The Promise of Spring: The Fifth Sunday of Lent 2017
Lent and the transition from winter to spring are happening at the same time. Here in Southern Ontario there remain far more images of death than new life and spring. I can never decide whether my least favourite period are the darkening days of November or the lingering browns of March. Our recent weather reveals Mother Nature's indecisiveness about taking a firm stance on the side of spring. There are tentative steps forward and a few steps back.
I went for a short walk yesterday with a friend. We passed an area where lilacs will be in bloom in a few weeks (maybe?). She pointed out a bud on a branch. It's probably waiting for a burst of warm weather. Then it can announce to its companions that it is safe to emerge.
"I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel." I have never experienced the kind of death, either real or metaphorical, where I am totally devoid of life.
There have been occasions in my life when I say that I feel like that. There are moments when I wonder if spring will forget us. There have been moments between sleeping and waking when I question whether or not I am alive. But then I wake up and recognize the truth.
Or a warm day reminds me that spring is approaching. Or, I realize the truth of my particular life situation and compare it to the devastating situation of others. There are certainly people who are caught in situations of death and there are individuals who wish they were dead. They cannot see any way out of their situation. There are lands devastated by war and violence.
We all need hope and the promise of spring. Perhaps both we and the land are in need of family and friends who cry out, "Lazarus, come out!" They need the freedom offered by the words, "Unbind him, and let him go." Do we know the situation of being bound.
Trapped by expectations from self or others or by addictions. Trapped by routine ways of behaving. In prisons of our own making, in the words of one novelist. These situations are a form of death. But they are not death. We can experience a reversal. Lent must entail a degree of death to self, whether it be in a simple act of giving up chocolate or letting go of a deep hurt.
We are in that in-between season. Perhaps the grace we are most in need of is patience. We know that winter will end and spring will break forth. The Resurrection grace of Easter will be revealed to us when we are most in need. In the meantime, that early bud or bird arrives as a harbinger of greater things to come.