This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday. That’s a special day around our house. It is the day back in 1983, that I sat in a little old church in a worn wooden pew and my heart was broken. It happened during the reading of the Passion Narrative, at the point when Jesus ascends the hill called Golgotha to die a truly awful death. On that day in 1983 the deacon reading that painful narrative stopped … took a breath … and began to weep. In the middle of the reading. In front of God and everybody. And as he wept, I wept. I wept so hard and so long that the ushers cleaned up after the service, then came and asked that when I was done, would I turn off the lights and close the door behind me.
Palm Sunday is when I came home to Jesus. I’d been gone about ten years, wandering in the world, getting dirty. At first it was fun. Then it was empty and futile. Then it was painful. Really painful. I’d loved the Lord since I was a young child, so to be away from the Lover of my soul … well, it was an empty, futile and painful existence. That Palm Sunday in 1983 the Prodigal Daughter came up over the hill and saw her Heavenly Father running toward her with a warm and healing embrace.
But that return was precipitated by seeing my Savior on that hard Roman cross on a hill called Golgotha, suffering and dying for my sins. There is something really powerful about that kind of encounter. It changed my life.
And so I sit in the final days of Lent and review my life once again — getting ready for my Palm Sunday anniversary. I have spent this Lent asking the Lord to examine my heart and “see if there be any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:24). And there have been wicked ways in me. The Lord has spotlighted places in my heart that are still, still, still … sinful.
For me, Lent has been like Luminol used by forensic investigators to detect trace amounts of blood left at crime scenes. Lent has shown me my guilt.
I will go into this Palm Sunday knowing that I’m not done yet — there are still, still, still … sinful ways in me. Yet the Luminol of Lent has taken me once again to that hill called Golgotha. As I stand and gaze upon my Kind Savior, I will remember that my guilt, my shame, my sins have been taken to the cross. He has borne it all for me. His blood has washed me white as snow.
“Near the Cross” by Fanny Jane Crosby and William Howard Doane
Jesus, keep me near the cross –
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.
In the cross, in the cross
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.