Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Seasonal Gospel

Yeah, okay. I know, I know. And I have to say that I appreciate that no one has left formal, written complaints, even though you would be more than justified in doing so. I haven't posted for about six weeks. Sorry.

But here we go again.

Although winter seems to be holding on longer in Kansas than everyone wants (I think it may have reached almost freezing last night), the first day of spring was over a week ago and the temperatures are starting to show it, once in a while.

I love how the gospel is reflected in God's creation. I think the seasons are typical of that. In the fall, things start to decay, showing their age and representing the effects that sin and decay take on all of us over time. Even believers are not instantaneously delivered from the effects of the Fall at the moment of saving faith. We still age. We still suffer. We still die. We are still under the curse, waiting for the fullness of salvation to come.

In the winter, everything is dead. It represents where humanity, and the creation humans were created to rule, end up as a result of rebelling and losing our relationship with God. It is the time of death; and apart from the gracious act of an outside force, everything would stay dead. Like Lewis's Narnia, it would be a place where it is "always winter and never Christmas." In other words, it would be a place where hope does not exist--which will be the truly agonizing and torturous part of hell, I think. Whatever the physical pain and loneliness will be, above all other forms of suffering it will be the Eternal Winter--the place where "January" is the name of every month in the calendar, not just of this year, but of all the years to come. No hope. Never Christmas.

But then, the seasons of the year scream out to us that there is hope.

(Don't worry. I don't think that the seasons themselves are a part of special revelation. No one can look at the seasons alone and understand Who Christ is, what He did, and what He will do. But God has so created the world that creation augments His special revelation. It whispers to us what the written Word, proclaimed and lived out by the Church, screams at us).

Spring comes. January does not last forever. Death does not ultimately win. April and May come with new life!!

It is really great, I think, that Good Friday and Easter fall during springtime in this northern hemisphere of ours. We have the added benefit of celebrating New Life because of our union with Christ and His resurrection at the same time that leaves are returning on the trees, grass is turning greener, and flowers are beginning to come up again. Hope has found a resting place. It is rekindled. But harvest has yet to come. It is still a time of planting, not reaping. It is still a time when unexpected freezes can come and ruin crops. It is a time when severe wind, hail, floods, and tornadoes can destroy.

This is where we live now. We live in an age of "already, but not yet." As Martin Luther said, "Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time" (taken from Modern Reformation magazine, March/April 2008, vol. 17, no. 2, page 9). We live in an age where our hope has been proclaimed and we have been given the Spirit as a promise of the coming harvest.

But we are still not living in that harvest yet. We are to be obedient planters and gardeners, under the guidance and empowerment of the Chief Vine-dresser through His Son. But we will taste those freezes and those floods. We will know what it is to sow the same patch of barren ground for long years, hoping for a bountiful crop, when only a few shoots seem to come up from our labors. But you never know what the harvest will bring. You never know how much fruit will come until summer arrives.

I'm still waiting for summer. So are you. Don't' believe those who want to say that it is here. Don't listen to those who say that it is time to come in from the fields and enjoy hot-dogs, watermelon and swimming pools. It's not that time, yet. Trust me. When it is, you will know.

Everyone will know.