My oldest grand-daughter has been looking forward to church this morning for days.

Out of the blue she announced late last week, “I can’t wait for Palm Sunday.”

I waited hoping an explanation might be forthcoming.

Sure enough a moment later she followed up saying, “I love the parade when we walk around and wave the palms.”

Any celebration is a good celebration. And a celebration with fun lively music and a parade of children is apparently an especially good celebration for a seven-year-old.

The children must have loved the parade into Jerusalem with the popular preacher riding on a donkey and the crowds singing his praises and scattering palm branches along the road. A king is coming. He is a man of the people,  a man worthy of everyone’s praises. This really is something to celebrate. It is such a happy day.

Five days from today, the same grand-daughter who loves the parade of Palm Sunday will share in another parade. On  Good Friday the Taize Crosschildren will carry our large Taize cross into church. If past years are anything to go by, they will carry this cross with all the solemnity and reverence befitting the occasion. They will process this painful cross to the front of the church and place it in its stand where it will remain throughout the service.  Jesus will look down upon us with all the pain and sorrow of this sad day etched upon his face.

By sharing in these two very different observances, my grand-daughter is learning a deep truth. She is learning that there are happy days and there are sad days; but that both days are held by God – the sad days, just as much as the happy days.  By acting out these rituals she is beginning to absorb the lesson that there is something deeper in her being than sad days and happy days. She is touching a reality that is greater and more enduring than the brokenness of this world. She is discovering that she does not depend upon happy days. She can survive the sad days and find life even in the midst of the inevitability of pain, disappointment and sorrow.

I am not sure where else this particular lesson is taught. Most of the world wants to teach my grand-daughter how to fill her life with happy days and minimize the sad days. She will get many lessons encouraging her to find ways to exert her will over life and take control of her circumstances.

But in church, walking this painful journey of Holy Week, she will discover the strength in her that is stronger than any pain or disappointment.

On Easter Sunday my grand-daughter will encounter another cross. This time it will be a bare cross; but it will not remain bare. Along with the rest of the congregation, as she comes forward to receive communion, my grand-daughter will place a flower in this bare cross. By the end of the Easter service this cross will be transformed into a magnificent abundant display of God’s beauty and glory. The cross of death will have become a cross of triumph. The sad day will have become again the happy day.

As John Lennox poetically expresses it, “The universe is a ragged place. There are some good things; there are some very bad things…. The question is, is there enough evidence to trust God in the ragged bits?”

The rhythm of life continues to unfold. Sad to happy, and inevitably at times back to sad again. But, all the while, in the deepest part of our being the triumphant heartbeat of love sustains us for the inevitable changes and struggles that are part of life in this broken and confusing world.

Walking the way of Holy Week, my grand-daughter is learning to live with strength and joy in “the ragged” reality of this universe we inhabit. She is discovering that there is good reason to “trust God in the ragged bits.”

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