“Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.” [Deuteronomy 8:2]
I had to take a second look at my weather display this morning to make sure I was reading correctly. It indicated that it was 36⁰. Most days this month, I have awakened to single digit temperatures, and we haven’t been above freezing since I can’t remember when. Before beginning this writing, I looked up the forecast. To my great disappointment, I learned that more snow is on the way. We’re not out of winter yet, no thanks to Punxsutawney Phil!
As I read through the Deuteronomy passage today, I was thinking of how tiring these last few days have been. It’s only been a week or so, but already I’m tired of the piles of snow. Today’s above-freezing temperatures give us a glimpse of what lies ahead. But the gloomy forecast of snow for tonight reminds us that there is still a little more time before we can experience the joy of Spring.
My thoughts then turned to the people in Texas and the ordeal they’ve had to endure. The cold snap in the Lone Star State brought about a burst of conditions they have not experienced in years – no electricity, no heat, burst pipes, no water. When one is accustomed to certain comforts, it can be quite jarring when they are taken away, even if for a little while. I’m actually feeling a little guilty that I have all these conveniences while others are suffering.
I don’t know about you, but here it is the fifth day of Lent and I’m already exhausted. I’m yearning for the full benefits of flowers blooming, birds chirping, and leaves on the trees.
And have I mentioned that we’re still in the grips of a pandemic? Yesterday we passed another ominous threshold – 500,000 deaths to COVID-19. Families are grieving the loss of loved ones to this dreaded illness and millions of others are still awaiting scheduling for a vaccine shot.
If we really want to pile on the misery, think of all those that are out of work. You may be one of them. There are those without health insurance. Television cameras in New York captured scenes of seemingly endless lines of hungry people waiting food distribution; while in Washington, politicians bicker over how much money is really needed to spend to take care of their fellow human beings, citizens in need.
In the midst of all this, it is difficult to perceive that God is active in the world, or if God is doing anything at all. Many of you, not just people in Texas, are wondering what will become of you in this somber, interminable period; how you will manage life in the days and weeks to come.
Growth is a process of changing and that process is not always pain free. Someone once pointed out to me that in the middle of the word Growth is the word “OW.”
This Lenten journey, difficult as it may seem for some, is a metaphor for life. We struggle, we endure, but we do not lose hope, because God goes with us on the journey. Hear God’s promise to the people of Israel:
“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing…” [Deut. 8:7-9a]
There is no need to limit God to past blessings. God is an ever present help, to quote the psalmist in Psalm 46. These life-giving words cannot be proclaimed in the past tense. They were wonderful when announced in yesteryear, and are just as wonderful today. So we look to the future with faith in God who continues to do all things well. The word spoken so long ago by God to another people in another time and at another place in history are still viable, fresh, living, and relevant words as we face the future.
We do not lose hope because we know that God walks along with us to the cross; and on the other side of that cross, on the other side of Easter, on the other side of Christ’s resurrection, there is promise of a new life. This is the message of faith. This is the good news we hear and proclaim today and every day.
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