Our priest stands up inside the church to make an announcement on an uncharacteristically cold Palm Sunday: “Joining the Palm Sunday procession outside, when it’s snowing, carries much the same expectation within the Episcopal tradition as participating in confession: none must, all are welcome, and at least some probably should.”
We all laugh. It’s the end of March, and snow this time of year is unusual for Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but today the low, gray clouds send flurries whipping through the city. About half of us stand and follow the rector outside, lining up among the gravestones in the churchyard. My oldest two children are the torchbearers for the service; their hands are freezing. Father David reads the liturgy for the morning, his voice loud and clear as the snow falls. We raise our palm fronds in the air, shivering.
The seasons seem out of sync this year. A friend’s young child, on seeing the snow, asked if we were getting close to Christmas. It doesn’t feel like Easter is only a week away. And it’s not just the seasons that feel out of sync. I feel out of sorts too, stumbling along, new to this thing called “early forties, wondering if a slowdown in work means I should explore other employment opportunities or simply settle in for another season of learning how to trust. My oldest two children will enter public high school in the fall while our middle two go to the local elementary school—all of this after my wife has homeschooled for the last nine years.
Nothing feels easy right now. Nothing is seamless. I have a thirteen-year-old who looks eighteen and an eight-year-old who is singlehandedly responsible for all the white hair in my beard. Our babies are still getting up in the night.
Do the seasons ever align with my expectations? Will things ever become “easy”?
I wonder if this is how the disciples felt during Easter week—when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem being heralded as a new king; days later, being put on trial and executed; mere days after that, leaving behind an empty tomb.
What a strange season. How could any of them have felt certain about anything? How could any of them know what to expect?
There are promises that this present season of frozen hope and seemingly fruitless trust will come to an end.
We are coming around the side of the church on our way back inside, looking forward to the warmth, when my son’s Sunday school teacher taps him on the shoulder. “Look,” she says, pointing and smiling.
We all look toward the snowdrifts, still standing from the storm that swept through earlier in the week. There, between two small mounds of white, grows a daffodil. There are signs of spring, even in the midst of the winter. There are promises that this present season of frozen hope and seemingly fruitless trust will come to an end. Unseen seeds are germinating. Invisible sap is flowing. Bulging buds are growing heavy and weighing down the branches. There are splashes of yellow and green in the midst of the white.
For today, for me, this is enough.