Saturday, April 15, 2006

Roses and Thorns

angels with roses, originally uploaded by mincaye.

(Photo taken by Yi Jing at the SBU-MBS Easter Rally at the Cheras Gospel Centre. This is the same rose that appeared in my last post yesterday.)

As I read the April 14 reading in the Nails and Thorns Lent devotions this morning, its title, 'On Trials,' struck a chord within me. Scripture was taken from John 18 and 19. Some excerpts:

The life journey of the one who truly desires to follow Christ is one that is commonly characterised by trials and suffering... The important thing, in the face of these trials, is to remember... [our] God suffered.

Philip Yancey quoted Edward Shillito in The Jesus I Never Knew:

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds but Thou alone.

The journey to the Pandan Jaya LRT station post-rally was undertaken in the rain. And while in the Jeep on the way out of Menara Dion yesterday, it was raining outside, and Mariah Carey's 'Through the Rain' was on the radio:

I can make it through the rain
I can stand up once again
On my own and I know
That I'm strong enough to mend
And every time I feel afraid
I hold tighter to my faith
And I live one more day
And I make it through the rain

As I thought about the rain, I pictured the crucifixion of Jesus. The Bible tells us that the sky became dark at about noon, and if it rained, I think there's a sense of poetic justice in the scene: how God completes the act of redemption by shedding tears of love and life on a dead and hardened earth.

Yet, on a deeper level, it did rain. Perhaps it is not too far-fetched to imagine that the God who healed with saliva and soil, could breathe new life into his creation with his dying breath, and rain down healing with his dying blood.

Jurgen Moltmann once said, "God weeps with us so that we may one day laugh with him." And for all our trials, it is comforting to know that even God was not beyond tears.

Rain means something to me. Many a time have I mentioned the storm on May 27, 2004 (the night I met up with Sivin at BLC, and then the debaters for dinner at BSC), and storms would never be the same again.

Yet this Easter, I cannot think of any great change or revival in my life. In fact, the opposite seems to be happening. Worries about studies and my responsibilities in school are boiling over, while I struggle with the philosopher/photographer within.

Here's a question: should a Christian teenager hide his/her faith from his/her parents? We're not talking about going to church here. Let's say the teen meets up with some Christian friends, and is later questioned by the parents. Is lying ever justifiable?

A long time ago, these words were featured in an advertisement on TV:

"You may complain because roses have thorns,
Or you may rejoice because thorns have roses."

To me, roses are a powerful symbol of redemption. Consider God's curse upon humanity in Genesis 1:17-18:

Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.

We could say that Jesus Christ, the second Adam, brought roses out of the thorns of this world. Even the colour bears a deep symbolism for me. Green leaves and thorns represent the natural order of things; but the blood of the Lamb is the crimson flower of a supernatural force of grace.

A rather mixed up Holy Week. Mostly words, few sentences. Random thoughts distilled into the following:

Torn curtain
Dying God

And maybe more, now and then.

A final word about the picture's title: 'Angels' was actually suggested by our white uniforms, although Li-Shia could very much be an angel (at least much more than me)!

But also, it has a certain ring to it. 'Angels and roses,' while bearing a distinctly heavenly timbre, will always remind me of the grace of God ministering in the midst of earthly suffering, holding out a stubborn hope in the darkest of nights.

It is a light that, though flickering, will never be snuffed out.

Peace be with you this Easter season. Amen.

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