I know, it’s been a rough winter, especially the past two months. Since January 14th (yes, I can date it – our January council meeting was postponed because of ice), the weather has been, as the song says “frightful.” Really!
Finally, of course, winter has broken, the sun is higher in the sky, the temps are up, and it’s all melting. Can’t get any better than that…can it?
Of course, it can’t. Except for the flooding in the lower level of the church (and in a lot of basements in the area), not to mention the flooding of farms, fields, and whole towns across the Midwest. Or the potholes (have you seen how many giant potholes are out there this year???) Or just the plain, dirty snow. Yeah, I get it – we want to see the snow melt, but at best, it’s an ugly sight. And at worst, it’s downright dangerous!
But there is something else going on out there. As the snow melts and the mud rises, it’s out there – on the horizon. Look carefully, and there you can see it. The cross. The cross of Jesus.
This is the season of transition – from winter to summer. A season of water and mud that takes us from the lifelessness of winter to the new life of summer. From snow drifts to fields of corn and soybeans, from icy streets and sidewalks to lawns just waiting to be mowed.
Yet, in the church we are also in a season of transition. That’s what Lent is for us – a time that moves us from one time to another. Throughout the weeks of January and February we lived in the hopefulness of Epiphany. Week after week we experienced God at work in the miracles and teaching of Jesus, stories that warmed our hearts, and gave us hope that somewhere, somehow, God could and would restore life. Good stuff, to be sure. But let’s face it – we need more than that. Life is tough, we are vulnerable, and something needs to happen – something that will be new, fresh, and life changing. Something that will turn winter to spring to summer. Water to wine, an evicted demon or two, and good “dos and don’ts” are fine, but leave us short. Winter doesn’t shake easily!
But remember, we are in a season of transition. Times are changing! The journey of Lent moves us from February through March to April. While we move, we walk with Jesus to Jerusalem – and then even beyond. And as we walk, we “transition.” From hopefulness to fulfillment.
As Lent comes to a close we find ourselves at the foot of the cross. The cross, the place where God no longer dabbles in mere miracles and teachings, but gets serious, really serious, and does the improbable and unexpected. God turns it all upside down. In the death of Jesus, God takes our fears, uncertainties, vulnerabilities, and brokenness – all the stuff that makes up our “winter.” God places them on the crucified Jesus, and in exchange God gives us the righteousness – that is, the “right relationship with God” – of our Lord. In that new “right relationship” God fulfills the hopes, the hopes from way back in our winter, and makes a new thing happen. God brings forth life, full and rich life.
And the transition is complete! Lent has moved us from hope to life.
So, now what? OK, this isn’t just about a time on the calendar. Over and over, regardless of the time of day, day of the week, or where we are in the calendar year, we move from hope to life. And in the gift of life, experienced new, pretty much every day, we live differently. Every day we look around ourselves, we see God at work in the world about. We see the opportunities we have to do “God’s work with our hands,” because in the cross we have been moved from winter to summer. In the cross we have life, life that we are called and privileged to share with others – with co-workers, neighbors, friends, strangers, maybe even adversaries.
What’s the point? The new season, the new life, empower us to be something we could never imagine we could be. I’m not sure I could really ever be a disciple of Jesus. Yet, the power of the cross, the power of life that is beyond imagination, the power that changes me and my world upside down, that power creates something new in me. Me – flawed, broken, vulnerable, fearful, and even sinful. Me, yes me – I can be a disciple of Jesus. Not because of me, but in spite of me. No because of me, but because of Jesus.
That, to me, is an awesome concept. Really? God uses me? Yes – everyday!
And God uses you. Yes – everyday!
So keep looking ahead to the cross. There, in the cross, you have been brought out of winter into the life of summer. You are embraced by a gracious God. You are welcomed, you are loved, you are made whole. And then, having been restored with new life, you are sent out into the world to be God’s agent, to do “God’s work with your hands.”
How cool is that?
So keep on moving, through these days of Lent, all the way through these times of transition. All the way to the cross. And there, where the winter melts away, new life springs forth. For you, for me, for the world, the world dearly loved by a gracious God.