Easter was especially meaningful for reasons both far away and very close to home.
Quite far away and yet less than three months ago, I visited the Holy Land in a tour led by the minister of my Bentonville church. Among so many overwhelming experiences, I wept quietly on a boat in the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on water. I waded in the Jordan River where John the Baptist -- consumer of locust beans, not locust bugs, we learned -- baptized the Son of God. We trod the narrow streets of Jerusalem following the Stations of the Cross where Jesus trudged to his death. On that pathway, I placed my hand on the purported spot where he also placed his hand for momentary respite from pain and weariness on the trek. Our tour stop at the Garden of Gethsemane brought all into focus. Those many Bible stories and Sunday School quarterly images I had heard and seen as a child in rural and small town churches became very real as I stood next to olive trees that had been in the garden for more than 2,000 years. Indeed, one particularly huge and gnarly olive tree shading me was there when Jesus prayed for the bitter cup of death to be passed from him, if it be his father's will.
We visited Golgotha and entered the nearby empty tomb. Our group had a memorable communion service in the adjacent garden in the terrestrial center of our belief, reminded of life beyond death as we broke bread and took the cup.
Move forward 11 weeks and I'm taking communion last Sunday with six grandchildren at my United Methodist Church just off the Bentonville Square. The day was sunny, the iconic Central Avenue redbuds and dogwoods were abloom and the kids were decked out in cute Easter Sunday finery. It was Norman Rockwell Americana more so than anything down the trail at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
These two unifying events of faith, separated by one-third of the globe's time zones, are the things in life that give me hope. And Lord knows hope is a precious and rare commodity in these tragic times when citizens, especially children, are gunned down with little tactile concern from our majority party political leaders. More interested in political "buzz issues" and MAGA-base dog whistles, they offer "thoughts and prayers" for innocent victims maimed beyond recognition, but for forensic science, with automatic artillery fit more for battlefield than sportsman's gun cabinet.
Please, keep those insipid thoughts and prayers to yourselves. My former neighbors in Newtown, Conn., heard them to no avail 10 years ago at Christmastime. Today in Nashville, Tenn., just one state east of us, there is no use for them at Eastertide. Thoughts? They show themselves as blithe sound bites in the news offered by legislators proposing there is no easy solution for gun regulation. But bathroom assignments and book banning they can do.
Even more egregious are sophomoric mini-polemics on social media asserting that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Another inanity shared is that the world will always have evil and thus, murder. It started when Cain slew Abel. Excuse me, but Cain didn't have an automatic repeating stone-caster capable of 600 rocks per minute. If he had held such- -- and no matter if you're a creationist or Darwinist -- mankind may never have gotten beyond the "first family."
For goodness' sake, Facebook friends (you know who you are), get a grip on context before proving your ignorance. Satan himself had only one apple in his arsenal. Current day, he has exceedingly more powerful artillery made easily accessible thanks to base-baiting, self-serving Republicans. None of them are willing to stand up and face the fact that rapid-fire guns and ammunition capable of mutilating human flesh to the point of requiring closed-casket funerals are not for shooting sports and hunting and were never imagined by the Founding Fathers. To hunting sportsmen in the United Kingdom and Western Europe (yes, they do exist) we are laughing stock with our urban cowboys presuming to need such ballistics.
Thusly, spare me "thoughts" from cunning politicians and their clueless minions. I can think with my own brain. And as to prayers, those I can handily do on my own as well, thank you very much, from contemplating Jesus' miracles on the Sea of Galilee to a joyous Easter Sunday with cherubic grandchildren in Bentonville. These are among the things about which I shall send up my prayers. And as to my thoughts -- they become actionable come the next election cycle.