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Ash and Oil: April 3

At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? … With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  (Mark 15: 33,34)

…just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb…as they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here...”  (Mark 16: 2-6)

Jesus’ journey through the last week of his earthly ministry ended with a lonely, agonizing death on a bleak and lifeless hill outside Jerusalem. But the paradox is this: it is from this bleak and lifeless place that all creation – including you and me – has Life again. Without the dark cold place of the skull there is no early morning resurrection to new Life.

Creation tells the same story.

High above the streams and meadows full of life in Wyoming’s Wind River range, there are the glaciers -- year-round ice and snow fields surrounded by barren scree and rock falls, in the shadows of the high peaks that thrust so high into the atmosphere that weather is born around them.

A few years ago on a backpacking trip with a few friends, I trekked up to one of these places. Exposed on a barren and icy plain, I could find nothing resembling life; only rock, ice, snow, and bitter cold. There was no sound but wind, and when the wind died, there was such a deep silence that you could almost hear the mountain’s presence.

But as we began our walk down, there was another sound. Trickles of water coming from wherever the sun warmed the ice enough to change its state. The trickles came together in rivulets, the rivulets into streams, the streams into cataracts looping over the rocks into mountain pools. Overflowing those pools, the water rushed down the mountain and into the high valleys where beavers created ponds and lakes for fish and frogs to thrive and moose to drink from.

Without the high mountain snowfields and glaciers--the rocky, bleak, and lifeless places in creation--there would be no bursting forth of life in the valleys and plains.

Because of Jesus’ journey to a bleak and lonely death on a rocky hill outside Jerusalem, there is new Life for us and for the world. We have a source for the courage to care for others, ourselves, and the earth. Because of Jesus’ journey, we are--and live in--a renewed creation.

Pray: Creator God, you so loved the world that you gave your only Son over to a bleak and lonely death so that Life might come again. We thank you and wait for resurrection! Give us eyes to see the connections among all you have created –- the barren and bleak as well as the fruitful and thriving.

Take the Next Step: Though this is our final Lenten reflection, our “next steps” need not – and should not –  end. Let’s keep taking steps – one foot in front of the other – towards renewal and new life. Some steps are easier, like recycling more and flipping off the light switches. Other steps are much harder, like confronting large-scale systems that are contributing to rapid environmental degradation. But together, and with God’s help, we can walk towards restoration.

[Image: Flickr user slack12]

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