“I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, CEB)
According to the calendar, the first day of Spring was Monday, March 20th. The interesting, and sometimes odd, patterns of weather we have seen these past few weeks make it hard to imagine that it is just now Spring. With temps in the seventies and eighties more than once through the Winter season. Nonetheless, it’s official: “Spring has sprung, etc.”
We are now halfway through the Season of Lent; Easter will be here on April 16th. It’s a great time to think about the images that are common at this time of year and what we might learn from them.
There are all sorts of “new growth” images associated with Spring. Trees are budding, flowers are coming up, and there is plenty of green and lots of other color to greet us. Spring is the time to enjoy the reappearance of these signs of life after a long, cold winter of brown grass and naked trees.
There is an obvious connection with Easter here. Jesus is raised from the dead much like the new growth of Spring is raised from the dormancy of winter. Easter is the “spring” that blooms after the long, cold “winter” of Lent. These are the kinds of images we have seen in worship for years when we get to the Easter season. We decorate with butterflies to signify the idea of a new kind life being born out of an older kind of life. We end the Season of Lent with a Service of Darkness and then begin Easter with a Service of Light at sunrise. Our imagery is all about moving from something undesirable to something desirable; moving from darkness into the light; moving from death to resurrection, from sin to redemption.
We can even make a case for the “Easter Egg” being a symbol of new life that is appropriate to the Easter celebration. (I’m not sure how we work the bunny and chocolate into the mix but, oh well.)
We have some flowers in our yard that we’ve always called surprise lilies. They appear every spring, we never take care of them, and it’s always a surprise when they keep coming back. Sometimes I think that reflects God’s work in us. It keeps showing up, we often don’t take very good care of it, and then we are surprised when God manages to transform us. That is what Paul promised the Philippians: God started something good in each one of us and God will finish the job.
I think the Seasons of Lent and Easter are important for us as followers of Christ because they offer us this incredible opportunity to really think about our faith and our redemption. On Ash Wednesday, we plunge ourselves into a forty-day darkness. We should be looking inward as we sit in the dark. We should be asking ourselves the questions that lead us to better understand how our behavior hurts Jesus whenever we are insensitive to other people. In the dark, we should be able to see the things we do as individuals and as a community that do not serve to feed, tend, clothe, visit, and care for. What policies do we support that are contrary to God’s commandments to love? When have we let this world and its agenda dissuade us from God’s will? We can spend this dark time of self-examination because we know that there is a surprise waiting for us; God is not going to leave us sitting in the dark.
Our hymnal includes a song called “Hymn of Promise” (#707). We sing, “In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.” Spring, renewal, re-birth, they all seem to come as a surprise each year. Weather patterns change and we’re never quite sure how hard the winter will be or when spring will come. Sometimes we have snow on Easter morning and sometimes we can wear shorts in February. The exact timing of nature is something God alone can see. So it is with the transformation of our lives.
God has planted many seeds in us over the years. We are often surprised when they pop into our consciousness. It is not uncommon for us to ignore them or even actively act against them. But, God continues to surprise us over and over again. The surprise comes when God’s work changes us for the better in spite of us. I don’t know about you but, I love surprises!
Waiting to be surprised,