If You Want to Start Your Holy Week off Well {A Holy Week: Day 1}
Figuring Out the Cross-Centered Life

3 Bowls & a Crown of Thorns on Holy Week … {A Holy Week: Day 2}

A Holy Experience

{This is part of a series this week on preparing hearts for Easter.

Part 1 of A Holy Week can be found here}

Dad always did that after the meat and potatoes, after the plates were cleared and stacked.

He’d ask for a toothpick.

Him in his plaid flannel shirt and Levi’s, looking for a bit of a tree to right everything again.

That’s what he’d do before he left the table: He’d snap the wood between his fingers.

He’d snap the brittle wood right between his fingers.

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And he’d say that to us women.

To us at the sink when he passed through the kitchen, when he went looking for his work boots again, for his sun-frayed hat and his honest earthy work.

He’d say, “A woman can be a dry and brittle thing, ready to snap.” Then he’d wink and dodge his way out of the kitchen, dishtowel snapping loud in his direction.

I have no idea why it took me twenty years to know it:

The days that are dry and brittle, ready to snap — these days are perfect kindling for a burning bush.

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The days after Psalm Sunday, we eat figs.

Because the day after Palm Sunday, Jesus, hungry for fruit, he sees a fig tree and

He went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only.

And He said to it, “May no fruit every come from you again!”

And the fig tree withered at once” (Matthew 21:18).

The first act after the fall, it’s the first Adam come looking for fig leaves.

The last miracle before being nailed to the Tree, it’s the Second Adam, Jesus, come looking for figs.

Ask Adam: The authentic Christian life has got to be more than leafage.

Faith has to have fruit.

It’s the fig-bearers who live a faith that bears fruit. And it’s the leaf-wearers who just live this front that wears thin.

Ask me.

I can’t even remember the last time we’ve sung that hymn in the pews:

For thou art our salvation, Lord,

our refuge and our great reward;

without thy grace we waste away

like flowers that wither and decay

Forget the fig tree withering.

Whole family trees wither away without a grace that produces fruit.

Without thy grace we waste away.

When the boys eye that plate on the counter, when they ask if they can have more figs, I say yes.

I say yes.

And Christ? He inspects our lives for more than intentions; He intends for intimacy.

He searches the limbs not for leaves — not leaving for conferences or for meetings or for front seats. He looks along the the leaves for the love.

For the seed that swells with the Spirit, the faith that unfurls, the flower that unfolds into fruit. Can belief ever be barren? Doesn’t belief always mean living in the Beloved? Living like the Beloved?

Shalom breaks her fig open and I can see all the seeds, all this possibility.

“They’re so sweet.” She eats her’s slow.

I clear the counter.

What if you’re the one feeling dry and brittle?

What if all you feel like you ever bear is….  frustrated kids and edgy words and a whole string of “grin and bear it days”?

What if you’re the one who feels like you’re withering right up?

I move the plate of figs off the table and it’s there.

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The silhouette of the the Bent Beloved, all tenderness.

Him leaving the withered fig tree to lay down on the worn Tree so all the weary can revive.

And me, this woman too often like Aaron’s rod, dry and brittle, who just has to lay everything about before the Lord —

I lay out a bowl of almonds too.

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Because Aaron’s dry -as-death rod,  that rod budded and blossomed, white almond flowers unfurling this impossible faith by grace.

These brittle, dry days —  they can be kindle for burning bushes and God can come upon the dry bones and they can bud and blossom. And we can eat almonds and taste miraculous fruit from limbs just surrendered.

Though the fig tree doesn’t blossom nor fruit be on the vine, yet I will rejoice– and there is the reviving. He can make the dry bones dance.

After Palm Sunday and before Good Friday, that’s what we eat —  the almonds and the figs and the fruit, because by Grace, God can get a fig out of even this dry stick. Levi sets out the third bowl.

A small dish of toothpicks. Dry,  like dead trees.

“It’s what we’ll do when we repent.” He tells my Mama when she stops in. He shows her, holding up this grapevine wreath, this wood withered and wound.

“These wreaths that we made from the vines back in the wood? Every time we need to repent this Holy Week,” he reaches for the bowl… ” — we’ll slip in one of these sticks.”

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“Yes,” she nods.

“Yes, exactly.”

I’m fingering the sharp edge of one brittle point.

And I go first.

I slip in a toothpick thorn, repenting of fruit that isn’t and believing in Him who is, and it’s there in these hands, this snapped, withered wood that will bear the impossible life and right everything again.

This hope encircling like a crown…

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Three Bowls & a Crown of Thorns : 

A Holy Week Activity

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Three Bowls & a Crown of Thorns : 

Items Needed:

1. Figs in a bowl
2. Almonds in a bowl
3. Toothpicks, tea or coffee stained in a bowl
4. a grapevine wreath, crowned-sized

Set the Three Bowls (figs, almonds, toothpicks) & a Crown of Thorns on a table during Holy Week.

1. Read of Jesus’ last miracle before His death: The Withering of the Fig Tree.

Share how Christ is looking for fruit in our lives of faith. And the first fruit is to believe that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, that without Him, there is no fruit. Have a time of personal and family reflection: What are the fruits of the Spirit? How does my life bear each of the fruits of the Spirit?

2. Read the story of Aaron’s dry as death rod budding and blossoming and bearing fruit.

Give glory to God for doing miraculous work in your life, to bear unlikely faith, by His grace alone! Share God-glorifying stories of unexpected fruit!

3. Leave out the bowl of figs and almonds to eat throughout Holy Week

A literal reminder of what Christ seeks and how He surprisingly saves.

4. Set out the bowl of thorns {toothpicks stained} and the Thorn

Throughout Holy Week, as issues arise that beg repenting, slip a toothpick thorn into the grapevine wreath — and thank Him for His painful grace that He offers to bear fruit in our lives…

Without thy grace, we waste and wither away.

 

Related: This is part of a series preparing hearts for Easter. Part 1 of  A Holy Week can be found here

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