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As I recall the Genesis story of Cain and Abel (4: 1–16), I’m not as shocked by our distraught world, shimmering with incurable disease, violence, and corruption. From its very beginnings, evil has seeded our world with the Seven Deadly Sins: anger, pride, lust, greed, sloth, gluttony, and envy. I know, because I have all of them, as does everyone else.

When failed instincts succumb to temptation to have more, to be more, or to leave a trail of monuments in their honor, violence inevitably ensues, whether around the kitchen table or the conference table.

Examples of evil in my lifetime are rife: World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. The Killing Fields in Cambodia, Stalin’s Gulag Archipelago, Castro’s Cuba, and the corruption of Central American governments—all buzzed on the AP, but only handing out piecemeal information. The 1960s assassinations of President Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Dr. Martin Luther King revealed the agendas of the underworld.

Lynchings and other nasty racist practices also killed bodies and spirits. Our legislators declared war on unborn babies. Clergy sexually abused altar boys, leaving irreparable psycho-social harm. The proliferation of drugs contributing to the watered-down ethos in global societies still smells to high heaven. And the hype of the sports and entertainment worlds distract from significant life values.

But as with the plight of Cain after he murdered his brother, we are not left without resources to thrive in the midst of this madness. Those practicing faith in God are marked and will find their way, even to their deaths.

The Twelve Steps help scrutinize my behavior.

It began this morning. Shivering snow showers blanched pastel blossoms atop fruit trees, discolored bulb plants, and pinched dogwoods, leaving in their wake penetrating wetness and slick sidewalks: More of April’s fickleness that smarts—as if the faux colors of spring were a joke.

And less than one year ago, there was another killing in Powderhorn Park of Minneapolis, this time, not a shrub, but a man, its international impact finding resolution, of some sort, in today’s guilty verdict on all three counts. How this “flowering” will unfold remains to be seen.

Desperate is the need for global prayer to recreate hearts, afresh with new color.  

In the interim, we cry, “Mercy!” while observing tomorrow’s blooming azaleas and giving thanks.

“Who is that by the side of the road, astride a colt covered with dingy cloaks, his followers chanting and waving palm branches stripped from nearby trees? —Another scruffy messiah coming to preach at the Passover feast in Jerusalem, I bet. We’ve had so many, and all came to naught. Violence still abounds under those Romans. Besides, it’s hot; the crowds, tumultuous; the fleas, merciless.”

Such may have been experienced as strains of “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!” faded into the morning’s excitement—It’s first-century Palestine, bristling with intrigue.

Yes, we’re talking about Jesus of Nazareth, a critical story, proclaiming his mission as Messiah, “according to the Scriptures,” and enjoying every minute of it, despite repeated denials of such a title during years of preaching in Galilee and Judea. Such is the picture portrayed in the four Gospels written in Greek, with slight differences, understandably, because of the differing times and places in which they were written and the differing audiences toward whom the story of Jesus was aimed.

That toot-toot parade that hot morning also placed Jesus in a favorable light, in the center of Judaism, and cleaned up his miserable messiah experience—he, too, was crucified. This Jesus of Nazareth was more than another would-be messiah. His mission was unique.

Whether or not the story of Jesus of Nazareth, seated upon a colt’s ass, occurred does not matter. But he did lose his Jewishness when Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 C.E.; then, in my perception, he morphed into a Hellenistic demi-god, estranged from physical creation. 

Yet, Jesus of Nazareth is always available in heart-prayer. He still welcomes the humble.

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