Yesterday, I found myself taking my annual “search for signs of spring” walk. It’s a walk I take every year at this time of year. You might say –and in a sense you’d be right—“Susan, you’re a bit late. In New Mexico we look for signs of Spring in late January or at the latest—early February.” But I wait until Spring has come officially to take my “search for signs of spring walk.” When I was living in Minnesota, I looked for crocus shooting up through the snow, clear ice puddles forming over long dead leaves and maybe even a little patch of green grass. But that was then and this is now. Yesterday I looked for kids playing basketball after supper, sand hill cranes making their way north, trees budding out, and dandelions in full bloom. The chill of winter was still in the air. I could feel it yesterday and throughout the week—not so much in my face but in my heart.
This week has felt a lot like winter to me—not the winter of shortened days and colder nights, but the winter of hardened hearts, brittle souls and world-weary spirits. I sometimes think we’re living in a wintery kind of a world:
*flames of discord fanned in the Middle East with words designed to quash the hopes of a conquered people
*worshippers killed—over a hundred—as they bowed in prayer in Shiite mosques
*here, in our country politicians preying on peoples’ fears while failing to exert the kind of leadership that demonstrates the “attentiveness to the poor and needy” that the prophet Jeremiah called for
*a black man found hanging dead from a tree in the deep South
*closer to home, in Dallas, Texas, signs appearing in businesses-- “authentically for white people”
*and here in Albuquerque two more tent cities closed and homeless campers forced to search for yet another home.
Sometimes it feels that we live in a world not unlike the world the prophet Jeremiah knew—a world of people held captive by empires of greed and politics of power serving not the needs of the poor and needy but those of the wealthy and privileged. A world of hardened hearts and heedless words and hate-filled acts. Indeed, if you were to open a newspaper or click on your internet browser or even skim the articles people post on Facebook, you might see as I saw this week, a host of bad news, evidence that we live in discouraging times. A wintery kind of week. A wintery kind of world.
To people living in that wintery world of Jeremiah’s Jerusalem, to people carried off into captivity in Babylon, to people who witnessed their neighbors killed, their city destroyed, their family members sent into exile, the prophet points to signs of spring and offers promises of hope.
Jeremiah reminds God’s people of God’s words of consolation:
*I have loved you with an everlasting love
*I will satisfy the weary, and all who are faint I will replenish
*I will bring (my people) home....with consolations I will lead them back
*They shall come and sing aloud
*They shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord
These are the words of God—the words God writes on human hearts.
This is the law of God—the law of love God writes on her people’s hearts.
It’s a law written gently, tenderly.
Words of promise, words of hope,
Not words stamped or burned or chiseled or emblazoned on human hearts
But words traced with the lightest of touch.
Signs of God’s faithfulness and loving-kindness--
Signs of Spring.
In this wintery world in which we find ourselves signs of spring abound. Sometimes they’re hidden under the melting snow; sometimes they’re to be found outside our normal field of vision; sometimes they pop up in the oddest of places. But they are there. God’s consolations appearing in human lives:
*Often in the little kindnesses that mark our days—a call from a distant friend, a story shared, a quiet pat on the hand
*Sometimes those consolations, those signs of God’s spring, appear in acts of reconciliation—a friendship rekindled, a hurt released, a grievance forgiven, a love affirmed, an apology made and accepted
*You find them even in the living of a life—like that teacher at Lew Wallace school who recently was recognized for how she lives out God’s law of loving kindness by sometimes providing breakfast or a set of clothes to the kids she teaches and even taking into her home two of her students who had lost their home
*Those consolations are there, too, when people taught to hate one another come together in solidarity—like the Muslims who recently stood guard while Jews worshipped at on a Friday night or the Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland who helped a British soldier injured and abandoned in the streets of Belfast
All moments of hope. All harbingers of Spring.
The night before he died, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared a vision with his people. Speaking to the poor and oppressed in Memphis, Tennessee, and to the poor and the oppressed throughout our country, King said:
I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I'm happy tonight; I'm not worried about anything; I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
You and I, we, too, can say with confidence, “We have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” We’ve seen that glory in the consolations of our God. We know what we will see as Easter dawns in our lives once again. We will see God’s new covenant at work in the Eastering of our days and of our lives. Alleluia. Alleulia. Alleluia.