling newness all around us! I ponder this truth as I imagine the man born blind in this week’s lectionary, John 9:1-41.  Jesus swabs spittle-filled mud on a beggar’s eyes and opens them, although the man does not ask to be healed. The beggar’s neighbors, astonished at first, soon cower in fear as the raging, purple-faced Pharisees fill the air with invectives and threats. This miracle, this gift of dazzling newness, brings with it unexpected realities for a beggar and his family.  “Thrown under the bus” by his parents, rejected by his neighbors, and exiled from his community, the man born blind is astonished, according to the evangelist John.  His eyes now open to a light-filled new life promised by Jesus, he focuses on Jesus’ back as the Son of Man continues walking the danger-pocked path to Jerusalem.  I wonder…as Jesus disappears into the horizon, do tears fill the man’s eyes as he surveys, for the first time, the purple fields surrounding him?