CROSS WALK. Lent tracks with Jesus as he sets out resolutely for Jerusalem and the cross. But even after he began to walk and talk disturbingly about his and his followers' crosses, everywhere he went life broke through. The way to the cross is filled with paradox--hope intersects despair, understanding intersects confusion, promise intersects pain, life intersects death. It would be a mistake to walk through Lent--or any other season of life--with a somber heaviness, as if on a death march.
TWISTED IMAGERY. How does one march to death? Marching, after all, is imagery robust with triumph and pageantry; with music of the band and prancing of the horses and regimented rows of rhythm-stepping soldiers. Most often a march celebrates a victory, graces a holiday, or highlights heroic efforts.
ANOTHER'S AGONY. But not a few marches truly have the stench of death. One group's triumph is another's agony. Our family lived for a few years in Oklahoma where Native Americans were marched from their homelands in what is now called the Trail of Tears. I ponder 65-year-old photos of French spectators weeping despairingly as Nazi tanks and troops rolled into a Paris pounded into submission. History is full of prisoner-of-war and ethnic-purging marches that served to grind oppressed people into oblivion.
BREATHTAKING JOURNEY. But Jesus' march toward Jerusalem was neither morbid nor despairing. Though one of his disciples resignedly said "Let us also go with him that we may die with him," they misunderstood both the spirit in which Jesus journeyed and the redemptive mission he resolved to fulfill. His trek was no denial of life; nor is ours. The journey will be as breathtaking as heart-rending, as life-giving as disturbing. It is important for us to grapple with the specter of the cross in light of the hope and life and grace that loom larger on the horizon.
IN CHRIST'S TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION. The Apostle Paul writes in terms of a marching procession: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).