I didn’t know until recently there are differences between a Christmas Cactus and an Easter Cactus. As one might guess, the Christmas Cactus tends to bloom around November/December, while the Easter Cactus blooms around April. My two year old Christmas Cactus, though, is just plain confused! The first buds showed early in December, and my plant has been blooming ever since. As we approach Easter Sunday, there is one viable bud left on my Christmas Cactus. I’ve been wondering what is going to happen. Will the bud bloom before, on, or after Easter? Maybe the bud will just dry up and fall off. I see a story in any of these scenarios! It really struck me that as we entered Holy Week some of the tips of the cactus have turned from green to red. Maybe this is really an Easter Cactus!
It is different being a District Superintendent during “High Holy Times”. Instead of being a planner and leader for the services, I get to be an observer. On the Saturday before Palm Sunday I wasn’t sure where God was going to lead me to church. I spent some time in prayer looking for an answer, and God directed me to the UMC of Green Valley. When I arrived, I was pleased to find they were having their Choir Cantata. Their cantata was called “Followers of the Lamb: A Cantata for Holy Week”. I appreciate that this was a Passion cantata. Sometimes churches are tempted to use an Easter Cantata on Passion/Palm Sunday. It is too soon to sing “He is Risen”! Some of the last words of this cantata say: “In the shadow of Golgotha, underneath a darkened sky, Mary gently cradles Jesus. Through her tears she says goodbye”. I felt a tear in my eye as I heard these words sung.
Holy Week is a dark time for me. I spend the week thinking about Jesus, his family, his disciples, and all of his followers. We know that Easter is coming, but those who witnessed Jesus on the cross didn’t understand this. The grief that must have washed over them as they heard Jesus say, “It is finished” (John 19:30), then he died. Where was hope at that moment?
Christians have come to identify hope with a cross and a tomb—both of which were empty. To us humans, death has always tried to appear as the greatest enemy. The cross and tomb are places of death, magnified when viewed from the darkness. Who would have ever thought that millions of Christians would wear crosses as a sign of God’s hope, and as a reminder of what it means to be a Christian? I’m holding my cross in my hand as I write this article.
On the evening of Passion/Palm Sunday I was in Phoenix when I received the call that one hundred and twenty of our immigrant brothers and sisters (including children) were dropped off by ICE at the Tucson bus station to fend for themselves. Our Christian family stepped up in a big way to provide shelter and nourishment for these brothers and sisters! I’m also so proud of the City of Tucson. How many other cities would dispatch their police armed with teddy bears, and rent buses to help provide much needed transportation to shelters? Of all the people responding to this need, and those who were the beneficiaries of this love, I wonder how many were wearing (or had on them) a cross?
The hope that rose with Christ, is the hope that we claim as Christians. The cross might be a symbol of this hope, but it’s through our thoughts, words, and actions we get to be a witness for this hope. God provides the opportunities, and we get to decide if we are going to respond.
Your brother on this Holy Week journey, Mark