Tender Shoots of Hope

Guest SpeakerCliffNotes

This week’s guest post is by parishioner Jen Pappenhagen, who serves as editor for Good Friday Service reflections each year.

Dear Christ Church,

In this poem, Richard Wilbur captures an insight about nature that mirrors my experience of Easter joy after a long Lent:

A Storm in April

Some winters, taking leave,
Deal us a last, hard blow,
Salting the ground like Carthage
Before they will go.

But the bright, milling snow
Which throngs the air today—
It is a way of leaving
So as to stay.

The light flakes do not weigh
The willows down, but sift
Through the white catkins, loose
As petal-drift

Or in an up-draft lift
And glitter at a height,
Dazzling as summer’s leaf-stir
Chinked with light.

This storm, if I am right,
Will not be wholly over
Till green fields, here and there,
Turn white with clover,
And through chill air the puffs of milkweed hover.

I love the surprising thought in the last stanza: this storm is not wholly over until fields are filled with flowers, and butterfly-nourishing milkweed abounds. The renewal of spring is not merely the next thing after winter, but is rather the final act in the drama—the culmination of its storms. The water that comes down in this storm is the very source of the new life that blossoms after it.

The imagery of this poem reflects a truth about our Good Friday speakers, too. The stories they share are not wholly over, yet, but they lead us as a parish into Easter, which celebrates the culmination of all our stories: God’s power to bring forth life and beauty from death and ashes.

In my work as Good Friday editor, I walk alongside the speakers each year as they write their reflections. I pray for them, immerse myself in their stories, and offer suggestions as they shape and refine their pieces.  I feel deep heaviness during Lent, as I sit with their hard stories and carry their griefs in prayer.

Yet I also find deep joy in this work, and it leads me beautifully into Easter. Even while immersed in their hard stories, I also see their tender shoots of hope rising up. I see Jesus’ presence in their suffering. And I see how their witness of continued faith in Jesus—and of His faithfulness to them—nourishes our community.

In Wilbur’s poem, the last line of each stanza rhymes with the first line of the next one. With these rhymes across stanzas, the structure of the poem enacts its central image: winter is deeply connected to spring, and harsh storms bring forth the gentle new growth that follows them.

Similarly, our Good Friday speakers embody the truth that our sins, sorrows, and griefs are inextricably linked with the joy of Christ’s resurrection, and His continued presence with us. Resurrection and redemption are the final acts in this long drama, the fulfillment of our need and longing.

As editor, I witness this process closely, every Lent. And for me, the darkness makes a backdrop for a brighter, richer Easter.

Peace,
Jen