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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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March 20, 2009

Miracle at 6:44 a.m.


That’s the precise time of the vernal equinox occurred here in Chicago: Spring!

True, the temperatures are still in the 30s. But the sun is bright in the morning’s blue sky. The tree branches, the smallest ones, are thickened and dark red with promise of new leaf. And the first robin of the season has predictably perched on the edge of my office cube. (It’s a Beanie Baby named Early “born” March 20, 1997, at the height of that particular stuffed-animal craze, but a gift from a friend who shares my eagerness for spring.)

We’re taught in Sunday school that the rainbow is God’s sign of promise for care of us and all creation. And it’s such a popular symbol, starting right away with the crayon set. I admit when a real one appears, it’s always amazing, astonishing, powerful. Unexpected.

Spring isn’t like that. It’s so subtle it’s sometimes disguised in late snowflakes. But it is predictable. Anticipated. Expected. And that makes it a sign, too, of God’s promise for care of us and all creation.

The question is, do we participate in this care? There are signs. I read a story yesterday about a pastor in Gaithersburg, Md., who is leading her congregation, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church , in a “carbon fast” this Lent to call attention to environmental stewardship. A week after Easter, on Earth Day, the congregation will break ground for their garden where they’ll grow vegetables for a food pantry and their own use, too. “The fast is to prepare” for the garden, Pastor Sarah Scherschligt said. “More important than preparing the soil of the ground is preparing the soil of your heart.”

Spring. That’s actually what the Middle English word “Lent” means. I remember being surprised when I first learned this years ago. How ordinary. How understandable for God’s people who count on the promise of new life and who are called to prepare soil and soul.

Psalm 51:10 is my song of spring, my prayer for Lent: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

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