Back home and things are semi-normal. The lawn needs mowing but I am waiting for a new lawn mower. My tulips are up and blooming but the temps in the 30s are not helping them. Looks as though we may have a little sun today which would be great! Saturday I drove home, about 660 miles across South Dakota. In the week I was gone it was the only day of sunshine and blue skies! YEA! SOUTH DAKOTA! Had lunch at Vivian, South Dakota, a little gas station and food stop south of Pierre. Met cousin Bayard and we posed for a "cousinly-selfie" before I hit the road. Then after traveling the 'back road' from Alzada to Ekalaka, I stopped in Baker for a hamburger with friend Patty Callaghan. She is finishing up the interim in Baker. Sunday and Monday I was 'dead on my feet' , but I am slowly coming back to life.
As always it is good to get home and re-connect as a week can seem like a month or longer. There were sad events to hear about: a death, a car accident, illness and the things that happen in our lives. The railroad, which has been a major employer in our town for over 100 years, laid off 55 workers. It is not only the coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky that feel the pain of reduced coal production, surface coal mining in Eastern Montana and northern Wyoming has fallen as well. Where the railroad once promised 200 new jobs in Glendive with the Bakken oil, the precipitous drop in oil exploration and production in that area has hurt. Then the threat of no government subsidies for AMTRAK and you have an industry in a world of hurt. If AMTRAK stops hauling passengers across the northern tier of states we will be more cut-off from the rest of the world and will find travel to and from more difficult. So all the news is not good, troubling. One feels some of the pain the rust belt has experienced for many years.
I think historians will look on this time as a time of great change. I think of the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s which tore society apart and re-fashioned it in very different ways. Our issues center around the new technologies of computers, new sources of energies, etc. While driving I listened a lot to the radio There were multiple stories about Tesla and their electric cars. One TED talk was mentioning electric semi trucks and pick-ups as well. Welcome to a new world. Peace and prayers.
Today was an interesting day. It was cloudy and windy and chilly the whole day. Rain and mist came and went the further south I traveled. I had intended to go to Red Wing, Minnesota, along the River Road Scenic byway having done that once years ago. But the yucky weather nixed that idea. So I headed for Northfield, Minnesota. Many years ago we had stopped at St. Olaf and I remembered the Chapel there as being a beautiful place. It still is. The Boe Memorial Chapel was lovely. Someone was getting a lesson on the pipe organ while I was there which was a delight to hear. Then I picked up some breakfast and a cup of coffee at the lunch counter. I sat and watched the kids go by. Then headed into the campus store to shop some Scandinavian items that were fun.
I had spied another spire across town and driving over found myself at Carleton College looking at the Skinner Memorial Chapel. Carleton has its roots in the Congregationalist (UCC) church and is as strong a looking campus as St. Olaf on the opposite hill. The chapel is over 100 years old. I thought Northfield looked like a fun place with lots of old shops on mainstream and different restaurants along the Cannon River.
I drove further south to Fairbault, Minnesota, and saw another church spire rearing up out of the trees. It was an Episcopal Cathedral organized and built by Bishop Whipple. Much like the Methodist Brother Van in the Montana gold camps, Bishop Whipple organized a mission to the Ojibway and Sioux Indians in southern Minnesota and organized Episcopal congregations around the area. The building was closed when I was there, but I did get to hear the bells ring at noon.
Enjoying some quick time with Samm and Alex. Lunch with a dear friend from college days, Doris. We caught up and talked a mile a minute.
Tomorrow I will head out again and go south to the interstate and then to Sioux Falls Friday evening. In the meantime --rain, rain, rain. Left my umbrella at home so I bought a new one. Guess I will try it out today. Supposed to be sunshine on Friday and Saturday and Sunday so we will see!
This is the view from the guesthouse room where I am staying at St. John’s Abbey this evening. I see someone out on the lake in a canoe. It is chilly, but the sun is shining and the grass is definitely green! Today I saw a swan on one small lake and of course lots of ducks. I love driving through the lake country around Fergus Falls and Alexandria. Also the fields still have lots of water from the melted snow.
My windshield time today was 300+ miles from Bismarck to St. John’s so I was ready to quit when I got here. About half an hour and then I can go to the cafeteria and have some supper. Sounds good! As usual more traffic the further east I came. It is almost mesmerizing and one has to be a little careful and not get trance-like and not aware of your surroundings.
As I always do when I travel I got to thinking about traveling throughout history and how people have always been on the move. Each one in their own little cocoon and traveling for different purposes. Whether it was Persian messengers along the ancient roads of the empire or a stagecoach rolling into Dodge City. The first words as the passengers climb out of the stagecoach are always “Where is the hotel or a boarding house?” Someone has always needed and someone has always provided.
Since I am staying at the Abbey I think of the monasteries in ancient times. Travelers always went from one to the next and tried to travel together. The Benedictines then as well as now were known for their hospitality. They provided hospitals and places to eat as well as sleep for a small offering. Of course motels and hotels all come from that same source. The inn keepers always had a bed for a lonely, footsore traveler and something hot to eat.
We think of it as a huge business today and it is, but it is also a necessity when you are on the road. Interesting to think about.
Sitting here on Easter Monday, I see a number of college students biking and jogging and just walking around the lake. Beautiful day to be out. Minnesota gets the heat and humidity so they enjoy the milder days just as we do at home.
As I was driving along I kept thinking something was missing. It finally dawned on me it was the sunflowers I usually see all across North Dakota. Too early for them as yet. As I got closer to St. Cloud I saw signs for the "Lake Wobegon Trail". If I had more time would be fun to take that. I remember my first trip into Minnesota. I was intrigued with silos on farms and also the pristine country churches that looked like calendar pictures. I also remember wondering if the ground was wet around Fargo and east, but the folks informed us it was the black, rich soil of the Red River Valley. It was a wonder to my eyes accustomed to the bleached soil of Eastern Montana. Farmers were out with their equipment today, working the ground.
I met a friend of similar age at the gas station today. As we visited, I watched her pump gas as I pumped mine and it made me think of the days when a woman would never have pumped gas into her car. It just wasn’t done! That was a man’s world. In fact when you drove up to a full service station you never even got out of the car. The attendant would get the gas pumping and in the meantime wash your windows, check the oil and then the air pressure in your tires. When the tank was full the attendant took your cash or a credit card and brought back the change or the receipt. When self-service hit you suddenly had women standing at the pump (me included) looking a little lost. But we made it and today it is just the way things are. I will admit I am not a happy camper when it is freezing cold and I am trying to take air pressure in my tires. Or standing in the snow and wind while the attendant is warm and cozy inside. Oh, for the days when. . .
Last summer I was on Route 66 at Williams, Arizona. They enjoy tourists and tourists enjoy a step or two back into the 1950s and 1960s when this life style was common. We stopped at a gas station and I got out of the car to pump gas. At the same time a young woman came out of the gas station and began to wash my windshield. My great niece and nephew thought I had lost my mind when I stood there amazed and said. “No one has washed my car windows in thirty years or more.” She did a splendid job and I think they stayed cleaner for a longer time then my washing jobs ever do.
I know I am getting old when the days past shine brighter than today. But history has a sad way of repeating itself. My Dad, the history teacher, always began his year quoting to his students the words, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I had a good reminder of that watching the PBS series on World War I this past week. This year is one hundred years since the U.S. entered the war to “Make the world safe for democracy”. It was a great series and covered a time period that has slipped out of common memory for the most part. My Grandpa Anderson was a new immigrant from Sweden who joined the Army in World War I. I have a picture of him in a World War I uniform. He was always proud of his veteran’s status.
But, as often happens, the war did not bring out the best in Americans. There was great patriotism and it was the U.S. entry into the conflict that brought the war to an end which were all good things, but the underlying issues, often side-stepped, reminded me of the repetition. During World War I German-Americans were persecuted. Montana especially had a bad reputation for making life difficult for these folks. There are stories from Dawson County as well as the Forsyth area and many others where even a single comment put someone in prison. According to the documentary people were tarred and feathered and killed by mobs for ‘disloyalty’. One really sad story was about two Hutterite brothers taken from their home in South Dakota. They were conscientious objectors. Imprisoned and tortured they finally died of this ill treatment. When one of the wives came to claim her husband’s body she was horrified to see he had been dressed in a soldier’s uniform. It was a terrible time for those of German background. Of course later on, in World War II, we saw this same treatment of Japanese-Americans and now we are seeing it again with immigrants and refugees of Middle-eastern descent and Latinos as well. The whole idea of a deportation police force is frightening because where does it stop? “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Another dark side of the story is that for all the good he did, President Woodrow Wilson was not a good example for Americans to follow. From his southern background he was a racist and brought segregation into Washington, D.C., in many of the jobs Black Americans had filled previously. Because he was lauded by the nations fighting in Europe and because of an extreme public relations campaign in this country, he began to move into the image that had been created of him. Many of the war reports in the nation’s newspapers were written in Washington so people heard only what the government wanted them to hear. When Wilson finally went to Europe at the end of World War I, later historians note his ‘god-complex’ in that he believed he was the only one who could bring peace to the world. His lack of compassion and vision allowed mobs to persecute at home, and meant he did not take the influenza epidemic seriously (more men died of influenza than died in the war). It was his ideology, his vision, his perceptions that created much of the history of that time. When the Democrats lost the mid-term elections and later the defeat of the League of Nations, Wilson's dream for the world was not accepted. His advisors told him he should have seen this coming.
Each era of history requires those of us living in this time to examine our actions, our perceptions, and those who lead us. It is dangerous to let too much power pass into the hands of a few people and it is dangerous when we have lost the art of civil discussion. Periods like World War I and the years that followed were tumultuous years. Change was fast-paced technologically and social change even more so. No time in history is set part from any other time. If we know who we are and where we come from and deal with it honestly, with our ethics and morals intact, then there is hope for the future. A narrow view of the world, with self-interest the only goal will bring down the humanitarian structures we have created and make the world a much more difficult place in which to live.
In Luke chapter 9 we read the prophetic words about Jesus, “He set his face to go to Jerusalem.” The journey would end with Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus has come at last to the moment to which his entire life had been pointing. We would be more comfortable if Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was victorious, something we could all celebrate. Our difficulty in understanding this event is that the king riding on the donkey or the colt is not an earthly king. Jesus himself says, “My kingship is not of this world.” Everyone is confused as to what to make of Jesus — The religious leaders are fearful, the people see him as someone who will rescue them from Rome, Pilate will try to free him, Herod speaks with him and then sends him back to Pilate, Pilate finally washes his hands of the whole affair. It is a time made up of shadowy figures, spies, traitors, betrayal, secret trials, frightened disciples who disappear into the night. In fact, all of Holy Week is a week of drama. The procession into Jerusalem is almost pathetic rather than victorious, because people do not understand.
It is important to see Holy Week as a unit. It is a whole piece from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and at last Easter morning, with each occurrence holding a special place for our understanding of this historic event which changed the world forever. And it begins with Palm Sunday and the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. It is Passover Week and the City of Jerusalem is four times its usual population. It is full to overflowing with Jews from all over the ancient world coming to Jerusalem for this religious celebration. Roman soldiers keep a watchful eye on the crowds. They stand on the walls around the Temple and at the Antonia Fortress, watching for signs of trouble. Pilate has brought more soldiers as he came from his palace at Caesaria. Trouble? we will be ready. There is noise and confusion, the smoke from the temple rises constantly with the sacrifices the priests are performing. The religious leaders are watchful and trying to keep the crowds under control. Then from one of the gates of the city there is a commotion. People shouting, children calling and singing, there is some kind of procession taking place and the words people hear is “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” The words are from Psalm 118 which seem to say that a king is coming in royal procession. These words will be used against Jesus later when he is brought before Pilate as his religious accusers protect themselves by putting these words written for a king into the mouth of Jesus.
There are Pharisees traveling with Jesus, Zaccaheus was probably along, Jesus had just been in Jericho. The twelve disciples, Mary, his mother, Mary Magdalene, perhaps Lazarus, Mary and Martha, Bethany was nearby. Scriptures talk about a multitude of followers, not just twelve disciples. It was a crowd and they were saying and doing things that were not wise in the politics of the day. There are those who warn Jesus to keep it down, don’t make a fuss, but he tells them — too late. Now even the stones cry out the wonder and glory of God. You see, this is a visitation, yes, but not of any earthly king, this is a visitation from God. Jesus is God’s visitation to the holy city. Perhaps more than any other time Jesus has a heightened awareness of who he is and why he is where he is. But no one knows, except himself.
The gospels cover this event fairly lightly. There isn’t a great deal said other than what actually happened. It is only later as we move into the night of the last supper and Good Friday we begin to see what was really going on. It is an event both political and religious. Jesus’ crucifixion was by angry, threatened religious leaders, and Romans were simply there, doing their duty and attempting to keep the peace.
As I said earlier, Jesus’ words talk about a visitation from God. That is what Jesus time on this earth was always about — in the gospel of John we read, “He came to his own people and his own people did not know him.” Jesus opened the ears of the deaf and gave sight to the blind. These were not only physical healing, but spiritual healing as well. “You don’t see. You are blind”, and this is what he is saying to the crowds leading him into Jerusalem that day. “If only you had been able to see what was going on. But now it is too late. The day of your visitation is over. God was here all along and you failed to recognize him and his love for you. “ The saddest words ever are “too late”.
The stories of Holy Week are ones we have heard year after year. You might think we would get tired of hearing them. “Oh, that again! I know that story by hears!” But there is something in the repetition of the stories from Scripture that draws us back over and over again. Each time we return we know we will hear the same words, but each year we are different, older, changed. We need something more. The passion story is one for which we hunger. It is a time when we occupy several spaces. We are the crowds hailing the King. Our questions go with theirs — could he really be the one? We are one of those who have betrayed Jesus in this past year. We have gone our own way and attempted to side-step the journey Jesus has called us to take with him and we are the repentant sinners who have recognized the saving grace of God in the face and the words of Jesus. Each Holy Week we come — waving our palm branches and crying words of praise, and then knowing we will be found weeping at the cross in sorrow for all that has gone on before. Jesus knows we come blinded by our own tears, confessing our particular sins and we stand by the roadside crying “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord”, in praise and in hope.
We know the journey we will walk this week. It is not unknown to us, but each year it is troubling. Each journey starts with the unknown just as each day begins with the unknown. If nothing else, this coming week leads us to the knowledge that any path we walk, Jesus has walked before and as the glory of the open tomb was there for Jesus, the knowledge of God’s love and care for us even in the face of his own sorrows, is something we can trust and hold on to in the midst of all.
I really pray for you that this Holy Week will be a blessed journey for you. May each day begin with the knowledge God loves you — individually. He cares for you and wants only good for you and those you love. May you begin each day in thanksgiving for the the gift of life, for family and friends, for worthwhile work and acts of kindness that come to us each day and acts of kindness we are allowed to do for others.
Jesus did not care about the cries of the crowds. He wanted them to know how much God cared about each one of them. Jesus was the One who came in the Name of the Lord. Jesus was and is the blessed one, our savior and our king. And now he enters the city of Jerusalem and his final days are here. Thanks be to God.
Life is good because God is good. Our Spring weather is really addictive. Everyone just moves a little differently and there is that sense of everyone flexing their muscles to get out and about and enjoy. I go out and check my flowers about every day and I see one of my tulips is about ready to bloom. All the bushes are showing some growth and the perennials are making a comeback! Welcome back after a long, cold winter!
I've had a good week. On Thursday three of us women pastors met in Miles City for lunch. One came from Broadus, one from Baker, and I came from Glendive. Two of us are retired and filling in. The pastor from Broadus said we would have made a good opening for a joke, "Three silver-haired Lutheran pastors walked into a Mexican Restaurant. . ." if you want to try and finish that line you are welcome! We have lots in common, rural ministry being the greatest commonality. Good to get together and good to visit. Collegiality is so important when you are living far from anyone and everything. We all enjoy rural congregations and people and feel they have a real gift to give to the larger church as well as other areas of living. It is a culture all its own.
Coming from Savage this morning was a nice drive along the Yellowstone River. After the snowstorm in early March, the prairie is really greening up. it is a joy to see. Today I saw a lot of calves with their mommas. Ranchers are into calving season which is an extremely busy time for them and their families. Cattle were grazing on the new grass which I am sure really pleases the ranchers. They did a lot of feeding this winter. Pheasants line the highway in abundance. I am just waiting for one to hit the grill of my car. Lots of wildlife! Highway 16 has long been notorious for deer crossing the road. When I have to drive the highway at night my eyes are moving back and forth across the road watching for those tell-tale eyes shining in the headlights. About mid-March the Canadian Geese were everywhere. A couple of flats along the highway were really a place where they congregated. People who live in the area say that is a common sight.
Besides the pastures greening up it is fun to see a little green fuzz on the trees. It is not too apparent yet, but it is there. In town my lawn is green and I have Spring flowers coming up all over -- lilies, tulips, iris, lilacs. The robins were fussing in my front yard the other day.
A little snow lingers in draws on the north side of the hill or here and there in a protected ditch. Not that we won't get another snowfall, but for all practical purposes most of us feel we are done with that for another season..