It has been an interesting winter here in Chico, a season now thoroughly behind us.…the wettest (is that really a word?) since I have come to California. I tend to run hot-blooded, and so my Celtic self is happy splashing through the mud and getting chilled, it just feels right. But the seasons are turning for sure, within and without.
Spring for me is so much more than just the warming and blossoming of the earth…it is, in many ways, our most spiritual season. We have the symbols of new life all around us; baby bunnies and chicks and lambs and calves, flowers bursting forth with renewed vigor…but unless we take the storm windows off of our souls, we risk having the appearance of renewal without its reality. And that would be sad, in a wintry kind of way, like spring flowers painted on a brick wall. I want the real thing, don’t you?
I have never forgotten the old Scottish story of the baby born in the Orkney Islands…think Arctic Circle-type of islands. All the young folks had moved away decades ago, with the net effect that there had been no baby among the people for – are you ready for this – over eighty years. Eighty years! And so, when a vacationing pregnant granddaughter got stranded and delivered her firstborn there, it was quite a celebration! New life, here, after all the cold and wet and bleak and barren! How wonderful!
And how wonderful for the faithful of Scotland, to have such a fine illustration of God at work so close to Easter. How much better they could understand the disciples, following the arrest and mockery and trial and crucifixion, who were as bleak and beaten as those old Scots had been. No new life, no hope, no promised future, not here, not ever…a cold, awful place to live. And into that dead, desiccated dough, God drops the leaven of new life, the yeast of Christ, who cannot and will not and never will die…how perfectly wonderful!
So even though, by Scottish standards, our recent winter was pretty tame, you don’t have to live near the Arctic Circle to understand how tough life can seem. We get plenty of examples every day, broadcast into our minds and hearts by our ever-so-thoughtful media. It is when times are tough that I am most glad for the Easter story, that we might all be reminded of God’s ongoing, continuing, unstoppable effort to make sweet heavenly lemonade out of bitter human lemons. Judas made tragic errors, as did Peter, and Pilate, and several dozen or hundred or thousand others, and Jesus ended up dead. What a mistake, such a tragedy…but only to us. To God, it was just another wrinkle in the cosmic sheet that was ironed out, smoothed, and changed us all forever.
So, when you nibble the ears off your chocolate bunny, or gently salt another hard-boiled egg, or enjoy another tender chunk of lamb, give thanks for the rich symbols of new life that surround us this time of year, wherever we live. Whether it comes early or late, in a newborn or in the aged, God is in the new life business, and we are all not-so-silent partners. Happy Easter season to everyone!