Winter is hard. It doesn’t matter if you grew up walking to school barefoot, uphill both ways, carrying your sister, through 3 feet of snow (as my dad often jokes) or if you’ve developed effective strategies for staying warm in below-zero temperatures and have sturdy boots to deal with deep snowdrifts. Even if you enjoy outdoor winter sports and snow activities, every winter at about mid-February or early March, a lot of us are DONE with it. Winter has lasted too long. Bring on the spring!
That’s why winter is often a metaphor for a time of struggle, a time of basic survival, a lean time when our tolerance and determination is tested. In the popular TV series Game of Thrones, the line, “Winter is coming,” is spoken in threatening tones and hushed, fearful whispers. A warning to prepare for the worst.
For some members of our community, this winter has been a struggle, and is still a struggle. Many of our physical neighbors are experiencing housing instability and food insecurity. The heating bills stack up and the grocery and gas budget runs thin. They depend on the Salvation Army and the little food shelves to keep their family’s bellies full and their homes warm in the cold months when their paycheck doesn’t go quite far enough. How can we continue to build up these neighbors with generosity and compassion?
All people and congregations go through seasons in their lives. We all experience times of growth and strength, times of waning energy and dying leaves on our trees, and times when the wind is cold and there is seemingly little movement. Winters of discontent. Winters when the snow covers the ground, and the path forward is not easy to see.
As we begin Lent, may we remember that we are walking towards Easter, but there is no resurrection without dying first, no transformation into something new without letting go of what was. God gives us new life by the power of the Holy Spirit through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but we must die to our own plans, our own expectations, and our own selfish desires. We must let go of some of the things we grasp in our own hands so that we can reach out our hands to help and build up our neighbors.
As we experiment with a new way of participating in Lenten Suppers and Worships, may we look for the ways this holy experiment is helping us grow. Let us be a church that stretches to reach out a hand of compassion and comfort toward our fellow Christians and our neighbors in need. Let us build up and encourage one another, trusting that God is at work in all of our lives in different ways. That under the snow, God is preparing us for our next faithful step. And when our spring finally comes, let us rejoice as new growth peeks out of the ground.
Your coworker in Christ,
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