Spring, Now and Not Yet

snowdrop in the snow (sneeuwklokje)
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know about where you are, but in Michigan we have had several days of above freezing temperatures. Only the remains of the largest snowbanks are left. As I walk around outside, I notice that something else – spring is coming.

I know, I know it’s mid February. There will be more cold weather and more snow, perhaps even a lot more snow.

Winter is not over. But spring is coming.

Gradually, incrementally,  the days have been getting longer. The worst of winter’s darkness is behind us.

The birds are singing. Not just the past few days, but even before when the snow was still on the ground, there were a few birds breaking winter’s quiet and singing in the spring.

Winter is not over. But spring is coming.

The wind has changed. The wind still blows but the character of the wind has changed. It’s still a cold wind but the bite is gone. The wind has softened.

Winter is not over. But spring is coming.

One day soon the trees will bud.  More accurately, we will be able to see the buds that were present all along but hidden during the winter.

One day there will be leaves. Tiny green leaves.

One day the Snowdrops and crocus and daffodils will blossom- even through the snow.

The earth has shifted on its axis and we turn toward spring.

This time of year, when it is still winter and yet spring is visible for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, reminds me of the theological idea of “Now and Not Yet”. The first time or two you hear about this idea, it can be confusing – how can something be present and not present at the same time?

Very simply put, it’s like this. We take Jesus seriously when he tells us the kingdom of God is near and is among us. (Matt 3:17; Lk 10:18; Lk 11:20; Lk 17.21 among others).  We also take seriously the condition of the world around us. Jesus, his life, death and resurrection, mean that  sin and death have been defeated and yet the world is not yet entirely made right. The kingdom of heaven is here but it is like the small amount of yeast that leavens the entire loaf, the tiny mustard seed that become a plant home for birds.

Sometimes when describing the idea of “now and not yet”,  the analogy is made to war. With Jesus’ death and resurrection, the enemy has been defeated, the war is over. But there are still skirmishes, battles to be fought until the last remnants of evil are routed. I have never liked this war analogy. Too brutal it seems to me. Too much death and not enough life. Too much suffering and not enough salvation.

It seems to me that our condition is like the weather this week as winter turns to spring. Slowly, yes, but the signs are present. The signs are easy to miss if you are not alert and looking. Snow melt is quiet other than the dripping of water. The ground thaws, the winds change, the buds emerge.

There is some work to do, plant beds to clear and plant, winter damage to repair.

The melting snow reveals the detritus of winter, cigarette butts, discarded bottles, lost mittens, soggy paper wrappers  from a hasty fast food meal. We will need to clean up and get things ready for spring.

It may– no it will, it will snow again. The wind will howl, the birds and chipmunks and skunks will hunker down. The winter work of shoveling and plowing will need to be done again. But the progression to spring is ultimately unstoppable.

As we look around us and see and read about violence and disease and oppression, it may seem that we live in the always winter, never Christmas time of Narnia.

But look again.

Peace in Northern Ireland. The end of apartheid in South Africa. The civil rights movement.  The nonviolent uprising in Egypt. Slowly, slowly with no small amount of chaos and confusion, the world turns toward justice and peace.

We pray for God’s kingdom to come, for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We watch for the signs and we are ready to do the work of springtime, even in the snow.

Every cup of water given to a thirsty person, every act of kindness, every call for human dignity, every time we love our enemy, slowly, slowly the kingdom of God comes. Just as winter gives way to spring.

God is at work in the changing of the seasons and the changing of human lives.

I’d like to know, what do you think?

One thought on “Spring, Now and Not Yet

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