The Lentiest–A Meditation for Palm Sunday 2020

This is the lentiest Lent that I ever lented.

Today is Palm Sunday — the paradoxical day when we cry out in joy “Hosanna” but also cringe at the cross looming on Friday. It is the last Sunday of Lent, but also the beginning of Easter week.

Ash Wednesday seems like a whole other universe, that cold winter’s night when we gathered and spoke of our own mortality — ‘From ashes you came, to ashes you shall return’ and promised to follow Jesus on the lonely path of prayer and devotion. We started our fast by faith, not knowing where it would lead us.

There is nothing quite like a global pandemic to get your attention on the issues of mortality. People’s lives are in jeopardy. Medical supplies are running out. The world is shut down. People are afraid. This new reality focuses our prayers. We started praying for Wuhan. Then we prayed for Italy. Then Spain. Some of us prayed for Iran because the news looked like they got hit harder than admitted. Then we prayed for Washington State — that hit close to home. Now we pray for New York, where doctors, nurses, and all hospital personnel put their own lives at risk everyday to save others. And bodies are being stored in cooling trucks because there is no room in the morgue.

We are driven to ours knees in prayer for our communities for the virus to pass without fatalities, and that it passover us.

From ashes we came. To ashes we return.

Lentish in the extreme.

The question of Lent is how do we fill our lives with meaning between the ashes.

The quest of Lent is to live a life dedicated to God in such a way that makes the world better. This is what we will be judged on in eternity. This is the call of Lent — to draw closer to God in Christ because the world we live in, though important, is not the place where we find ultimate meaning. We are passing through. Our citizenship is elsewhere. Nevertheless, it is here in this place where we learn the secrets to the next: the fulfillment of sacrifice, the work of love, the joy of service, the power of truth, and meaning of hope.

Lent calls us to fast — depriving our body and our minds of normal, everyday comforts so we can focus upon Christ. This fasting is not a punishment but a process for controlling our appetites with discipline. Normally we do this by depriving our body of sugar, chocolate, bread, entertainment or something banal. This year, the fasting was abrupt and involuntary; fasting was hoisted upon faithful and faithless alike.

We were deprived of our social interactions and forced to face ourselves and our families. Do you think the Lord might be teaching us something spiritual here?

We were deprived of basic material goods we take for granted. No longer were people clamoring for the latest gadget but the most important thing on people’s minds was toilet paper. Is it possible there is something spiritual the Lord is teaching us?

Milk, rationed; the meat aisle was depleted. There is no flour on the baking aisle, either. So very lenty.

I don’t mean to be too over-the-top, but you’ll pardon me for thinking the Lord said to all of us, ‘Yeah, you could do without for a little while.’

The lentiest Lent that I ever lented.

The Lenten/Easter cycle is always in parallel with the Exodus/Passover narratives both theologically and temporarily, as they fall about the same time. Anyone who ever doubted God could bring the powerful Egyptian Empire to its knees by controlling the water, the livestock and the weather should observe how the world has buckled. I am not saying God brought about COVID-19 as a plague. I am saying life teaches lessons about reality.

Lent is about the power of God and spiritual strength. Though these times are hard, and this Lenten season is unique and will forever in our lives be remembered as the year without Easter, perhaps it will be the most significant and spiritually meaningful Easter. The reason is simple. Lent is that wonderful annual remembrance to prioritize what matters and to cut away those things which do not.

The lentiest Lent I ever lented will produce the easteriest Easter I ever eastered. Amen.

Predictions for 2020

Each New Year I engage in a futile effort to predict things for the coming year. I am averaging about 30% correct, which I take as pretty good. Last year’s predictions were a little off, especially my financial predictions, but I was correct in the general feel of the predictions — trade uncertainty, volatility in the markets, and Brexit being a major destabilizing factor.

So, what do I think 2020 has in store . . .


10. I am betting the field against Joe Biden. I do not think he will get the nomination for the Democratic Party. Neither will Bernie Sanders.

9. The Seahawks and Forty-Niners will meet again in the playoffs, and the Seahawks will win 35 to 21, Russell Wilson will throw four touchdown passes.

8. Tom Hanks will win best actor for his portrayal of Mr. Rogers.

7. The sugar-stick policy by the Fed of lowering interest rates will have to end eventually, and it will be this year. The result will be a reality-check in the markets and something that looks like, but not as severe as, the 2008 recession will occur. I suspect it will involve tech companies.

6. The political polarization in the nation will manifest itself in an electoral college tie in November.

5. Netflix will be bought or merged. I can really only see two possible candidates to buy it: Apple or AT&T. The Trump DOJ will fight AT&T and could stop it because they hate AT&T, so that might keep them out. Apple is flush with cash and just looking for a place to spend it. Plus, Apple TV has been and always will be a dud, so they will use buy one.

4. The Houston Astros will again win the American League pennant, and will again lose to a National League team and it feels like it is time for The San Francisco Giants to rise again.

3. The Senate will cast sixty-one votes to impeach President Trump, which is not enough to remove him from office but will expose a growing divide in the Republican Party.

2. Under growing pressure from a disaffected public, Iran will either collapse or it will create a diversion by turning the quiet war with Saudi Arabia into open warfare killing thousands, if not millions.

1. Julian Castro will be the Vice Presidential nominee for whoever wins the nomination. For a while I was thinking it would Kamala Harris, but I’ve got even money the nominee is Elizabeth Warren, and if the Dems go centrist, their candidate is Klobuchar (if she can stay in long enough). A woman at the top will seek to pick a man, and Castro is more feisty than Booker or Beto.