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The desert wind is blowing lightly through the palm tree fronds this Sunday, Palm Sunday by the western churches calendar. The weather carried on the wind is sunny and increasingly warm. Two thousand years ago, on the first Palm Sunday, the fickle crowd swayed in favor of a promised prince of peace, a ruler to set things right. Within the week, the wind shifted again, bringing darkness to match men’s hearts and death to set things right.
Years ago, I caught a moment with a rainbow set in a dark sky over the palm trees planted in an Arizona desert city. I thought of it the evening before Palm Sunday and dug it out of the archives. The rainbow calls to mind Noah and the Great Flood, when the Sovereign of the universe was so offended that he used water to wash away almost all of life on Earth. Yet, He chose one righteous man and his extended family, along with a population of birds and beasts, to weather the cataclysm. No sooner had the flood waters receded and the ark emptied, with Noah leading sacrificial thanks, then the Lord said:
I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
–Genesis 8:21-22 KJV
The Creator, with full rights to unmake what He makes, chose to bind Himself both with rebellious humanity and with the rest of the creatures:
I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
–Genesis 9:13-15 KJV
So, fresh green palm fronds swaying in the warm desert breeze recall desert rains and rainbows set against stormy skies, carrying a promise of forebearance, of mercy, until the day this Earth must be end. As I finish writing these words in my favorite coffee shop, the owner is walking around handing out hot cross buns, another sign of the Creator’s solution to satisfying both mercy and justice when “man’s heart is evil from his youth.”