Ups and Downs

“Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.” (Isaiah 40:4)

I am mindful of two things this day; it is April Fool’s Day and it is Maundy Thursday. And in households across the nation two things are taking place; playing of April Fool’s jokes and the recognition of the Last Supper and the arrest of Jesus Christ in the garden. The two are matched very well I think.

The Bible says that the world (meaning the secular portion who does not live according to Christian precepts) considers the ways of God foolishness. And so we must be fools to belief in Christ who advocated turning the other cheek, who said to love one’s enemies, who said to give up riches and possessions to follow a man who had no home, who washed the feet of his disciples, and who allowed himself to be put to death on the cross. And if we are such fools, what better day to start our foolishness but on April Fool’s day?

The verses for today continue contrary descriptions; valleys becoming mountains, mountains sinking down, and rough and bumpy places becoming smooth. Much of Christ’s ministry went against the established order. To his own people he was a joke, a man who never settled down to a trade or a family. His origins were suspect – was he Joseph’s son or not? He came from a small town that had nothing to boast of. And he deliberately antagonized temple and civil officials. It was predicted that he would come to a bad end, and he did. Up on the cross, and then down into the ground. And that was it . . . or was it?

I predict on this April Fool’s day we will be fools again, because we believe that Christ lives. That what was thought to be his final down was not the end, but was followed by a triumphant up. May you gentle reader be a fool for Christ, and in the end be shown as very wise indeed. Selah!

Spiritual Kansas

Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain. (Isaiah 40:4)

I have a friend I met in Chicago, although I am from Michigan and she is from Kansas. Michigan is a state where most of the landscape consists of rolling hills: it’s rare to find an especially flat area or where there are steep changes in elevation. A lot of glacial till. But Bev’s area of Kansas was very flat.

What I missed about Michigan in Chicago was the trees (and the sun setting, rather than rising, over Lake Michigan). Our trees give me a sheltering, comforted feeling when they are in full leaf, and I look forward to the new green every year.

What Bev missed was the wind, the particular kind of wind that blows unimpeded by buildings or hills or trees. Chicago is the Windy City, but its wind flows around sharp edges. And Michigan’s breezes rustle the trees, and that has its quiet delight. But Kansas’s wind, I take it, is another thing altogether. I can only think of Dorothy and the tornado, but Bev delighted in the steady, constant wind.

Isaiah wrote that the rough places would become a plain, and John the Baptist picked up that theme: the way would be easy to build a highway to God and from God. And nothing would impede our view: everyone who cares to look would the glory of God revealed; there would be no barriers. (The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.)

And the Spirit’s wind, too, is not hindered. We can stand and be surrounded, and perhaps even (like Dorothy) be swept up in its power and taken to places we did not expect.

May you stand in the Spirit’s steady, constant wind as we commemorate the imprisonment, torture and death of our Lord, and more importantly, his coming back from the dead in power over those forces which tried to keep him dead. May you behold his glory, full of grace and truth.