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.


stephen e. buerger said...

as i'm sure you well know, my moods are often very closely tied to the weather, and especially the seasons. i can't look at a large group of gray, leafless trees in the winter without the word "death" entering my mind. the lack of green and growing plants, along with the often overcast skies, can take my already complaining spirit and send it spiralling downwards. now, this is no justification for my grumpiness or, shall i say, negativity, but it certainly does not make things any easier.

this is why, when i see the first signs of color in the surrounding plants, smell the faintest scents of moisture, and feel the warm, radiating sunlight hit my skin, i become quite jubilant. i will do whatever i can to just spend time soaking it all in. i will read, reacreate, and even sleep outside because of the effects it has on my emotions. call it atmospherical hedonsim, call it cabin fever, i don't care. . . i love good weather.

the reasons for the type of influence the weather has on me are probably many. apart from my aesthetically motivated personality, i think (just as you said, John) that it is largely do to the great sense of hope that spring brings. you can currently and readily see the growth happening in front of you. the air is comfortable, neither too hot nor too cold. smells are pleasant, and things are beautiful. however, very important things are happening during winter as well, they're just not as obvious to our senses.

this is very similar to how i often respond to the spiritual. when growth and fruit are not easily seen in a situation or group of people, it is easy to look at it or them as the "gray, leafless trees of death". this, needless to say, can make me very discouraged. however, just as the tree is controlled by the seasons, the seasons are controlled by the Creator of Seasons. we must not put our faith in men to produce the fruit, but in the Father who "wills and works for His good pleasure".

John Buerger said...

Great comment. Thanks, Stephen.

Anonymous said...

john, never thought of it like that! makes ya think about what we have been doing and what our role is now on earth. thanks for posting that!

John Buerger said...


You're totally right!! A Christian theology does not disregard the earth, but rather highly regards it because we are its stewards. Unfortunately, as in many things, we often decide what our attitude will be towards the earth based on our reaction to radical environmentalism instead of not allowing them to dictate what our thinking will be and going to the Bible and Christian theology first!! We should care about the environment because Genesis says we should. Not because we're "liberal."

Kayla Vernise said...

I am glad that you are back in the blogging scene. I was thinking that you may have given it up for lent or something. Very good blog, I enjoyed reading it. Rob Bell made a Noomah video called Rhythm. Your blog reminded me of it. As he pointed out, just as music needs rhythm to stay in sync, we need a rhythm of life to keep sane and be able to remember what is important. But music also has varity in notes and tempos that keep it moving and interesting. Same with us.
I am glad that Katie pointed out about taking care of the environment and our role in that. ~k

John Buerger said...

Thanks, Kayla. Yeah, I had a lot going on that kept me from blogging...and even when I had time, I really found it difficult to know what to write about. But thanks for sticking with me. :)


Ray & Janell said...

john ... you should post more often.

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