Dogwood Trees and Forty Days


Memory is suspect—yours, mine, all memory may have been warped by suggestion, desire, denial, or other factors. But if it is your memory, then claim it and cherish it because it is part of who you are.

One of my claimed and cherished memories is of blooming, white dogwood trees, the cold that arrives in an early spring, and Easter. One recent evening I sat on the screened porch and marveled at the full blooms of one of our dogwood trees. Looking at the rich array of white on the tree, I recalled warmly the myth taught to all us children: The story told that the dogwood was so small and misshaped because its wood was used for the Cross; and the four petals, shaped like the Cross, had blood-like stains on their tips. But for that evening, I just enjoyed the beauty of that one tree and of the other three dogwood trees in full bloom. Now, the week after Easter, all the white petals lie on the ground. Washed off by a strong rain or blown asunder by bitter, cold wind, the white of the dogwoods is just a memory.

Paul uses a powerful verb to describe what happened on the Cross. But after Jesus tasted death during his humiliating form of death, He rose from the dead and spent forty days with his disciples and others. One of my favorite stories of that time is the one told in Mark and Luke. Luke’s version, in more detail, shares that two believers are walking to Emmaus, a village near Jerusalem, when they are joined by another person. When the couple (Cleopas and his wife Mary) arrive at home, they invite the stranger they had been talking with about the recent events concerning Jesus in Jerusalem to stay with them. When they sit to eat, the stranger breaks bread, and they recognize the risen Lord, who “vanished out of their sight.” The Christians of the first century “lost” Jesus for those three, affrighting days, but He came again as promised, and He walked and lived with them for forty days.

I don’t know how I would have reacted if I had been there with Cleopas and Mary. I don’t know how I would have acted if I had been on that shore to see Jesus next to a fire of coals, ready for cooking some of the catch. However, I do know that when I watch the dogwoods come into bloom, I am thankful for their beauty, the adults who taught a young boy truth and myth, and the man who tasted death for me.






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