The long, Wisconsin winter we are STILL enduring is finally showing signs of loosening its vice-like grip on us. We received a lot of snow this year, but now, there are little rivulets of water running down the street in front of our house. And, although our yard is still covered with snow, there are now small, optomistic bare spots here and there.
Usually these patches of bare ground occur where something warm has been. Like where the deer have dug down to find and eat some of my wife's plants. The sun hits the exposed dark soil and the dirt begins to gather that warmth . . . and the warmth spreads.
There are also a few spots where the deer have slept during the night, their body heat melting the snow beneath them. We have been blessed this early spring to have had dozens of deer spending the night in our backyard. They are a joy to watch . . . as they . . . eat my wifes plants.
Another open patch of soft, thawed dirt is also visible over our septic tank - another popular place for deer to forage for something "tasty." The heat from the water we pump out there from the toilet, bathtub & kitchen sink melts the snow. One of my mother's favorite writers was Erma Bombeck who wrote a book entitled The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank. Ha ha! So true!
We have yet to see our first robin or red-winged blackbird - sure signs of spring here in Wisconsin. But for me, it's not spring until I see the leaves popping out on the trees and bushes in our yard. It's not spring until I see the daffodils blooming in my wife's garden on the south side of the garage.
The thing I like about spring is the overall sense of renewal. The fall season is kind of depressing because everything is either dead or dying. Leaves are falling off the trees, the grass stops growing and begins to turn brown. It's all rather depressing. But spring . . . . ahh, spring! The death and depression experienced during the fall and winter fades and we begin to see signs of new life and new growth. Spring is a season of hope and renewal.
Good Friday is a sad day in the life of a Christian. It was for me yesterday. I wonder what it must have been like for the followers of Jesus as they saw him hanging on that cross, dead. He was someone they loved, someone they looked to for knowledge and hope. To suddenly find him gone must have been devastating for them. That was the day on which everything they believed in . . . vanished - their spiritual winter of sorts. What they needed was a sign - a sign of spring, to give them hope.
Fast forward a few days. After Joseph of Arimathea had laid Jesus to rest in the tomb, the disciples were all hanging out at somebody's house. No doubt they were wondering what they should do without their teacher, their rabbi. Mary obviously wanted to be elsewhere and had gone to the tomb. Upon her arrival she discovered that the stone blocking its entrance had been rolled away. She freaked and went to tell the disciples. They came running and found what she had told them was true but then they left. Only Mary remained.
What happened next in the life of Mary was a true sign of spring. A true sign of hope for the future and of things to come. See saw Jesus, risen from the dead. She assumed he was the gardener. I submit to you on this Ressurection Sunday, that Jesus WAS and IS the gardener!
Think about it. What do gardeners do in the spring? They till the soil. They prepare the garden for planting. They sow the seed. They water and protect the new plants. They remove the weeds that inhibit growth. They provide nourishment for their plants and they pray that there will be plenty of sun to ensure a long, abundant life. Isn't that what God does for us? Aren't we His seedlings?
"For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations." - Isaiah 61:11
Jesus told a few parables about seeds and gardens. The first one that popped into my head while writing this was the Parable of The Sower.
"That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” - Matthew 13: 1-9
The second parable was a little more ominous - The Parable of The Fruit Tree.
"And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’” - Luke 13:6-9
I praise God for His providing us with a means to join Him in heaven one day, despite our sinfulness. When you get right down to it, the truth about us humans is that we deserve death rather than life. Everyone one of us. But God's grace covers us IF we allow Him to be Lord over us. That means that belief is NOT ENOUGH. Read James 2:19 sometime. There must be evidence of our belief, fruit on the tree, otherwise our "faith is dead" and we WILL be cut down.
This spring I pray we all would embrace the risen Christ and make Him Lord over our lives. We need to start living what we believe rather than just going to church on Sunday and then going back to our daily routine. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. When The Father, the gardener, comes by, pruning His plants, He WILL cut off the useless branches and throw them into the fire.
I pray that I might show signs of life to a holy and just God, here on MY little branch of the vine. I want to be useful to the one who gave me life - the one who made me bloom. You see, I too have been resurrected. My old self has died and my new self has come. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." - Romans 6:1-14
Christ has risen from the dead! And so shall we . . . who believe.