"April is the cruelest month."
There are probably a dozen reasons to appreciate the startling opening line of Eliot's "The Wasteland," but the most reliable is because it is. From afar, April seems a sweet, young thing, but up close she's fickle as a middle-schooler.
Really. April always promises so much, standing prettily at the far end of January and February, even March now finally so far behind us that the face of a warm sun seems just a day away. April--the word itself feels like sweet deliverance--as in "finally, it's April."
But, at least here on the edge of the plains, were she a goddess, she'd look like Dame Fortune, a two-faced monster, one face Julia Roberts, the other a withered peach stone.
Yesterday, April 5, we got dumped on--six inches of soggy snow, the stuff heart attacks are made of. We were spared, somehow, from the 12 or 14 inches weather casters promised.
April 5. When I looked out the back door, just before a dawn that never came, the picture above is what I saw. Palm Sunday.
But then Palm Sunday also wears a visage not unlike Dame Fortune. All those accolades--people cheering madly at a deliverer on donkey, a thousand madcap hurrahs turning to dead silence in less than a week, the only sound from the partisans, finally, being Peter's hothead cussing.
Yesterday, in church, a sermon on the crucifixion, the single line "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me." Luther spent 72 sleepless hours trying to think that line through, our pastor said, coming up with nothing. What Christ uttered makes a mess of doctrine, turns God somehow against himself, as if the trinity were a triumvirate of angry leaders spoiling for a fight. The only line Mark includes in his retelling of the scene at Golgotha, our pastor said, offers us a dismembered God. What an awful, horrible thought for Palm Sunday: a dismembered God. There's so much we just don't get.
What we know--in fact, all we know fully--of that torturous idea is that however God suffered it, what he went through was itself an act of love. For sinners. For us, the deny-ers, the truly fickle, two-faced souls.
Dismembered for us. Amazing. Amazing grace.
Did I say how pretty it was really?--that storm of ours? Turned so much of the world albaster, turned so much white as snow.