Just below my front porch, some flowering quince has blossomed. My forsythia blooms near it, amazingly vigorous even when it has been chopped on way too late in the last growing season. In the neighborhood as I walk the dogs, I see the odd bunch of daffodils nodding in the cold wind.
These sights confirm what the calendar tells us: that spring is sprung. Yet, as we start this Holy Week with a pouring cold rain, it feels as though we have not quite yet broken free of winter. While this winter was by no means a brutal one, it grew dreary and we long for it to end, farewell to it linked in our minds and hearts with the triumph of Easter morning.
<< Continued from The Messenger>>
I have spoken here before of my work on the development of the New Century Hymnal, published by the United Church of Christ in 1993. In that work, I encountered for the first time the work of hymn writers – composers and poets – whose work was rooted in their homes in the southern hemisphere. Although I had, of course, learned in passing in church history and liturgy classes that Christian worship practices and the “church year” developed in the northern hemisphere, in northern Europe. But, having served the church almost entirely in places climatologically and meteorologically like northern Europe, I had never really thought seriously about the connections made between worship and the church year, and the changing of seasons.
Encountering the work of hymn writers from New Zealand, the Pacific islands, and Central and South America fascinated me because doing so forced me to separate, for example, the coming of the Christ child from “…the deep midwinter.”
Nor could I, more to our point in Holy Week, any longer unthinkingly link with buds, bulbs, birds, and bunnies Jesus’ conquering of death in resurrection power.
Buds, bulbs, birds, and bunnies are useful as metaphors to encourage reflection and conversation about God’s activity in Christ’s resurrection. A metaphor is a holding together of things that are not alike, to expand and enlarge the meaning of one of them.
In the northern hemisphere then, we hold Christ’s resurrection together with the results of the natural processes of the coming of spring, in order to examine and more fully understand that resurrection. But in New Zealand, Easter arrives in the fall, and South Pacific islands and Central American nations live years divided into wet and dry seasons but experience nothing quite like spring. In a context without spring, then our easy metaphors comparing resurrection and the coming of spring confuse and add not to understanding God’s ultimate act in God’s relationship with human beings.
Well, yeah. In the real world and in my context, I still yearn for spring with passion if not equal to my desire for God’s overcoming death – most especially MY death, don’t ya know – then nearly so! But I don’t do so unthinking. In this season, my thoughts turn once in a while to my Christian sisters and brothers around the world, and I wonder about the metaphors they use to ponder and draw meaning from God’s most powerful and most characteristic action and the continuing presence of the Risen Christ in the world.
God bless you resurrection reflections this Holy Week. May the buds, bulbs, birds, and bunnies surprise and empower you as our cool days warm and lengthen, and may you know yourself this week in the company of all God’s children and in the presence and the power of the God of Jesus Christ. See you in church.
Rev. Dr. Martha Robertson